For Release: Thursday, April 18, 1996
Organization Continues To Use Anti-Government, Anti-Law Enforcement Rhetoric
On Friday, April 19th, 1996 the first anniversary of the Oklahoma bombing the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) will open its 125th annual meeting. In defending its decision to open the annual event on the same day that former NRA member Timothy McVeigh allegedly bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the NRA has cited the costs of shifting the event by a day. News reports quoting unnamed NRA staff members have stated that moving the event would not have been difficult. April 19th is also the anniversary of the end of the 1993 standoff between federal law enforcement agents and the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.
Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center (VPC), states, “While mainstream Americans gun-owning and non-gun owning alike would understand the unfortunate symbolism inherent in the date and the need to change it at any reasonable price, the leadership of today’s NRA is playing to a new audience: the extremist fringe of American gun culture that views April 19th as their new Fourth of July. For the past year the NRA has continued its paranoid anti-government, anti-law enforcement rhetoric for a very simple reason: this is the language that the supporters of today’s NRA understand. Opening its annual meeting on this date, coupled with the recent NRA-backed repeal of the assault weapons ban in the House of Representatives, will give all militia members, extremists, and bona fide gun nuts a little extra something to cheer about on April 19th.”
On April 21st, 1995, two days after the Oklahoma bombing, the Violence Policy Center released a document set detailing the growing extremism of the NRA and other members of America’s gun lobby. Included in it were an NRA direct-mail letter which labeled federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents “jack-booted thugs,” NRA ads attacking the federal government and federal law enforcement agencies, a bomb recipe the VPC had downloaded from a computer bulletin board run by NRA-Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Tanya Metaksa, and inflammatory statements made by NRA board members [copies of the April 1995 document set are available from the VPC].
A new VPC survey of NRA publications and the writings of its leadership since the bombing reveals that the organization has continued its attack on the federal government using paranoid and inflammatory language. The report, The National Rifle Association After Oklahoma City: A Year Older, Not Wiser, warns that “such language aids and abets extremists who adhere to the belief that they have the right to take violent actions against the government for any perceived infringement of their gun `rights.'” In making this charge, the VPC cites statements that have appeared in the NRA’s publications or have been made by the organization’s leadership, including: First Vice President and NRA Board Member Neal Knox; NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Tanya Metaksa; Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre; NRA Board Member and Soldier of Fortune publisher Robert K. Brown; and, NRA Board Member Jeff Cooper. Such statements include:
Unless those people [militia groups] have committed a violation of the law, I’m not going to say we can’t have anything to do with those people. [Neal Knox as quoted in “Recoil From the NRA’s Two Top Guns,”Washington Post, April 1995]We are somewhat amused by the hysteria manifest in the press at the suggestion by Gordon Liddy that if one is menaced by bad guys (particularly the ninja [ATF]) one is wise to shoot for the head. That statement has got a whole bunch of journalists and commentators bleeding from the nose. One wonders why it should. Where else should you shoot a man if he is probably wearing an armored vest? If you decide to shoot youhave made the big decision. Where you place your shot is merely a technical matter. [“Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries,” Jeff Cooper, June 1995]
Following the Oklahoma tragedy, there have been calls to expand the powers of federal law enforcement agents. Fingers of guilt have been pointed at individuals and groups who bear no responsibility for the terrorist attack but who do exercise their right to express anger and frustration at what they feel their government has become. These are the voices of not only those who choose to join citizen militias. For every militia member, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans who are angered by a tax system that penalizes rather than rewards hard work, angered by a regulatory system that confiscates private property by transforming puddles into `wetlands,’ angered by a criminal justice system that often seems to treat criminals as victims, and, yes, angered by politicians who seek to disarm under the guise of fighting crime….Distrust of government now runs so deep in some Americans that they see the menace of unmarked `black helicopters’ flying over their towns. They see U.N. troops occupying U.S. soil. They fear intrigues to establish a `one world order.’ For their concerns they most often are dismissed as paranoids, or worse, by the cultural elite….” [“Government, Citizens and Keeping the Trust,” American Rifleman, July 1995]
An alarming trend is developing in America today: A growing mutual distrust between government and the governed, between law enforcement authorities and the public they serve….If congressional hearings into Waco and Ruby Ridge revealed anything about some in federal law enforcement, it was an arrogance that said, `Don’t tell us about the law; we are the law.’ [“Standing Guard,” Wayne LaPierre, American Rifleman, February1996]
Unable to pass anti-gun legislation in a U.S. Congress gun owners helped elect, Bill Clinton is now peddling his gun prohibitionist ideas overseas. Once again he’s shown….his willingness to use any part of the federal government as a tool for denying Americans their Second Amendment rights….The Clinton romance with global gun control fully blossomed when he gave his support to a new United Nations gun ban plan. We’re not talking about sightings of black helicopters everywhere, but the real thing: a U.N. gun control initiative hatched in Tokyo. [“The Clinton War on Guns: Part Two,” Tanya Metaksa, American Rifleman, April 1996]
Copies of The National Rifle Association After Oklahoma City: A Year Older, Not Wiser, are available from the Violence Policy Center as is the original document set the VPC released after the bombing.
Adds Sugarmann, “The NRA’s willingness to play to the fringe of American gun owners threatens all Americans. Not only does it fan the flames of extremism, but it validates the views of the fringe to the point where blowing up a building or threatening a public official is seen not as the act of a terrorist or a criminal, but a patriot.”
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 Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.