I recently went on a little tirade on Facebook regarding the NRA’s response, or lack thereof, to the Philando Castile murder. Philando was a black American with to my knowledge a spotless criminal record who was killed at a traffic stop after announcing to the officer that he had a valid permit weapon. There is no reason at this moment to doubt the eyewitness account of his fiance, who watched him die, that he was in fact complying with the officer’s orders and that the officer had escalated the confrontation to lethal force for pretty much no reason.
This situation is a textbook 2nd amendment rights case, and when you think 2nd amendment rights you think the NRA which is a forefront gun rights advocacy group. After all what is more egregious than the government murdering a civilian for no reason besides that he was cooperating and in compliance with local gun laws? After a bit of pressure, the NRA made a comment that you can read in full on their Twitter account. The NRA refused to mention Castile by name, saying they will reserve comment “following an investigation”. I suspect there will be no follow up to this situation.
Supporters of the NRA might say here that reserving comment on a situation like this definitely warrants finding out “all the facts”, but fact of the matter is we have a fairly credible account of the situation. Listen, I’ll wait for you to go form your own opinion of this shooting as it might as well be any one of a number of other violent shootings targeting black Americans by police officers in our country. Fact is he was a licensed carrier of his weapon, there is no evidence he was doing anything other than cooperating with the law enforcement officer, and being murdered for this is a clear violation of his Constitutional rights. So I posit the question: if the NRA “can’t comment without and investigation” on a fairly clearcut case of a 2nd amendment Constitutional rights violation for a person who was murdered by the government – then what exactly is the NRA for?
Like most special interest groups, the NRA has a narrative and agenda to push. That narrative is that inner city violence is self perpetuated by black society and that a well armed citizenry, military and police force is the only way to “control” them. It is a fear driven narrative that meshes well with their message that gun ownership is the only solution to foreign invading terrorist forces.
While the NRA is far from the only special interest group in the United States that puts its narratives before its policy making and principles (there are endless examples), for the NRA to refuse to at least even acknowledge the legitimate concerns gun owners in the country should have when a news story comes out that an American citizen was wrongfully murdered by a police officer – denying him any due process of law – for merely carrying a weapon and following the legal process to disclose it just demonstrates one thing: the NRA’s perpetuation of their narrative is based on their constituency – an older, white American society who believes in more “traditional” policies. A militaristic America, where arming the government more than the population keeps those minority groups and foreigners “in check”.
I fear a government that is armed to the teeth and able to outright murder its citizens without any due process of law, whose agents suffer very few to no penalties for these violations of our rights. I believe every American who believes in protecting their rights should fear the same thing. The NRA is quick to push that fear as a reason to arm the civil population – but fact is, and this is all throughout their own propaganda through all their official sources – the NRA would rather have the police force and military armed to the teeth. This is a more dangerous government, not a less dangerous one, it shows that their gun manufacturer sponsors profits are more important than a strong citizenry.
In the NRA’s narrative, a better society is one where every police officer is even better armed than today, and that is a dangerous society. No well armed civilian population can really do anything to hold a group like this accountable. That puts the NRA at odds with the chief principle of the 2nd amendment – that the primary reason we believe people should be allowed to carry guns is to protect ourselves from an oppressive government. One that would violate our due process and human rights by murdering our citizens, denying them the right to see a day in court.
If the NRA can’t stop that from happening for us, to protect us from a government that is not in any way accountable to us, then what is the point of it? We don’t need any advocacy group that refuses to actually advocate whenever doing so doesn’t bolster their narrative. This is a clear case of the group being ineffectual and potentially making the problem worse by alienating those who desperately need someone to advocate for them.
If it was a white American who died I somewhat doubt they’d be waiting on the investigation to make a comment. Perhaps not every member of the NRA is racist, but the underpinnings of many of their primary concerns with society has a lot to do with pushing a social agenda which has racial undertones. One that can at times compromise their principles. A principled gun rights advocate should be calling for answers and justice for Philando Castile and I think it is out and out ignorant of the situation to suggest anything else.
The point of an advocacy group
Advocacy groups are supposed to, y’know, advocate. To support those who might be the ones who have nobody else to stand up for them. Philando cannot support himself in this cause because he’s dead, so you’d think people in a position to speak out on this kind of issue would be doing it now more than ever. Objectively, these two cases should be very cut and dry as far as what a guns-rights supporting American should think about the situation – they should be all for considering both gross misconduct by the police department and both cases should be looked at as potentially and the NRA refuses to comment. As the go-to group in the country to defend 2nd amendment rights, the distancing from even making statements about either of these situations is out and out troubling. I guess the “carry a gun legal or not and get shot on sight” policy many of these police officers have with our citizens is just an A-OK thing to the NRA.
While the NRA won’t say anything and is probably perfectly happy to never make a comment addressing this situation ever again and just forget it, not everyone in America is going to remain quiet. A great example of a public comment made by a gun rights advocacy group called the Second Amendment Foundation (based in Bellevue, WA) expresses grave concern over the situation involving Castile’s death in a statement in conjunction with the Citizen’s Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
From the words of the SAF founder Alan Gottlieb: “Wednesday night’s shooting of Philando Castile is very troubling, especially to the firearms community, because he was a legally-armed private citizen who may have done nothing more than reach for his identification and carry permit. […] We have received calls of alarm today from many of our members across the country. They are justifiably concerned that a law-abiding citizen may have been wrongfully killed. […] The concerns of our members, and honest gun owners everywhere, go even deeper. Exercising our right to bear arms should not translate to a death sentence over something so trivial as a traffic stop for a broken tail light, and we are going to watch this case with a magnifying glass.”
Whether you believe in gun control or not, you should universally agree that so long as it is within the law people should not be shot and killed merely for being legal gun owners. Even a guns rights cynic should agree to this much. However to expect any American organization to practice principle over supporting their core narratives is just asking too much, it is an inbred facet of our society.