Last month, an Arkansas gun range owner named Jan Morgan got some national attention when she declared her business a “Muslim free zone,” writing on her website, “This is more than enough loss of life on my home soil at the hands of muslims to substantiate my position that muslims can and will follow the directives in their Koran and kill here at home.”
What many news reports missed is that Morgan is not just the owner of a single shooting range, but a national gun activist who has spoken at multiple events for the “religious liberty” group Liberty Counsel as well as Tea Party gatherings and last month’s misnamed “Two Million Bikers” rally against President Obama.
And Morgan has some friends in high places in the gun lobby. In an interview with Arizona-based radio host Josh Bernstein this week, Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt praised Morgan, saying that she was “on very sound ground” with her Muslim ban.
“I know there will be a lot of people that will be outraged at that, but we don’t facilitate murderers and if you read the Quran, it’s an instruction to go kill people, lots of them,” Pratt said. “And there are Muslims that don’t buy into that, well, how do I know which one you are?”
All of which reminded Pratt that he had been meaning to start giving out a Gun Owners of America award and Morgan “ought to get it.”
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
CHICAGO — The national gun lobby in Washington, D.C. is a big machine, motored by a multi-billion-dollar industry. The sprawling network of hardcore activists remaking the political gunscape in statehouses and the courts, on the other hand, is small. How small? It’s so small that when Jeff Knox stepped up to a microphone at the premiere gun-activist conclave and referred to “Dad,” no explanation was needed. Everyone at the Gun Rights Policy Conference last weekend knew who “Dad” was. Dad was Neal Knox, the hardline National Rifle Association board member who until his death in 2005 used his newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, as a machine gun nest aimed at his NRA colleagues, ready to fire at the first sign of weakness or perfidy in defense of the Second Amendment. For holding the gun lobby to his iron standard without mercy, “Dad” became a godfather to the activists who gather every September at an airport hotel under the banner of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Knox had the full power of the family name behind him on Sunday afternoon when he stepped to a microphone, invoked his father, and accused another gun-rights legend, GRPC organizer Alan Gottlieb, of betraying the movement. The alleged betrayal concerned Gottlieb’s writing and backing of an initiative on the Washington State ballot in November. Few Americans have heard of bill 591, but the controversy it has stoked within the gun-rights world tells us much about fissures within its ranks.
Gottlieb’s controversial bill is a direct response to another initiative on the ballot, 594, which expands background checks to include sales at gun shows and over the Internet. It is polling high and expected to pass. If Washington votes “yes,” it will join the growing list of states that have taken gun policy into their own hands in the wake of Newtown. Both the NRA and Gottlieb’s organization oppose 594. But Gottlieb has done more than just denounce it. He has raised more than a million dollars to promote an alternative bill, 591, which wouldprohibit the state from ever “requir[ing] background checks on the receipt of a firearm unless a uniform national standard is required.”
Can you spot the offending language? It’s this: “unless a uniform national standard is required.”
For Jeff Knox and much of the gun-rights movement, to even accept the future possibility of federal background check legislation constitutes apostasy. Some of the groups represented at the GRPC are the ones who, along with stalwarts like the NRA and Larry Pratt’s Gun Owners of America, mobilized in April 2013 to torpedo the Manchin-Toomey Senate bill, which would have closed background check loopholes across the country. After looking at the polling data, Gottlieb initially supported Manchin-Toomey as a way for the movement to get some “goodies” (such as relaxing laws on interstate gun sales) while supporting something that he thought was going to pass anyway. (Gottlieb later dropped his support when Chuck Schumer stripped the bill of Gottlieb’s prized “goodie”.)
Gottlieb’s early support for the Senate bill earned him epitaphs like “sellout” and “traitor.” But it’s now looking like he understood something his critics did not. Steadfast opposition to a federal background-check bill would give rise to a growing and well-funded movement for background-check referenda in the states. In Washington, the coalition behind 594 is supported by a group of wealthy donors, including Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg, the head of the gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety. In his newsletter, Gottlieb describes their efforts as the “Billionaire’s Club war against freedom.”
So when Knox asked Gottlieb to defend the language of 591 at this year’s GRPC, attendees sat up in their seats. After a weekend filled with enough policy weeds to replant the Everglades, the confrontation amounted to high-drama.
With his comb-over, pencil mustache, and brightly colored bowties, Alan Gottlieb has the presence of a harried, slightly eccentric accountant. But the Queens native is no dutiful CPA; he’s a convicted tax felon who does not flinch easily on questions of strategy, let alone challenges to his commitment to the Second Amendment. In the 1970s, while still in his twenties, Gottlieb began organizing the legal workshops that grew into the brain trust that won the landmark Supreme Court rulings of Heller and McDonald, which enshrined gun ownership in the home as an individual right guaranteed by the Second Amendment. At the podium in Chicago, Gottlieb welcomed the chance to deliver a blunt message to the background-check dead-enders who had been calling him a traitor since Manchin-Toomey.
"The bottom line is that" the background check issue "is different" from other gun gun policy debates, Gottlieb explained, pointing to public opinion. "What issues do you find that get 70 to 90 percent of the people to agree on anything?"
After Knox asserted that he doesn’t believe polls showing support for background checks, Gottlieb responded, “You may not believe the number, but I’ve seen well over 500 polls all across the country over the last six years on background checks. They all say the same damn thing. They’re not wrong, believe me.”
Knox countered with another reality: many gun groups, especially those in the referendum states of the southwest, are never going to sign off on background checks, ever, at any level. In Arizona, “I wouldn’t be able to get our members to proactively concede anything,” said Knox. His hardline solution is to “let them go ahead and deal with the consequences.”
By “them,” Knox means the feds. In the purist view, the best way to deal with any gun law is to dig in, take the hits, and ignore the law, forcing the government to “deal with the consequences.” Knox said he wished the NRA had taken that approach with the 1934 National Firearms Act, which regulated machine guns and banned short-barrel rifles.
To Gottlieb, that’s a doomed strategy. In any case, he stressed, “the Bloomberg people” know gun groups will never support background check legislation, so they can “knock our teeth out and there’s nothing we can do about it.” He later added, “They’ve got us hogtied because they know we’re not going to change. I’m being honest with you. I’m not expecting you to change, but that’s why we’re going to lose.”
When subsequent questioners echoed Knox, Gottlieb reminded his audience that even without a background check system in place, there are good reasons not to sell guns to strangers. “If you’re stupid enough to sell a gun to someone you don’t know, forget the criminal liability — what about the civil liability?” he asked. “What about you getting sued” if the buyer kills someone?
Earlier that morning, a speaker had flattered the GRPC crowd by calling them “the most sophisticated gun-rights gathering in the country.” This is probably true. It’s also telling. All of the room’s combined political experience, intelligence, and savvy still does not add up to the ability to grasp how America’s largely unregulated gun trade has become a public health crisis, or why background checks and other common-sense measures poll so well. The gun-rights movement continues to see background-checks through the same paranoid prism it sees everything else: the threat of door-to-door gun confiscation.
This is the shared nightmare lurking beneath all the policy weeds, one so taken for granted that it’s left unspoken. But never for very long. In Chicago, Sean Maloney of the Buckeye Firearms Association warned, “A universal background check equals universal confiscation. Look it up, it’s history, it happens every time.” Stephen P. Halbrook delivered a lecture on the discredited theory that gun confiscation was responsible for Hitler’s rise to power. California activist Stephen D’Andrilli argued that his state’s new microstamping law is not really about solving crime and tracking illicit gun transfers, but setting up a confiscatory police state. All told, around a third of GRPC speakers invoked the unstoppable logic of confiscation.
The coming wave of background check referenda was just one threat assessed in Chicago. Another peril, one less easily tied to the confiscation scenario, is the current stall in the upper courts. In his luncheon keynote, the celebrated gun lawyer Alan Gura discussed his desire to build on Heller by getting a concealed-carry case before the Supreme Court, and thus extend the right to bear arms beyond the home. But he wasn’t holding his breath. Gura noted that the court has rejected all of his petitions since taking McDonald in 2010. Moving down a notch, Gottlieb noted with alarm that “our enemies” control nine of 13 circuit courts: “Four more go down, and we can’t even create a conflict between circuits to get cases to the Supreme Court, where we are hanging on by, disgustingly, one vote.”
The movement is also increasingly aware of enemies within. A recurring theme of GRPC 2014 was the danger posed by hucksters preying on the pro-gun community. The most successful and least-trusted of these groups is Dudley Brown’s Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights. Brown has built up a fundraising juggernaut with a combination of hyperbolic and fact-challenged advocacy, violent culture war rhetoric, and attacks on other activists. He’s widely considered to be a snake in the grass. At GRPC, Brown’s name drew as many hisses as Eric Holder’s.
"We need to be careful," said D. Allen Youngman, a veteran gun lobbyist. "If all a United States senator hears is cut-and-paste talking points from a huckster like Dudley Brown — ’black helicopters are coming to take the guns’ — then you can imagine how they are going to characterize communications from you." Youngman would know. He represented the U.S. small arms industry at both the Capitol and the UN during that body’s Arms Trade Treaty talks, giving him perfect vantage to observe how the rhetoric and falsehoods spread by groups like Brown’s take root and undermine the work of more sober activist campaigns.
In Washington State this November, none of that will matter. There are no phone calls to Senate offices in referendum campaigns. The losses that Alan Gottlieb worries the American public may inflict on the gun-rights movement will be delivered directly, by ordinary people checking boxes on pieces of paper. In other words, pretty much the exact opposite of a police state.
The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, this month presented a dilemma for the anti-government Right. The activists and elected officials who spent the spring fawning over lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s stand against what they saw as an overbearing federal government changed their tune or just went silent when a police force armed with military weapons cracked down on mostly peaceful protesters in Ferguson.
On Tuesday, Gawker’s Adam Weinstein examined the “inherent contradiction” in the membership of St. Louis police officer Dan Page — who was suspended after he shoved a CNN reporter and the video of a violent rant he made came to light — in Oath Keepers, a group whose entire founding purpose is a fear of violent government overreach against unarmed citizens.
…For all their delusions, the Oath Keepers seem tailor-made to counter the surreal overarmed police state that may have played a role in Michael Brown’s death by cop in Ferguson, and that has ebbed and flowed through the streets there ever since. The oath that Oath Keepers keep is to disobey a set of orders they believe may be given by government authorities . Hence they swear, in part:
- We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
- We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
- We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
As Weinstein notes, the Missouri chapter of the Oath Keepers has sent a “letter of warning” to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in opposition to police tactics against the protesters. But the Oath Keepers’ opposition seems to be based less on principle than on strategy — in a separate blog post, the national group objects to the police failure to stop looting while it took aim at peaceful protesters. The blog post also notes that Oath Keepers on the scene in Ferguson were “talking consensus for the benefit of the police and the people equally.” This role of self-appointed mediator is in sharp contrast to the group’s show of force at the Bundy ranch.
Ferguson has exposed some common ground between the anti-government Right and mainstream civil liberties groups — for instance, both the extreme right-wing Gun Owners of America and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed on to a plan to end the program that sends discount military equipment to local police departments.
Gun Owners of America’s executive director Larry Pratt, however, has been uncharacteristically quiet about Ferguson, linking on Twitter to the Missouri Oath Keepers’ letter to Nixon, but also to an article claiming that Michael Brown wasn’t unarmed because he was “young and strong.” GOA sent out an email arguing that violence in Ferguson was just another reason why people should be allowed to own AR-15s.
Sheriff Richard Mack, the founder of a group that believes that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the land, has also been strangely silent on Ferguson, despite having spent time rallying against the federal government at the Bundy ranch with armed militia groups that he compared to Rosa Parks.
And then there’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Bundy ally who, as the situation in Ferguson escalated, crowed about the combat supplies that he had amassed for his own department.
Yes, the relative silence of the anti-government Right on Ferguson is inconsistent, but so is their view of the Ferguson protests: In the view of many right-wing activists, the protesters in Ferguson weren’t standing up to the government, they were themselves tools of the government.
There is a school of thought among right-wing commentators that the protests in Ferguson were orchestrated — or at the very least encouraged — by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration in order to stir up racial resentments and increase Democratic chances in the 2014 midterm elections.
This paranoid scenario is in line with Pratt’s fear, expressed last year, that President Obama is on the verge of starting a race war against white people.
The Ferguson protests exposed a key fault line in the anti-government “Patriot” movement: they are against government overreach, but their definition of what counts as government never seems to be quite clear.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
One morning during the winter weeks after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, the gun lobbyist Larry Pratt made the short drive from his offices in Springfield, Virginia, to the Arlington headquarters of the Leadership Institute, a training center for young conservatives. Pratt and the Institute’s founder, Morton Blackwell, share a history in conservative activism going back four decades, and Pratt had spoken there many times, providing legislative updates on the politics of guns. Today, there seemed to be a jauntiness to the oddly boyish-faced 71-year old, who’d found himself at the center of a national media story just beginning to fade. He opened with a joke.
"Piers Morgan sends his regrets he won’t be able to attend," Pratt deadpanned.
The audience chuckled at the reference. On December 18th, 2012, four days after Adam Lanza’s killing spree, the CNN host had invited Pratt to debate gun control, as most major networks have over the years. When Pratt stated that gun-free school zones — and, by extension, gun control advocates like Piers Morgan — were to blame for the tragedy in Newton, Morgan stuttered and seethed. “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” said the host.
Pratt’s critics have called him many things over the years: extreme, radical, pernicious, creepy, dogged, effective. But no one who’s studied his multi-faceted career could describe him as stupid. On CNN, Pratt was smart enough not to tell Piers Morgan what he really thinks about the Second Amendment. Because what he really thinks resonates deeply with the theocratic tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, which holds that American government should be ordered according to events and dictates found in the Old and New Testaments. Nor is Pratt so stupid as to use his regular access to mainstream media to promote the “active measures” he believes American gun owners will one day be forced to unleash on a secular federal government. As he explained in his 1999 essay, “What does the Bible Say About Gun Control?” Pratt writes, “If Christ is not our King, we shall have a dictator to rule over us, just as Samuel warned.”
Pratt doesn’t talk like this when being interviewed by The New York Times or answering questions on C-SPAN. Instead, he uses the more familiar language of ensuring public safety and respecting constitutional rights. He has employed this two-track communications operation with admirable efficacy and consistency since launching Gun Owners of America as the Beltway’s first “no-compromise” gun-rights lobbying group in 1976. Over 40 years, Pratt has blazed the path and built the model for a gun-rights movement that has transformed the landscape of American gun politics.
Today, Pratt, who declined to be interviewed for this piece, holds the power to derail and delay gun legislation enjoying broad public support, and quickly inject falsehoods and amplify paranoia among a growing network of gun activists. With the rise of the Tea Party scene, Pratt has discovered new constituencies and new platforms for spreading his message of a Biblically mandated rollback of all gun regulation. He has also found new champions in the forms of his favorite senators: Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. He believes this November offers a chance to further grow the “Second Amendment Absolutist” bloc in Congress.Larry Pratt addresses about 500 demonstrators during a rally in support of the Second Amendment in Washington, DC.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
"Look forward to 2014 as a time when we get involved as never before," Pratt told an audience at the Leadership Institute. "Look for those candidates that deserve our support. The Rand Pauls. The Ted Cruzes. The Steve Stockmans of the House and try to multiply their number … The RINOS [Republicans in Name Only] need to be humiliated. They need to be driven out of public life."
By Pratt’s design, today’s gun movement has little room for RINOS, but accommodates extremists and sometimes adopts their language. As the director of an organization claiming 300,000 members, Pratt understands the gun movement’s role as that of a heavily armed guard, holding a cautionary gun to the head of America’s would-be dictators.
"The Second Amendment is not for hunting, it’s not even for self-defense," Pratt explained in his Leadership Institute talk. Rather, it is "for restraining tyrannical tendencies in government…Especially those in the liberal, tyrannical end of the spectrum. There is some restraint, and even if the voters of Brooklyn don’t hold them back, it may be there are other ways that their impulses are somewhat restrained. That’s the whole idea of the Second Amendment." He reiterated the point this March during an interview with conservative talk show host Bill Cunningham. Speaking of a New York Congresswoman who had expressed fear that one of Pratt’s members wanted to shoot her, Pratt said, "You know, I’m kind of glad that’s in the back of their minds. Hopefully they’ll behave."
And if they don’t? When speaking before smaller, conservative audiences, Pratt explains that it is necessary to both generate an undercurrent of fear and muster the organization and will to defeat the dictator prophesized in the Book of Samuel. When asked during a 2010 Q&A session, “Do we have the will to stand up to the government when they trample our rights?” Pratt replied, “That is an exceptionally important point to raise. We can have all the guns in the world, and if we don’t have the will to use them [against the government], then they are useless.”
This is the language found etched along the gun-movement’s aqueduct into the dark crosscurrents of the militia movement and the radical right. It is written in Pratt’s voice, because he has personally overseen engineering and construction of this aqueduct while building the larger gun-rights movement. This movement, considered as a whole, is not as conservative as Pratt. It is increasingly flavored with Libertarian ideas and language, building on outreach efforts designed to deflect attention from socially conservative politics that command ever fewer Americans. But it is no less zealous than Pratt on the question of gun reform. The gun-rights movement is distinct from, and often at odds with, the official gun “lobby” that is dominated by the National Rifle Association and its industry allies. The NRA remains the 500-pound gorilla of gun politics, with a budget and membership that dwarfs all other gun groups combined. But it is now surrounded, most heavily on its right, by a growing cluster of so-called “Second Amendment Absolutist” groups, from influential state-level activist networks like the Arizona Citizens Defense League, to ascendant fundraising dynamos like Dudley Brown’s National Association for Gun Rights.
Among the most pedigreed of these purist outfits is Pratt’s Gun Owners of America.
"The NRA describes itself as a religion, and Larry Pratt is the snake handler," says Tom Diaz, a former analyst at the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based gun control group, and author of two books on the gun lobby. "The NRA debates using arguable premises of the American system: What is the meaning of the Second Amendment, of self-defense? Pratt unconnects from all that, and appeals to the least informed, most paranoid people." In parallel with his frequent national media appearances, Pratt aggressively pursues smaller radio audiences to peddle conspiracy theories and recycled John Birch Society propaganda from the 1960s. In recent years he has argued that the Aurora, Colorado, mass shooting was an inside job and that the Justice Department was pursuing charges against George Zimmerman to stir up racial animosity, trigger social chaos, and “build their own communist society.”
As the gun-rights movement grows into and with the new century, Pratt is seen as a dinosaur, yet one who still commands respect. “Larry’s a hardcore throwback and a bit of a weirdo — a black helicopter and Trilateral Commission kind of guy — but he has a certain brand and a namehe’s been around forever,” says a staffer in the office of a veteran GOP senator. Indeed, few figures have had a greater impact in the development of the pro-gun movement. Purist groups created on his “no compromise” model now lead the charges in the courts and the states to block new gun-control legislation and chip away at those that exist. Most make the NRA look moderate by comparison.
"The NRA is concerned about its right flank on purity from people like Larry," says Richard Feldman, a former gun industry lobbyist and president of the Independent Firearms Owners Association. "He has said things I thought were crazy at the time, but turned out to be right…Activists respect him for getting things done."Adds Josh Sugarmann of the Violence Policy Center: "When NRA members stamp their feet over some rumored compromise, Pratt’s who they go to. When he says make the calls, the calls are made, and it has influence on the Hill."Larry Pratt speaks at a pro-gun rally organised by the ‘Restore the Constitution’ movement in Virginia park near Washington D.C.Sipa via AP Images
This influence has only recently caught the attention of media that have generally focused on the NRA and ignored the growth of group’s like Pratt’s. When Gun Owners of America helped lead the gun-rights charge against an expansion of background checks, the New York Times discovered this “influential force” capable of both “freezing” and “empowering” senators. This influence may help to explain the reluctance of elected officials and their staffs to discuss Pratt’s lobbying operation. When contacted, several current and former members of Congress and congressional staffers from both parties declined to comment on the experience of being on the receiving end of GOA’s lobbying fire. The list of those who shied away from talking included nine senators and congressman, such as Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, as well as Democratic Senators Jon Tester and Mark Begich.
Pratt enters his fifth decade of gun activism with ambitious plans for this influence. At an age when many lobbyists considering retiring, Pratt is working through GOA’s PAC, his membership, his allies, and a small team of fellow lobbyists to do what he’s been trying to do since the 1970s: defeat any Republican who does not share his absolutist understanding of Second Amendment freedom. And it is nothing if not absolute: GOA agitates against background checks, waiting periods, and fines for straw purchases (guns purchased legally for resale on the black market).
In his crusade to rollback every gun law on the books, Pratt likes his allies unalloyed with records and habits of compromise. Many of Pratt’s current targets in the primaries enjoy high or perfect ratings from the NRA. Some of them, like Mitch McConnell, have long enjoyed “B” or higher grades from the GOA. But only perfect grades like Rand Paul’s “A+” are truly acceptable in Pratt’s purist world. Unlike the NRA’s system, GOA counts votes on any bill that tangentially touches on gun rights as a “gun vote.” Sometimes no vote is required at all to arouse Pratt’s displeasure, merely inaction. In explaining GOA’s support for Mitch McConnell’s challenger, Matt Bevin, the group cites the senator’s failure to vigorously oppose The Affordable Care Act.
"Obamacare is allowing the medical profession to use information that people give their doctor against them, to take their guns," says Tim Macy, vice chairman of GOA. "McConnell hasn’t stopped it so far, and he’s been in a position to help stop it."
For much of today’s gun movement, the NRA’s more myopic rating system has never had much credibility. To understand why, it’s necessary to go back in time to the era of GOA’s founding, and imagine that the NRA has announced plans to sell it’s D.C.-area offices, abandon politics, move to New Mexico, and re-open as a crunchy nonprofit devoted to conservation and hiking.
What sounds like a piece of alternate-history science fiction is the starting point for understanding the rise of Larry Pratt and the current configuration of forces in the gun debate.
Among the many social convulsions of the 1960s was a public opinion turn in favor of gun control. The legislative expression of this turn, the 1968 Gun Control Act, established today’s regulatory framework for firearms, including a federal licensing system for dealers. It was the first major gun law since Prohibition-era violence and the advent of the “getaway car” transformed crime and led to the 1934 National Firearms Act, which brought machine guns, short-barreled rifles, and silencers under strict government regulation. Another federal law soon followed: the National Firearms Act of 1938, which required the licensing of interstate gun dealers.
In both the thirties and 1968, the NRA either accepted or collaborated in the writing and passing of the law. For the group’s hardline members, this was one compromise too many. Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the Gun Control Act deepened a longstanding fissure inside the organization that widened into a full breach five years later. In 1973, the NRA board put its finger in the air and determined that its future depended on pivoting away from guns and toward conservation and outdoor sports. Plans were put in motion to sell its D.C. headquarters, relocate to Colorado Springs, and build a “National Outdoor Center” in New Mexico, where backpacking, hiking and wilderness survival classes would be taught alongside shooting sports. To help figure out how to finance the overhaul, the NRA commissioned the liberal New York consultant Harold Oram, whose clients included Greenpeace, McGovern for President, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. Oram’s report, issued in the summer of 1976, concluded that raising the $30 million needed for the NRA’s Outdoor Center would require de-emphasizing its past opposition to gun control and avoiding all mention of gun politics in NRA publications. If it renounced its past and promised to stay out of politics, Oram advised, foundations like Rockefeller, then and now a major source of non-profit grants, could be counted on for financing.During the years of the NRA’s slow careen left in search of Rockefeller money, Larry Pratt was making a name for himself in a movement where the Rockefeller name was synonymous with liberal Republicanism — and nearly synonymous with the Devil himself. In 1970, the 28-year-old Pratt became executive director of the American Conservative Union, founded six years prior by William F. Buckley to carry forward the flame of Barry Goldwater’s failed presidential campaign. It was in this capacity that Pratt attended the 1972 GOP Republican Convention in Miami Beach, where he joined fellow conservatives in battles over Nixon’s reelection platform. In Miami, Pratt forged a friendship with another young religious conservative on the make, Paul Weyrich. The two men were so similar, politically and physically, that they looked like a mirror image when they were talking to each other. At the time, Weyrich was raising funds for what would soon become the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. One of the men in Weyrich’s growing network was H.L. Richardson, a frustrated NRA board member, California State Senator, and member of the far-right John Birch Society. Weyrich introduced Pratt and Richardson, who became fast friends.
In 1975, Richardson founded Gun Owners of America on the model of his first group, Gun Owners of California, established earlier that year to (successfully) oppose a state handgun ban and (less successfully) the extension of ownership waiting periods from five to 15 days. That year also saw the establishment of one of the country’s first national gun control groups, the National Council to Control Handguns. Richardson wanted a full-time lobbyist near Washington and tapped Pratt to lead the group’s Northern Virginia office. In the fight against gun control, GOA would pick up the slack created by NRA drift.
"In 1975, we were the first folks on the street looking at races and the lobbying side," says Tim Macy, GOA’s vice chairman. "There was a lot of talk about gun legislation, in California and nationally. When we started, the NRA did not have a political arm."
Pratt had grown up in suburban Indiana and was relatively new to guns when he took GOA’s helm. He’d purchased his first firearm during the 1968 riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King. “There were some racial difficulties,” Pratt later recalled. “I heard on the radio that the police weren’t sure they could control the rioters coming north on 16th Street, so I went out and bought a shotgun.”
In his adult arrival to the world of guns, Pratt resembled another rising star emerging from the 1960s conservative firmament, one who would go on to rival Pratt’s influence in national gun politics. In 1971, Alan Gottlieb, a 24-year-old organizer for Young Americans for Freedom (another Buckley-founded group) founded the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Gottlieb nurtured the group on two key resources: mailing lists, and seed money from William Loeb, the conservative publisher of the Manchester Union Leader. Like GOA’s founder Richardson, Loeb sat on the NRA board. Sidelined by the liberal majority, he’d spent recent years fuming over the group’s direction and was eager to help nurture a new player.
Loeb and Richardson weren’t the only conservatives on the board, but it took a dramatic member insurgency for them to wrest power from the liberals. At the group’s 1977 annual meeting in Cincinnati, hundreds of rank-and-file from around the country staged what has become known in gun culture lore as “The Cincinnati Revolt.” During a long night of speeches and politicking, the membership voted in a new board drawn from the NRA’s fledgling lobbying division, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), and changed the by-laws in favor of strong political engagement and tighter member control. By morning, the NRA was controlled by a group of rough-edged conservatives committed to fierce political engagement. The NRA returned to Washington to find it was no longer the only gun game in town. There were now two young upstarts on the scene, Alan Gottlieb and Larry Pratt. Since Gottlieb was based in Seattle, and focused his work on direct mail, education and the courts, this left Pratt and the Gun Owners of America as the leading alternative to the NRA.
In the many legislative battle to come — handgun bans, armor-piercing bullets, background checks — the NRA would have to contend with GOA and its leader, who was neither temperamentally nor politically inclined to yield to an establishment power that had collaborated with the 1934 and 1968 gun control bills. The NRA may have undergone a radical course correction, but it was still a large institution with a deep sense of entitlement and turf.
"They’ve always wanted to be the only kid on the block," says Alan Gottlieb. "The NRA didn’t appreciate the growth of a gun rights movement, because a movement is much harder to control. What started in the mid-1970s with my group and GOA has flowered. Now there is all this pressure from the local and state grassroots level that the NRA has to deal with."
When the NRA re-launched its lobbying machine in 1977, it attempted to accommodate Pratt’s presence in D.C. by developing a good-cop, bad-cop routine.
"Where the NRA played an ‘inside game’, the GOA was about confrontational politics, more stick, less carrot," says Jeff Knox, director of the Firearms Coalition and a prominent gun journalist whose father, Neal Knox, headed the NRA’s lobbying arm between 1978 and 1982. "When dad was at ILA, he saw the GOA as an extension of his tool box. They were useful to him when he could point to a GOA mailing and tell [politicians], ‘See, we’re being reasonable, and if you don’t want us to go there, then you need to deal with us, or you’re going to have to deal with them.’ The relationship between the NRA and GOA has been a weird one over the years, at different times flourishing and failing. Now [they’re] dramatically butting heads." (The NRA did not respond to requests for comment.)
The most recent clash between GOA and the NRA occurred last winter, over the latter’s initial, qualified support for a bipartisan Senate bill that would have shored up the country’s background check system, while also relaxing restrictions on interstate gun sales. The gun community was split on the measure sponsored by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), with even some purist leaders like Gottlieb calling the bill “more gains than anything.” But Pratt has never seen victory in anything that required giving an inch — especially an inch involving handing information to the federal government. The GOA sent out mailers claiming, “If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry.”
This was a lie. The text of the bill not only reiterated existing laws against the compiling of a national gun database, it went so far as to threaten a jail sentence of “up to 15 years” for breaking them. But the lie worked. There is a consensus that a grassroots backlash against the bill, sparked and sustained by GOA and other purist groups, forced the NRA to drop its support for the bill, helping doom it at the last hour.
Jeff Knox says the GOA played an important role, but that it was part of a swarm of limited power. “Something like 34 groups came together prior to the April vote on Manchin-Toomey. We did have an impact on NRA’s decision. But the bottom line is that all of us could swarm Congress, but if [NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris] Cox walked in and gave a wink and a nod, they’d go against us. NRA is the big dog. They are the ones with the direct, immediate clout, they have the politicians’ ears. That’s why we have to be members [of NRA] and keep them on the straight and narrow.”
According to Knox, Pratt’s biggest strength is being “right on top of what’s going on. The GOA is just faster. The NRA is hidebound and not on top of the news cycle at all. It takes them a week to respond to new information. After Newtown they waited too long, then delivered a tepid response. GOA sees the threats that others often miss.”
GOA has used similarly aggressive and dishonest tactics at the state level to defeat bills it does not like. In New Hampshire this winter, a group called Pro-Gun New Hampshire is backing a state bill that would create pathways for restoring gun rights to people disqualified by federal laws related to mental health problems. From his perch in Springfield, Pratt saw the bill as too weak, and attacked. Soon thousands of New Hampshire voters received anti-bill mailers with the words, “See a shrink, lose your guns” printed in red ink on the envelope. The letter attacked local groups supporting the bill as “anti-gun” — a funeral-serious charge in gun circles usually reserved for likes of Chuck Schumer.
Pro-Gun New Hampshire did not appreciate the epitaph, or Pratt’s meddling, which it described as either ignorant or mendacious.
"Pratt sent out this B.S. propaganda that falsely claimed the bill will disqualify gun buyers if they see a shrink," says the group’s vice president, Sam Cohen. "GOA and groups like it want to promote themselves as the premiere guardian of your rights. They feel in a competitive position with each other to be the ‘no compromise’ group and get members. It’s particularly egregious in this case because if you carefully read the law, you know they’re wrong."
In the months leading up to the 1977 “Revolt in Cincinnati,” Pratt, then 34, announced an insurgent candidacy to represent the suburbs of southern Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates. Pratt was part of a slate of conservatives seeking to knock off the moderate Republicans that dominated the local party. Typical of this old guard was five-term Republican Warren E. Barry, who supported a proposed national ban on the cheap revolvers known as “Saturday Night Specials.” In announcing his candidacy, The Washington Post described Pratt as “a Washington representative for Gun Owners of America and an Amway distributor.”
Pratt lost the local race, but could comfort himself with a growing national reputation. Early the following year, the Post featured Pratt in a piece on “The New Right Network” that gathered weekly at the Capitol Hill Club to debate strategy and hatch initiatives. Among more than a dozen names listed in the paper’s group profile, Pratt is one of the last still active in public life. Sometimes these initiatives impacted gun rights; other times, Pratt found a gun angle to justify using GOA resources. In 1979, he devised a plan, in cooperation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, which he helped found, to throw up constitutional roadblocks to D.C. statehood. “The amendment would bring in two senators who would probably be minority, and would definitely be liberal on gun control,” Pratt said.
Pratt again contested a seat in the House of Delegates in 1979. Boosted by financing from his friend Jerry Falwell, the Lynchburg evangelist, and ties to what the Post called “Joseph Coors’ Heritage Foundation,” Pratt outspent other candidates nearly two to one. He won in a local GOP tide. But his colleagues in Richmond had never seen his breed of Republican before. “Larry was part of a small group of far-right ideologues who thought it was apostasy to vote for an MLK holiday,” remembers Wiley Mitchell, Republican floor leader in the Virginia Senate from 1976 to 1988. “He was strongly opposed to women’s rights. He was against everything.”
Pratt proved a divisive and an ineffectual politician. Seven of eight bills Pratt introduced his first year were defeated, including a ban on nude images on motor vehicles. (If passed, the law would have required modifying the Virginia state seal, anticipating by decades the order by Pratt’s friend John Ashcroft to cover the breast of a statue in the Department of Justice.) His one victory concerned a housekeeping procedural change. The national media noticed him just once, when he declared a war on bongs and fought to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia in Virginia.
The bong battle failed to win him many friends. On the eve of losing his reelection bid, a Norfolk Virginian-Pilot poll ranked Pratt “the least effective member of the House of Delegates.”
Elsewhere in the country, more conservative districts than Fairfax were electing social and religious conservatives like Pratt. What’s more, GOA, which Pratt claimed at the time was approaching 100,000 members, was in a position to help them. The year Ronald Reagan moved into the White House, Pratt told reporters his PAC was spending almost $1 million annually in support of pro-gun candidates. Closer to home, Pratt’s friends were taking over the reigns of government. The August 1981 issue of Life magazine included Pratt among the ten most influential “Young Turks of the Radical Right.” The spread featured a photo of Pratt cradling his first gun, the 12 gauge purchased during the 1968 riots, like a baby.
The defining gun battle of Reagan’s first term didn’t involve gunshot, but a new breed of armor-piercing bullet. It was a fight that would pit the GOA against the NRA, and in the process illuminate the radical anti-statism at the heart of Pratt’s worldview.
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt is furious about Hillary Clinton’s recent remark that the gun lobby is a “minority of people” who “hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.”
Pratt told Tea Party News Network host Tim Constantine on Tuesday that Clinton’s remark means she thinks that all gun owners are terrorists and is therefore ignoring Islamic terrorism, which he claimed is being taught in “most of the mosques in our country.”
“That means that they’re not willing to look at Islam and realize that Islam teaches killing other people,” he said. “Pure Islam from the Koran says that anybody who doesn’t agree exactly with Islam is to be killed, or enslaved at best. So, there’s your real terrorist. And it’s in most of the mosques in our country. You want to find the real terrorists, Mrs. Clinton, check out mosques.”
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
Ever since the Bush administration authorized a DHS report that concluded that home grown terrorists posed an extreme threat to America, Conservatives have been using it as a propaganda tool to rile up the militia movement and other far right conservatives as an attack on their freedom.
Conspiracy nut Alex Jones has been opining that the Obama administration has been hot on the heels of the Tea Party movement and will use tanks, drones and everything else to mount an attack on them. After the Las Vegas shooting, Jones said he was convinced that Harry Reid and others planted a false flag operation against him and other gun nuts because-freedom.
Jones kept up the paranoid claptrap with another kook, Larry Pratt of the Gun Owners of America and they held a conspiracy nut pity party on Jones’ radio show:
GOoA's Larry Pratt: Elliot Rodger's Manifesto 'Reflects The Thinking Of A Person Like Our President'
According to Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America, the unhinged, misogynist manifesto written by Elliot Rodger before he killed six people and himself in a mass shooting outside of Santa Barbara “reflects the thinking of a person like our president.”
In an interview last week with Stan Solomon, the GOA executive director reacted to Rodger’s shooting spree the way he reacts to every mass shooting – by finding anything to blame other than guns.
Solomon ripped into Richard Martinez, who criticized the NRA after losing his son in the shooting, calling the bereaved father a “stupid son of a bitch” and asking “what the hell is wrong with you?” Mistakenly thinking that Martinez lost a daughter in the shooting, he added, “If you had taught your daughter how to have and use a weapon, she might still be alive.”
Pratt responded by blaming Rodger’s lack of a “traditional kind of family life” for the shooting, adding, “I think that the parents deserve a lot of the credit slash blame for bringing up a son like that.” (Pratt has also blamed Trayvon Martin’s death on his “broken family”).
The two then discussed Rodger’s manifesto, in which he railed at women for refusing to have sex with him, which Pratt said reminded him of President Obama.
The manifesto, Pratt said, “clearly reflects the thinking of a person like our president, who’s extremely narcissistic and it’s all about me, all about me.”
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
In just a few minutes of Rick Wiles’ TruNews program on Friday, we learned that Hillary Clinton “covered up Vince Foster’s murder” and was chosen by the “Bilderberg boys” to be president; that the federal government is collecting bank account information in preparation to “steal” and “redistribute” wealth; that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is planning to cut off the bank accounts of same-sex marriage opponents and global warming deniers; and that something mysterious is up with the appointment of U.S.-Israeli dual citizen Stanley Fischer to be the vice-chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Wiles started off the program by speculating that Clinton and “Barack ‘Benghazi’ Obama” met last week “to get their story straight” about the 2012 Benghazi attack. “But that’s no big deal for Hillary,” Wiles said. “I’m sure she told Obama how she covered up Vince Foster’s murder.” He also invoked the conspiracy theory that the Netherlands-based Bilderberg Group, which is meeting this year in Copenhagen, is secretly controlling world affairs and has “chosen” Clinton to be the next president.
Hillary Clinton and Barack ‘Benghazi’ Obama held a secret meeting yesterday. Most likely, they need to get their story straight about what happened on the night of September 11, 2012, when Obama and Clinton let four Americans die at the hands of Islamic murderers. But that’s no big deal for Hillary. I’m sure she told Obama how she covered up Vince Foster’s murder. Or Hillary informed Obama that the Bilderberg boys called from Copenhagen and told her she’s been chosen to be president in 2016.
The U.S. federal government is building a massive database with personal financial information on every American citizen, all of your mortgage information, loans and credit card payments, account balances, credit history, late payments, minimum payments, account balances, racial and ethnic data, gender, marital status, religion, education, employment history, military status, the number of people in your home, your wealth, your assets, will be stored for Washington’s snoopy eyes. You see, the communists must first identify who has the wealth before they can steal it and redistribute it.
Later, during an interview with Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt, Wiles wondered how “the governor of the Bank of Israel move over to the United States and become the deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve, and nobody said a word?” Stanley Fischer, President Obama’s nominee to the Fed position, is a dual U.S. and Israel citizen.
He also launched off allegations that the FDIC is scrutinizing gun sellers to claim that the government will soon “start cutting off the bank accounts of churches that uphold same-sex marriage” or of global warming deniers.
If this continues, with the Federal Reserve – and by the way, did you notice how last week, the Federal Reserve approved Stanley Fischer of the governor – deputy governor or deputy chairman – of the Federal Reserve? Who is Stanley Fischer? He was the governor of the Bank of Israel. Hello! How does the governor of the Bank of Israel move over to the United States and become the deputy chairman of the federal reserve, and nobody said a word?
That’s another topic, but if they are allowed to do this kind of stuff, this harassment, using the power of the federal reserve, the FDIC, to cut off the credit of legitmate businesses, Larry, they’re going to extend this to political correctness. For example, they’ll start cutting off the bank accounts of churches that uphold same-sex marriage. They’ll choose their topics: ‘Oh, you’re a global warming denier. We’re going to have to cut off your credit.’
Yesterday, Wiles’ guest was Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
INDIANAPOLIS— The theme of last week’s National Rifle Association annual meeting was an odd one: maternity.
It was not an official theme in the way macho slogans like “All In” and “Stand and Fight” have formally defined recent NRA congresses. But it was a thick running thread, one that signals the quickening of a broad shift underway across the gun rights movement, from the gun makers to the grassroots.
Red schwag set the tone. At tables throughout the complex, NRA staffers handed out “I’m an NRA MOM” buttons and t-shirts. At the building’s main entrance hung an enormous banner of a woman, looking a little pouty, next to a populist taunt of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently said he would spend big on behalf of the gun safety movement.
While it is unclear if the woman is an NRA mom, she is notably not NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre or board member Ted Nugent. The billboard captures perfectly the NRA’s double-pronged messaging campaign of the moment, best summarized as “Glocker Moms against Mayor Mike.”
For years the role of women in the politics and business of guns has been growing. We may look back at 2014 as the year it flipped. In Indianapolis, women constituted a full quarter of NRA attendees for the first time — up to a five-fold increase over the past decade, according to the group.
The NRA is pivoting quickly to adjust, and for the first time its convention program featured two major events for women. In addition to the $250-a-plate Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction, the group held the first annual Women’s New Energy Breakfast, where female gun owners and NRA moms mixed and networked over a $15 breakfast buffet.
These same women are the target of a female-oriented media push, anchored by a running NRA web series called “Armed and Fabulous.” An early episode looks admiringly at the Potterfield women of the Midway ammunition empire, whose scion, Larry, is one of the NRA’s biggest industry donors.
The women-and-guns motif carried over into the male-dominated dog-and-pony show known as the Leadership Forum, where 2016 hopefuls bragged about their wives’ gun racks. Rick Santorum boasted that his wife owns more guns than he does, and that his five-year old daughter is already an NRA member. Indiana Governor Mike Pence talked about falling in love with his wife for her handgun. Florida Senator Marco Rubio bemoaned the paperwork required for his female staffers to carry and conceal. And after two years in which Glenn Beck delivered the keynote, this year’s honor fell to the pistol-packin’ Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.
What’s going on? The modern NRA is, above all, a thinly veiled industry group. Its “mom” offensive reflects basic gun industry economics: manufacturers’ continued growth depends in no small part on making up for the duck and deer hunting demographic, which has been static or declining for generations.
The industry hopes that women can be their growth market. Thus far its degree of success is anyone’s guess. Anecdotal evidence and some polling shows an increase in female gun ownership in recent years. But according to the General Social Survey, the gold standard for survey research, only 12 percent of women owned guns in 2012, a lower level than in the mid-1990s.
Whether or not there’s a real demographic sea change at hand, the transformation is unfolding in the gun media, both popular and trade, where designers and analysts discuss the need for new models representing the past and future of the industry. Gun makers are rolling out more rifles fitted for arthritic fingers, as well as handguns like the Pavona pistol, “designed for the discerning woman.”
There is also a political dimension. Following the Sandy Hook massacre, Shannon Watts opened a new front in the gun debate by founding Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, which now claims 130,000 moms as members and chapters in all 50 states. The group’s calls for common-sense gun-reform sparked new life in a grassroots gun-reform movement that needed a boost. Last year Watts’ group merged with Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, giving it money to go with its grassroots muscle. Watts’ success created a frame that put the gun lobby on the wrong side of the gender divide.
The result was the image makeover rolled out in Indianapolis. A couple of years ago, in St. Louis, the group unveiled a testosterone-heavy election 2012 media campaign centered around Chuck Norris and R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey, best known as the donut-hating drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. Last weekend, the NRA unveiled a modern look: slick ads that prominently featured women and people of color.
After drawing criticism in the wake of Sandy Hook for the paranoid ranting of white male spokespeople like LaPierre, the NRA has spent the last 18 months building a diverse bench. It now employs seven commentators for its NRA News media wing, including three women (Natalie Foster, Gabby Franco, and Nikki Turpeaux), an African American (Colion Noir), and Chris Cheng, an Asian-American who has declared himself “gay for guns.”
Meanwhile, young women like CNN’s S.E. Cupp, The Blaze’s Dana Loesch, and Fox News’ Katie Pavlich regularly appear on cable news to provide the NRA’s line on the gun issue.
The NRA mom meme isn’t just a top-down thing coming from Fairfax. While strolling the gun show floor — a 40,000 square-foot maze of merchants exhibiting everything from gun insurance to fully automatic, sub-compact “greasers" — I ran into Kyle Coplen, the affable young CEO of the Armed Citizen Project, a non-profit that offers free shotguns and training to residents of high-crime neighborhoods. He was handing out his own mom-themed schwag, and said he’d been doing it for months. The shirts he designed show a female silhouette holding a child’s hand with one arm, a shotgun with the other. With a nod to shirts found in the tourist shops of South Beach and the French Quarter, it reads: "I support single moms."
Coplen explained that he’s currently arming all kinds of moms. “We’ve trained and armed women in wheelchairs and women with special needs children,” he said. So far, his donated shotguns have all been traditional steel and wood, but he’d have no problem handing out guns in the increasingly popular hot pink. “The idea of banning pink guns is part of the liberal anti-gunners ‘war on women’,” he said.
I’d heard the same thing earlier that morning in a park opposite the convention center. There, a coalition of new pro-gun mom groups took advantage of perfect spring weather and rallied under the slogan, “Armed Moms United to Protect.” Suburban and middle-class, they were textbook Glocker Moms. There weren’t many of them, but they all seemed to have their own mom group.
Whether these groups were letterhead organizations or represented a genuine phenomenon among the brassroots is hard to say. But they do seem serious. Most have registered as 501(c)3’s and some are also functioning as PACs. The groups sponsoring the Saturday rally included Moms With Guns Demand Action, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, and 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control. Some of them had mom-guns in their mom-jeans.
I asked one of them, Linda Elliot of 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, how many mom groups like hers had sprung up. “Too many to count probably,” she said. “The rhetorical terrain is shifting toward women, so our message is that it’s okay to be a mom and own guns. I hate to give Shannon Watts any credit, but when she threw such a tempter tantrum, it kind of exploded.”
The Glocker Moms’ message may be tailored for women, but they are going to have trouble with that broad political hinge group once famous as Soccer Moms. As I approached their rally, the gun lobbyist and hard-right operator Larry Pratt, who runs the NRA rival Gun Owners of America, was praising Cliven Bundy as an American hero (this was after Bundy’s comments on the state of “the Negro”).
Pratt, who has consorted with neo-Nazis and other extremists over the years, may be the scariest mother of them all. If Linda Elliot wants to cultivate non-rural female gun ownership and activism, her group might want to stop associating with people with long records of conspiratorial and racist commentary.
Pratt is a minor obstacle if the goal is bringing more women to the gun movement. The NRA’s board of directors tolerates a culture shot through with misogyny. Earlier this year, Nugent became the subject of a firestorm of controversy after he was invited to campaign with the GOP’s candidate for governor of Texas and state Democrats responded by highlighting his inflammatory commentary on women.
Later that afternoon, back at the gun show, I asked Jan Morgan of Armed American Women about this tension. Morgan had keynoted the “Armed Moms” rally with a speech that blended gun-policy with attacks on liberals and abortion rights, delivered while wearing a pistol prominently strapped around her calf. She said pro-gun women should make their case in the context of protecting life, and that means tying it to anti-abortion politics. “Look, if anti-gun liberals are going to talk about banning guns to protect children, then they need to look at abortion,” she said.
Whether most women agree with her on abortion or not, she said there was no stopping the surge in women buying guns. “Women [gun owners] are the largest growing group because of the level of crime, the number of mass shootings,” she said. “They understand the best way to protect yourself and your children is with a gun. They’re gonna have a huge impact on the movement. Shannon Watts and Bloomberg are going to regret opening up the language of ‘moms’.”
Shannon Watts, the original Gun Debate Mom and an Indianapolis native, was in town for the weekend. On Saturday, she led a 300-mom strong “stroller jam” in protest a few blocks north of the convention center. On Sunday, she unveiled a Mothers Dream Quilt and released a new report, “Not Your Grandparents’ NRA.” The latter was written under the imprimatur of her new group, Everytown for Gun Safety.
Watts’ report focused on the NRA’s growing political radicalism, but the gender shift is leaving pink streaks that are also unlike anything in the group’s history. Few were the exhibits on the gun show floor that did not feature products catering to women. We are now well past the novelty of a pink AR-15 here, a sparkled pistol there. Today’s woman has holsters and targets of her own. In Indy, the Law Enforcement Targets booth had already sold out of its bestselling pink shooting target, sales of which benefit not the NRA’s “round-up” program, but breast cancer research and awareness. “Our new line of female targets is selling like crazy,” said a company rep. Down the aisle, the first company to market exclusively to the woman shooter, the Ontario-based Packing In Pink, likewise did a brisk trade.
"Industry is finally catching up with us," said Linda Elliot of 1 Million Moms. "A few years ago it was hard to find a holster or gun that fit a woman’s hand."
As the convention was winding down on Sunday afternoon, I chatted with Alan Gottlieb, the man who anticipated all of this. Gottlieb was sitting unassumingly in his trademark bowtie, signing up new members for his gun-rights group, the Second Amendment Foundation. Most NRA members have never heard of Gottlieb, but he is among the most important figures in the development of the modern gun-rights movement. His group, not the NRA, built the legal team and the strategy behind the landmark Supreme Court gun cases of McDonald and Heller, not to mention dozens of important state-level suits. Among the literature arrayed before him was the current issue of a magazine called Women and Guns, which he has been publishing since 1989. A long-term strategist, Gottlieb dismissed the “mom” boom as a silly marketing arms race and a distraction from larger trends.
"It’s not just about ‘moms,’" said Gottlieb. "The future is about all of the non-traditional groups: single women, the LGBT community, people living in cities, Hispanics who come to this country to enjoy our freedoms, including Second Amendment rights. Those are the only places we can grow. That’s where you find the future of the gun-rights movement."
As he began packing up his materials, I asked Gottlieb if the rapid adoption of maternal messaging — by the NRA, by the Glocker Moms, by industry — might not betray a fear, or at least a nervousness, that suburban women and mothers, if unchallenged, could swing the political momentum toward serious gun reform.
"Fear? Look around," he said, gesturing at the bustling arms bazaar extending in every direction.
"No, I really don’t think these guys are too worried about their future."
Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, praised lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s actions in a sparsely attended speech outside the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting.
"I think that this is a very positive development that came out of the confrontation out on that ranch," said Pratt, who regularly sits for credulous interviews with mainstream media outlets. "And hopefully we will look back on what happened there as a turning point in modern American history. The American people are saying ‘Enough, no farther.’"
After Bundy refused for decades to pay the government fees required for his cattle to graze on public land, federal officials attempted to execute court orders to confiscate and sell the cattle to pay off the more than $1 million he owes the public. Bundy became a right-wing folk hero after he threatened violence against those officials, drawing the support of both conservatives in the media and hundreds of armed men — including militia extremists — who descended on Bundy’s ranch, triggering an armed standoff with the government.
When the government stopped the confiscation fearing an outbreak of violence, Bundy’s supporters cheered, but most of those allies abandoned him last week after The New York Times reported Bundy’s racist comments, in which he questioned whether black Americans were “better off as slaves” or “better off under government subsidy.”
But on April 26 Pratt praised the rancher’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management, which he described as “an illegitimate entity” whose employees “shouldn’t have guns, not as government officials.” He linked the event to the surge in sheriffs who have said they will refuse to enforce expanded federal or state gun laws.
"I think we really are hopefully on an upswing," he said to a group of roughly 20 onlookers, including a Media Matters reporter. “We are seeing, finally, a proper, legitimate, lawful response to illegitimate, unlawful exercise of government power, particularly on the federal level.”
Pratt frequently appears in the media as an advocate for gun rights, most recently responding to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s expanded gun safety efforts in a New York Times article earlier this month. The Times profiled Pratt and his “upstart group” that takes positions “farther right” than the NRA in April 2013, featuring praise from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Dean Heller (R-NV), and reported that the organization has been successful in ”freezing senators, particularly Republicans” from taking positions in support of gun violence prevention legislation.
But Pratt also has a long record of anti-government extremism; he was forced out of his position as co-chair of Pat Buchanan’s 1996 presidential run following the “disclosure that he had spoken at rallies held by leaders of the white supremacist and militia movements,” as the Times reported at the time. More recently, he has suggested that the shooting at the Aurora, CO, movie theater may have been staged and flirted with the claim that the Sandy Hook shooting was a government “programmed event” designed to build support for stronger gun laws.
Pratt’s speech came during a “Safety & Self-Protection Showcase” held in the park across the street from the Indiana Convention Center, where 70,000 members of the NRA were meeting this weekend. The event was sponsored by groups including Moms With Guns Demand Action, Gun Rights Across America, American Gun Rights, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, 2A Friendly, and Armed American Women. Other speakers included Jan Morgan of Armed American Women, Indiana state representative Jim Lucas, Doc Greene of Raging Elephants Radio, and Nikki Goeser, author of “Denied A Chance.”
From Pratt’s April 26 speech:
h/t: Matt Gertz at MMFA
Iowa radio host Steve Deace was on Larry Pratt’s Gun Owner’s News Hour last week to promote his new electoral strategy book, “Rules for Patriots.” The two spent quite a bit of time lavishing praise on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his crusade to bust his state’s public-sector unions.
Deace shared his theory that that public-sector unions are one of the “four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement,” along with “the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby” and “government education” (which is “how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them”).
He praised Walker for removing “one of the four pillars,” namely “the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions.” Deace apparently thinks that five anonymous teenagers yelling “hail Satan” at a pro-choice protest in Texas means that all public employees are Satanists.
Deace counseled Republicans against supporting any GOP politician who supports any one of the “four pillars.”
Pratt agreed, adding that the public-sector employees, including teachers’ unions, that protested at the Wisconsin state capitol in 2011 were “such ugly, dirty people” that nobody would want teaching their children.
Deace: There are four pillars of the leftist, statist, Marxist movement in America: the child-killing industry, the homosexual lobby, government education – that’s sort of their youth ministry, that’s how they get the next generation to indoctrinate them. The homosexual lobby and the abortion industry is where they get their mega, mega hundreds of millions to fund their schemes. But the worker bees, the grassroots, the mobocracy, the ‘Hail Satan’ chanters down in Texas last year, that’s the government-sector employee unions. And if you cut them off, that’s like cutting off the recruiting ability of a college football team. That’s the lifeblood of their program is those government-sector employee unions.
And if you do some of the math, I think the average annual union due in Wisconsin is like $1,500 a year for an AFSCME member. And if they truly lost 40,000 members, Larry, 40,000 times 1,500, you can pretty much buy the Wisconsin state government every year for that kind of money. And to have him cut off the head of the snake like that, he removed one of the four pillars. He’s maybe the only elected Republican in my lifetime I can think of who’s actually removed one of their pillars. And now you know why they have done everything they can possibly do to get rid of him.
And I would just say to your audience, if you’re supporting a Republican who doesn’t threaten at least one of those pillars, you’re wasting your time. If you’re supporting a Republican who aids and abets or collaborates with one of those four pillars, I don’t care how good he is on every other issue, he’s actually working for your opponent. Because that’s the infrastructure of the American left, those four facets.
Pratt: When Scott Walker had those union thugs lying all over the lobby of the capitol dome, the capitol building itself, they were such ugly, dirty people. ‘Those were teaching my kids?,’ I think people might have been thinking. They lost so much stature, it was just amazing what was happening.
From the 04.12.2014 edition of Republic Broadcasting Network’s Gun Owner’s News Hour:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America is hailing the militia members who incited an armed standoff at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch as a demonstration of patriotism reminiscent of the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Speaking yesterday with far-right pundit Stan Solomon, Pratt saluted the armed militias for intimidating law enforcement officers to the point where “everybody came to realize that we can’t have another Waco, the people are prohibiting us from having another Waco.”
Solomon also lauded the rancher’s armed supporters and argued that during the 1993 standoff with the Branch Davidians “if it hadn’t been for the goodness of the Waco folks” then “there would have been thirty or forty dead” “federales.”
“What they were hoping obviously was that they could run tanks in like they did at Waco as a final, murderous act, but clearly that wasn’t going to be political possible in ‘Bunkerville,’” Pratt said. “It’s interesting, the country you could in a way say it got started at Bunker Hill and it got a new injection of life at Bunkerville, Nevada.”
From the 04.15.2014 edition of CPNLive’s Talk To Solomon:
h/t: Brian Tashman at RWW
Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt is one of those people we wish we could ignore. Every interview he gives devolves into a mess of anti-government conspiracy theories, thinly veiled racism, and good-guy-with-a-gun revenge fantasies. This puts him at around the extremism level of 9/11 truther Alex Jones and unhinged Internet newscaster Stan Solomon…both of whom regularly host Pratt on their programs.
But we can’t ignore Larry Pratt because, as we are reminded every few weeks, he remains one of the country’s most influential gun lobbyists. Today’s reminder of this unsavory fact came from the New York Times’ report on Michael Bloomberg’s plan to spend $50 million promoting gun safety laws this year. The NRA declined to comment, so the Times called the second best option: Larry Pratt.
“He’s got the money to waste,” Mr. Pratt said of Bloomberg. “So I guess he’s free to do so. But frankly, I think he’s going to find out why his side keeps losing.”
It was also the New York Times that reported last year that Gun Owners of America was “emerging as an influential force” in the effort to defeat new gun laws. The Times quoted Sen. Ted Cruz praising GOA, noting that Cruz was the group’s “key ally in the Senate.” (Pratt, for his part, returns the praise every chance he gets).
In the past year, Pratt has appeared on CNN and MSNBC. And just a few months ago, when Fox News Sunday hosted Gabrielle Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly to speak on the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, they decided that Larry Pratt would be the perfect person to join him with an opposing view.
That Larry Pratt is an influential Republican lobbyist who is regularly quoted by mainstream news sources shows that it is basically impossible to be too extreme to be taken seriously in today’s right wing.
After all, back in 1996, Pratt was too extreme for even Pat Buchanan. Pratt stepped down from his role in Buchanan’s presidential campaign after his ties to white supremacists and promotion of the right-wing militia movement came to light. As Southern Poverty Law Center director Morris Dees said at the time, “He’s got one foot in that far-right fringe and another foot in mainstream Washington, which makes him really dangerous.”
That certainly hasn’t changed. In just the past couple of years, Pratt
- has twice agreed with Stan Solomon when he suggested that President Obama was raising a “black force” to massacre white Americans ;
- has repeatedly insisted that President Obama is building a private army within the Department of Homeland Security ;
- said the president “had to steal the last election”;
- claimed that liberals “privately rejoice” at mass shootings like Sandy Hook and were happy about the Boston Marathon bombing because they “want more control”;
- said he was pleased that members of Congress fear being shot because it makes them “behave”;
- lamented that “surly” American “blacks” aren’t learning enough from uniformly “happy” and “pro-American” “African[s] from Africa”;
- blamed Trayvon Martin’s “broken family” for his death;
- agreed with a caller who said teachers unarmed who save children’s lives in school shootings shouldn’t be called heroes;
- and said that gun control laws are a sign of God’s judgment on America .
Yet none of this makes Pratt too extreme to be a leading gun lobbyist who is influential on Capitol Hill, praised by Tea Party leader Ted Cruz, and regularly quoted in the mainstream media.
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
GOoA's Larry Pratt: "Teachers Who Protect Kids In School Shootings Aren't Heroes" | Right Wing Watch
On VCY America’s Crosstalk last week, Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt agreed with a caller who said that unarmed teachers who protect students during school shootings aren’t heroes.
“When you see these stories on the news about teachers, and they’re saying they’re heroes because they’re running and hiding and locking doors and everything, and that’s supposed to be a heroic act. I think it’s sheer terror,” the caller complained.
“I’d rather they be a hero with a good shot,” Pratt agreed.
Earlier in the program, Pratt said that gun laws are only rational “if you want to be a dictator.”
“For those who are not thinking as totalitarians, gun control otherwise is not rational,” he said. “Now, if you want to be dictator, gun control is very rational. Like Hitler said, we’d have to be crazy to let the conquered people have guns. And crazy is one thing I don’t think he was. So, he understood that, but we apparently can’t think even as clearly as that monster.”
From the 04.03.2014 of VCY America’s Crosstalk:
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW
GOoA head Larry Pratt: "Liberals 'Privately Rejoice' At Mass Shootings Like Sandy Hook" | Right Wing Watch
Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt, who previously claimed that liberals were happy about the Boston Marathon bombing, said in an interview last week that the “gun control crowd” “privately rejoice” at events like the Sandy Hook massacre.
When a caller told Pratt, who was a guest on VCY America’s Crosstalk on Thursday, that he thought the Sandy Hook shooting “stinks of a conspiracy,” Pratt responded that “the gun control crowd” are “opportunistic.”
“My guess is that privately they rejoice when something like this happens,” he added. “Because they immediately go to their buddies in the media and they immediately start shedding their crocodile tears, pushing for more gun control.”
Later in the interview, a caller asked whether President Obama wants to impose martial law on the United States. Pratt agreed that he probably did but that the military wouldn’t follow the order.
That led the show’s host, Vic Eliason, to ask, “Is there an effort to generate chaos so that martial law would step in?”
Pratt responded, “I guess it’s a possibility because we know the president is a dyed-in-the-wool socialist, he’s going to fundamentally transform the country, and he’s been doing quite a job toward that. But I just don’t think that he would have the means to carry that out.”
From the 03.13.2014 edition of VCY America’s Crosstalk:
h/t: Miranda Blue at RWW