[The following blog post was written by Kalya Hicks, the Director of African-American and Community Outreach for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, the 501(c)(3) affiliate of CSGV]
Recently, I watched a video that the National Rifle Association (NRA) released in response to a speech that President Obama gave in Chicago at a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on October 27. In that speech, the President stated, “It’s just a simple proposition—cops should not be out-armed by the criminals that they’re pursuing.” And he praised IACP for supporting universal background checks and a renewal of the federal Assault Weapons Ban.
This was simply too much for the NRA, and they responded immediately with their video, entitled “How to Stop Violent Crime” and narrated by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. I watched it in full and found it to be racist, offensive, and based entirely on untruths. All the key code words popularized by Fox News were included in the script: “thug,” Chicago as a “Third World nation,” “criminal gangbangers,” etc. As a responsible gun owner, the spouse of a police officer, and an African-American mother, I felt compelled to respond.
All too often, I feel like I am living in the Dred Scott era when I watch the NRA comment on gun violence in urban, predominantly African-American communities. In 1857, the Supreme Court denied Mr. Scott his freedom based on the idea that African Americans were inferior and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” To me, that sounds like exactly what the NRA is peddling in a reckless attempt to improve the gun industry’s bottom line.
In the video, LaPierre declares that “nothing illustrates America’s breakdown like the way the President’s hometown [of Chicago] celebrates its holidays,” while citing statistics about homicides in the city during Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The implication is clear—it’s those thuggish black kids who are to blame with what’s wrong with America today. There’s no mention, of course, that communities like South Side Chicago are chronically underserved and ignored by legislators. The NRA wants you to believe that African-Americans enjoy the destructive force of gun violence and burying their children. Meanwhile, LaPierre subjects us to bromides about “good, honest [white] Americans living out in farm towns in Nebraska or Oklahoma,” as if no one in those states had ever been violent or misused a firearm.
You will notice that one “thug” is conspicuously left out of the NRA’s video: Dylann Roof, the South Carolina gunman who murdered nine peace-loving African-American congregants in Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. No mention, either, of Wade Michael Page, the neo-Nazi who gunned down praying families at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. They didn’t fit the NRA’s portrait of a “Bad Guy,” did they? And let’s remember: The NRA made sure both Roof and Page were able to legally buy the guns they used to kill with despite long histories of violence, substance abuse, and trouble with the law.
NRA leaders like LaPierre know fearmongering about black youth works wonders in terms of selling more guns. As for African-Americans, we see right through it. For example, if the NRA was really concerned about protecting law enforcement and preventing repeat offenders from shooting people in Chicago, wouldn’t it make sense to immediately implement universal background checks so that convicted felons would no longer have an outlet (in a majority of states) to buys guns without being screened for criminal history? Of course it would. How stupid do they think we are?
But the NRA has no interest in stopping a single gun sale to a bad guy because that would mean cutting into their profit margin. The NRA has gun industry executives sitting directly on their Board of Directors and they receive millions upon millions of dollars every year in direct corporate contributions from gun companies through their Ring of Freedom program. The NRA never met a gun sale it didn’t like.
The welfare of young black men dealing with a criminal justice system that is often racially-biased and void of any pretense of rehabilitation isn’t a problem for the NRA, however. “Take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun, and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more” proposes LaPierre in the video. It’s a terrific solution if you’re a multi-millionaire corporate shill who cares more about selling firearms then developing the type of gun violence prevention policies and programs that would actually keep people out of jail but, hey, when you’re heading an organization with Ted Nugent as one of its primary spokespersons, responsibility and respect for your fellow human is not exactly an honored value.
While we are on the topic of NRA Board Member Ted Nugent, did you happen to hear what he said about the 16 year-old, orphaned girl who was viciously body slammed to the ground by school resource officer Ben Fields in South Carolina? Nugent offered a “huge Nuge thank you and salute” to Fields, and wrote the following:
Obey and you won’t get ripped from your desk and put under control. Act like an animal and you will end up being treated like an animal … None of my children would steal anything from a store and then assault the shopkeeper. None of my children would defy orders from a cop, assault him and attempt to steal his gun, then attack him and get shot in self-defense. None of the Nugent family would sell illegal cigarettes then violently resist arrest.
And this man has now served on the NRA Board of Directors for more than 20 years with no opposition from either their leadership or rank and file. If this is not the rhetoric of white supremacy, I don’t know what is.
Spike Lee, who recently finished a documentary about gun violence in Chicago, has stated the NRA is responsible for gun violence in this country, and I agree. Movements across the nation are bringing important attention to the issue of police abuse in this country, but we’d be wise not to lose sight of the role the gun lobby plays in fueling urban violence. The NRA has been perfectly content for decades now to promote an arms race between law enforcement and violent individuals in our communities—from revolvers in the 1970s to semiautomatic firearms in the 1980s and now assault rifles—without any regard for the collateral damage it causes. My wish is to see all sides put their guns down and find a better way to work together, as partners in peace.
All human life is precious and we accomplish nothing by dividing our community house against itself at the behest of cretins like Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent.