June 4, 2014; NPR Blogs, “The Two-Way”

On May 30th, an article including the following excerpt was posted on the website for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). The essay madereference to “open carry rallies” where people show up with semi-automatic weapons outside of, say, a Home Depot. The iconic photo from this movement is a picture of a woman holding one infant on each hip with a semi-automatic strapped on her back. Like we needed more images of guns near children in this country. The statement read:

Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns. Unlicensed open carry of handguns is legal in about half the U.S. states, and it is relatively common and uncontroversial in some places.

Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

After the NRA published the piece, many praised the group—but not the right “many,” evidently, because a few days later they issued an apology and threw the still-unidentified staff person who had written the original piece under the bus, blaming him or her for the renegade behavior which remained uncorrected until the response from Texas heated up.

According to Media Matters, NRA lobbyist Chris Cox appeared on a NRA radio show on Tuesday, June 3, to apologize for and disavow the post. “Cox said that the statement was ‘a mistake’ and that ‘it shouldn’t have happened,’ adding ‘our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.’ Cox also blamed the statement on a ‘staffer’ who Cox said ‘expressed his personal opinion.’” Cox went on: “The National Rifle Association unapologetically and unflinchingly supports the right of self-defense and what that means is that our members and our supporters have a right to carry a firearm in any place they have a legal right to be. If that means open carry, we support open carry.”

Mother Jones calls that an intriguing explanation in light of the fact that the post “was 1,500 words long, contained links to an array of research, and had no byline on it.”—Ruth McCambridge