National Rifle Association—Embracing Tea Partiers and Anti-Government Rhetoric—Meets in Charlotte, NC

For Release:  Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck Featured Speakers at NRA Convention 

Washington, D.C.–This weekend, Tea Party advocates Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck will be featured speakers at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention being held in Charlotte, NC. Palin will be speaking Friday at the “NRA’s Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum” while Beck will address the crowd Saturday night at the “NRA’s Celebration of American Values Freedom Experience.” According to the NRA’s website, attendees at both events will be “subject to a magnetometer security check” for weapons.

Palin’s appearance is only the most public example of growing links between the NRA and the Tea Party movement. The recently released Violence Policy Center (VPC) study Lessons Unlearned: The Gun Lobby and the Siren Song of Anti-Government Rhetoric details NRA marketing to Tea Party supporters and reveals links in nine states between NRA State Election Volunteer Coordinators, the Tea Party movement, and other factions of the “Patriot movement.” The study also offers examples of how the NRA is once again embracing and validating anti-government rhetoric.

Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center and author of the book NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear, states, “With the election of Barack Obama, the NRA has returned to the dangerous anti-government rhetoric that defined it in the mid-1990s during the period leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing. Speakers at the NRA’s convention fan the flames of pro-gun paranoia and celebrate the myth of the modern-day ‘citizen-soldier,’ but never accept responsibility for those who take these words literally and carry out violent acts. It is only in the wake of horrific tragedy, like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, that they feel compelled to moderate their rhetoric.”

The study finds that, echoing the language of the resurgent Patriot movement, the NRA routinely presents the election of Barack Obama as a virtually apocalyptic threat not only to gun ownership, but to the future of the United States itself.

In a December 2009 direct-mail letter echoing the language of both the Tea Party movement and the Oath Keepers, the NRA urges the reader to join an “army whose highest allegiance is not to any individual or any political party but only to the cause of freedom.”

In the letter, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre–who speaking at the 2009 CPAC convention told cheering attendees that “our Founding Fathers understood that the guys with the guns make the rules”–warns of “…massive armies of anti-gun, anti-freedom radicals marshaling against us for an attack that could make every other battle we’ve ever fought look like a walk in the park…an attack aimed at completely rewriting our nation’s values and the future of our country in ways that you and I won’t even recognize.”

The organization now also markets NRA clothing products emblazoned with the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, which has become the symbol of the Tea Party movement. The description for the NRA Gadsden tee shirt reads: “What goes around comes around. In the late 18th century, oppressed American patriots voiced their defiance of tyranny by exclaiming, ‘Don’t Tread on Me!’ Perhaps it’s time once again for Freedom-loving citizens to rally ’round the legendary slogan of the famous Gadsden flag.”

The VPC study states that “the NRA incites its members and others, offering words that outside of the purported protective bubble of direct-mail and official publications would be chilling.” It cites an August 2008 NRA direct-mail letter warning of the threat posed by a possible Obama administration: “Our Constitution and our system of government guarantee that every American has the opportunity to write his or her name in the history books of tomorrow–to leave his or her imprint on the fabric of our nation. But in the end, history is always written only by a select few–the few who sacrifice of themselves to fight for the causes in which they believe.”

The study concludes, “Such language offers benediction to the most violent of acts…Based on past history, the overriding concern should be that the NRA’s words may, in fact, once again be revealed as violent prophecy.”






About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

Media Contact:
Georgia Seltzer
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