The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

In Latest Show of Extremism, the NRA Hosts a Muslim-Basher

By Mark Potok on April 10, 2012 - 3:15 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Propaganda

The National Rifle Association (NRA) — the powerful gun lobby that has called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted thugs,” accused President Obama of having secret plans to strip away Americans’ guns, and been the main force behind the incredibly dangerous “Stand Your Ground” laws being used to justify the killing of Trayvon Martin — is once again flaunting its political extremism.

This Sunday in St. Louis, the NRA plans to host retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, a radical Islamophobe who has said there should be “no mosques in America,” as keynote speaker of a prayer breakfast at its annual conference. Boykin has asserted that “Islam is evil” and “a totalitarian way of life” that “should not be protected under the First Amendment,” among other things. This January, after controversy arose over statements like these, Boykin withdrew from a speech he had been invited to make at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Years before, in 2003, Boykin was internationally criticized when it came out that he’d given a series of speeches at religious events, wearing full military dress, in which he said the United States was fighting “Satan” in the Middle East, and insisted his God was stronger than that of his enemies. A Defense Department investigation later found he had violated several regulations in these speeches, and then-President George W. Bush went out of his way to say they didn’t “reflect my point of view.”

But that hasn’t stopped the NRA, which touts Boykin as an “elite warrior” who it has chosen to share the stage with a champion elk caller and a country singer.

None of this is much of a surprise to those who know the NRA, a group that claims more than 4 million members and has an annual budget of some $250 million. While the group has often been described as the most powerful lobby in America, it has a lengthy record of outrageous statements, hard-right views and conspiracy-mongering. And that’s before you even consider its poisonous role in the Martin case.

In 1995, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre — the man who actually runs the group — wrote a fundraising letter describing federal agents as “jack-booted government thugs.” He added: “[I]n Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.” Former President George H.W. Bush quit the NRA as a result.

In 2000, LaPierre accused President Clinton of tolerating murders in order to build the case for gun control, saying the president had “blood on his hands.” Clinton, along with many others, described the comments as “smear tactics.”

More recently, LaPierre has consistently pushed conspiracy theories about UN plans for global gun control, an eventuality that could not occur without the consent of two-thirds of the Senate to such a treaty. And he has been vociferous in his claims that Obama — who not only has not pushed gun control, but in fact has agreed to laxer regulations — has a secret plan to impose gun control in a second term.

In the fall of 2008, even before Obama was elected, firearms manufacturers and the NRA pushed a national fear-mongering campaign dubbed “Prepare for the Storm in 2008.” In the months that followed, historic amounts of ammunition and weapons were purchased by Americans who apparently feared that the NRA’s warning was valid.

At  a meeting of the Florida Conservative Political Action Conference in September 2011, LaPierre told his audience that even before his election, Obama was the leader of a secret “conspiracy” to impose gun control on America. “Our freedom is at risk in this election like never before,” LaPierre said. “The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the Second Amendment, but it’s a big, fat, stinkin’ lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration.”

It wasn’t only talk like this that was fouling the atmosphere. In 2005, the NRA began pushing the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law that is now at issue in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in February. NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, the group’s first female president, led the effort in that state, where she had great political influence. Law enforcement officials at the time decried the proposal, saying it would make it far harder to convict people of murder, but the NRA plunged ahead, ultimately winning passage of the law in that state.

In the coming years, working with a right-wing group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the NRA was able to help push similar legislation to the point that more than 30 states now have reportedly adopted one form or another. According to the Washington Post, ALEC funders include the NRA and magnates David and Charles Koch, well-known funders of far-right causes.

The legislator who nominally wrote Florida’s law has said that it did not cover someone following a “suspicious” person and then confronting him, as apparently happened in the Martin case. But many experts, including prominent law enforcement professionals, believe that Martin might be alive today — or, at least, his assailant would be facing criminal charges — were it not for the legal protection apparently extended to him under the Florida statute.

Not that any of this matters to the NRA. Indeed, cravenly plunging ahead despite the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin killing, the group has lately been active in three states, pushing for the adoption of similar laws there. Folks in Iowa, Alaska and Minnesota take heed: The NRA’s coming your way, and it means you no good. And by the way, if you’re into a little Muslim-bashing along with your gun violence, you might want to make your way to St. Louis this Sunday. There are some people there who would be happy to oblige you.

  • Sam Molloy

    The NRA has responsible members, but there are some nuts too. Like Occupy, the SPLC and every other group.

  • Ray Kinserlow

    The NRA has more blood on its hands than Al Qaeda. That said, I believe you should be able to carry a gun in your own home. Everywhere else should be a gun free zone. Also, putting unique chemical markers in the lots of gunpowder would help the police. You go in to buy bullets or gunpowder, you produce a photo ID and your name, address, etc. and the lot number are reported to the police.

  • ModerateMike

    Ahh, the Koch brothers…I didn’t know that they had their grubby little mitts in this issue as well, though it does not surprise me. But despite their wealth, they could not have been so successful without the help of the voters, who only began to question the role of the Koch brothers in far-right causes after seeing the Supreme Court loosen restrictions on corporate campaign contributions, and the weakening of public sector unions in Ohio and Wisconsin.

    What does amaze me is that LaPierre was still ranting about Obama in Sept. 2011, long after the Tea Party had engaged the parking brake in the House. Even if the President wanted to tighten restrictions on gun ownership, what hope would he realistically have of getting the legislation through Congress?

  • Reynardine

    Dan, the reason that the stand your ground rule is relevant is not that it was factually applicable, but that the Sanford authorities used it as an excuse to allow the spoliation of evidence and let a “coon hunter” walk free.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “Dan, when Zimmerman gets off and the judge or DA cites the SYG law as the reason, will you come post an apology?”

    I won’t apologize, but I will admit I was wrong.

    I don’t see how the SYG law can be relevant. Zimmerman’s statement to the police is that he followed Martin, then headed back to his vehicle and was attacked without warning and knocked down. His defense must be that he was already retreating (and so SYG is irrelevant) or that he was suddenly attacked without a chance to retreat (and so SYG is irrelevant).

    The state case appears to be that Zimmerman pursued Martin, then attacked and killed him. For this also, SYG is irrelevant.

    There seems to be no reason to bring stand-your-ground laws into this case. I’m frustrated that many people seem to want to get on their hobby horses about it.

  • Reynardine

    As originally passed in 2005, the “stand your ground” law applied to your home, your car, your farm, your business, or where you had a *proprietary* right to be; if you were elsewhere, you had to avoid the confrontation if you could do so without endangering yourself or another. I forget just when someone got big-headed and revised it like this. Florida has never required you to retreat inside a dwelling house if your assailant was not a member of your household. Of course, there was, prior to that time, the old custom of the “Cracker hello”, referred to by Theodore Pratt in “Florida Roundabout”, q.v.

  • Bsr

    Dan, when Zimmerman gets off and the judge or DA cites the SYG law as the reason, will you come post an apology? Because that is what is going to happen.

    I don’t care what the fools who sponsored this law without reading it say to cover their ass. I care that it has gotten killers off the hook before and will do so again.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Remember, it is not Islamophobia if they are trying to kill you”

    And if “they” are not, then it IS Islamophobia.

  • CM

    Dan,

    I’m not a legal expert, but I don’t see how “stand your ground” can be so easily dismissed as inapplicable to the Martin case. Here’s the relevant portion of the Florida statute:

    “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

    Zimmerman claims he was attacked and shot Martin in self-defense, apparently believing he was in danger of “death or great bodily harm” even though Martin was unarmed.

    As for whether the law was “foremost in Zimmerman’s mind at the time,” it isn’t worth discussing; none of us are mind-readers. But it’s certainly plausible to conjecture that it was in his mind at some point: when he obtained his concealed weapon permit, for example, or when he volunteered to lead the Neighborhood Watch patrol, and maybe even when he showed up for his shift the night of Martin’s death.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    I’m also a gun owner who doesn’t agree with the NRA. I find it amazing that the NRA continues to rail against Democrats, particularly Obama, when that party has been running scared on the gun issue for decades. It’s clear that their (the NRA’s) purpose has little to do with gun rights or gun ownership.

    However, I am not happy with linking this issue to the Trayvon Martin killing and using it as a platform to criticize the “stand your ground” laws. As far as I know, everyone with a credible legal viewpoint has said that the SYG law isn’t applicable to this case, including Zimmerman’s former lawyers. Zimmerman’s statement is facially inconsistent with a stand your ground defense.

    Secondly, it borders on ludicrous to say Martin might be alive today if it wasn’t for this law. That would suppose that the thing foremost in Zimmerman’s mind at the time was a legal analysis of Florida gun law.

    As a supporter of the SPLC I don’t care to see you exploiting a tragic event to score political points, unless the event is directly related to the issue.

  • http://twitter.com/AronL Aron

    And this is why I own firearms and refuse to join the NRA. They DO NOT speak for me.

  • Reynardine

    Don’t worry, Miguel, unless you have cloven hooves and chew cud.

  • Miguel

    Remember, it is not Islamophobia if they are trying to kill you

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/GargamelGold?feature=mhee CriticalDragon1177

    Mark Potok,

    Smooth move NRA. Now even people who support gun rights who are not bigots, will have a hard time supporting you.

  • Reynardine

    I daresay next we’ll hear about them chasing down and killing whoever they think is “Mooslin”.