While commentators have noted the National Rifle Association's tendency to go silent in the wake of mass shootings such as the one at the Washington Navy Yard, the gun organization's media arm, NRA News, has stayed on the air to conclude that no new gun law could have prevented the attack, promote false information about the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and allege a media conspiracy against guns.
Since the September 16 shooting that claimed the lives of 12 victims, the NRA has failed to issue a substantive official statement on the tragedy. The gun rights organization has posted a single tweet not related to the shooting and, according to MSNBC.com, a message on the group's homepage on September 16 said, "We grieve and pray for those who lost their lives and for those hurt at the Washington Navy Yard." The message has apparently been removed.
CNN reported that the NRA did not respond to a request for comment on September 16, noting, "The gun rights organization has typically not responded to similar shootings immediately." Indeed, after a December 14, 2012, mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, claimed 26 lives, the NRA was silent until a December 21 question-free press conference where Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre claimed, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
The NRA has claimed that it refuses to discuss gun policy in the wake of mass shootings "out of respect for those grieving families and until the facts are known." However, the following excerpts from the September 17 broadcast of NRA News' radio program Cam & Company demonstrate how the NRA uses its own media arm to push its talking points:
NRA News: "Point To Me The Gun Law That Would Have Prevented Yesterday's Attack." NRA News host Cam Edwards dismissed the prospect of gun reforms following the shooting, asking Breitbart.com's John Nolte to "point to me the gun law that would have prevented yesterday's attack." While the circumstances surrounding the Navy Yard shooting are still unknown, Edwards ignores discussion over how the shooter was able to pass a background check despite a history that included two gun-related arrests and past treatment for "serious mental illness" that included paranoia and hearing voices. Also at issue is the fact that the shooter was able to buy a shotgun, but not the assault weapon he reportedly preferred to purchase, in Virginia while likely not being a resident of that state.
NRA News Promotes Guest's False Claim That Bill Clinton Is To Blame For Shooting. NRA News hosted Breitbart.com's A.W.R. Hawkins to claim that a Clinton-era policy banned the carrying of guns in military installations. In fact, the policy -- which was actually enacted during the first Bush presidency -- allows guns to be carried under a substantial number of circumstances, leading the conservative Heritage Foundation's military expert to call Hawkins' claim "bogus." Still, Hawkins promoted claims from his error-riddled article on NRA News and said that the shooting "didn't happen because someone owned a gun, it happened because Bill Clinton mandated that these bases be gun-free zones."
Edwards suggested that policy should be reexamined, stating, "it should be, but, I think what we've seen, Dr. Hawkins, is that it's not about public safety. This is nothing new that I've been saying here. It's about banning guns. It's about being anti-gun. Even to the point where your anti-gun tendencies take precedence over actually talking about things that may indeed make a difference."
To read more about false claims from right-wing media that the Navy Yard was a "gun-free zone," click here.
NRA News: Media Intentionally Misreported Facts Of Shooting To Push Gun Reform Agenda. While many have criticized the media's often erroneous breaking news coverage of developing crime stories, Edwards suggested incorrect reporting on the Navy Yard shooting was an intentional effort by "some in the media" to push an anti-gun agenda. Notably, major media outlets did initially misreport the identity of the gunman and the type of firearm used in the shooting. Even though the mistakes were based on incorrect information from anonymous law enforcement sources, Edwards claimed, "I honestly think that this was an attempt by some in the media really to put an agenda out there before the facts were known because they believe that the facts would ultimately fit their agenda, or they could make the facts conform to their agenda."