Former National Rifle Association (NRA) chief Ray Arnet once said, "You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere." The organization has long taken this sentiment to heart. For years, the NRA has warned that nationwide gun bans and confiscation were right around the corner. These threats made up in hysterical rhetoric for what they lacked in credibility.
Arnet's comments demonstrate why the organization has adopted such a dishonest strategy. To sustain its $200-million-plus annual budget, the organization relies upon donations from both its members and the gun industry; constant fearmongering boosts donations from both. By working their members into a frenzy, they can better convince them to financially support the NRA and thus stave off that dark future.
The effort also encourages existing gun owners to purchase more firearms in case such laws are actually passed; new sales to current gun owners are essential to the gun industry given that the number of households owning a gun is in long term decline. Terrifying gun owners bolsters gun sales, which in turn keeps the gun industry profitable enough to direct more funds back to the NRA.
But sometimes, your run-of-the-mill fearmongering just isn't enough. In 2011 the NRA repeatedly turned to one of their favorite weapons to keep alive this crisis atmosphere justifying their extremist political agenda and their own existence: conspiracy theories. Below, Media Matters documents a few of our favorites of the year.
Give him points for consistency. When National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre seizes on a talking point, he doesn't let it go, no matter how ridiculous it seems to be.
In September, LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference-Florida that there is a "massive Obama conspiracy" in which the president plans to "lull gun owners to sleep" by not passing new restrictions on guns, then repeal the Second Amendment. His claim was widely mocked as "crazy" or "paranoid" by critics who noted that LaPierre's "conspiracy" was based on no evidence and was frankly bizarre.
Now LaPierre has taken to the pages of The Washington Times to offer the same bizarre claim:
The Obama administration [...] hatched a political conspiracy to deceive Americans and hide its true agenda to dismantle the Second Amendment and our freedom. By delaying its anti-gun legislative agenda, it's tried to dupe gun owners into believing our fundamental freedom is safe.
The political calculation of the White House is clear: Deceive the voters and get re-elected at all costs and then, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling the Second Amendment and destroying American freedom forever.
I have bad news for President Obama and his advisers. Gun owners aren't fools - and are not fooled.
NRA members and gun owners see through this Obama conspiracy and know the president has been setting the stage to gut the Second Amendment, quietly and behind the scenes.
Later in the op-ed, LaPierre pushes the baseless conspiracy that the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious was intended "to bolster its claims that straw purchasers in the United States were the cause of Mexican drug cartel violence." He also promotes the falsehood that the Obama administration supported "a United Nations treaty that could severely restrict or effectively ban civilian ownership of firearms worldwide."
LaPierre concludes that "[a] second Obama term will mark the end of the Second Amendment, as we know it. That is a fact." But the real truth is that he's willing to say anything to raise money and consolidate his organization's power.
National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre was mocked by progressives last month for claiming that there is a "massive Obama conspiracy" to "lull gun owners to sleep" by not taking any action on reducing gun violence in order to win re-election and then carry out his plot to eliminate the Second Amendment.
LaPierre explained to Ashley Martella that gun owners need "to do everything they can to make sure that President Obama does not get a second term so that he can destroy the Second Amendment":
LaPIERRE: Our job is to protect the Second Amendment and that means that every gun owner, every Second Amendment supporter needs to do everything they can to make sure that President Obama does not get a second term so that he can destroy the Second Amendment. And that's what's going to happen if he gets a second term.
And I want to leave no doubt about that. This is the most dangerous election in our lifetime for the Second Amendment freedom that American citizens have. A second term by President Obama will break the back of that freedom in this country.
When he last offered up this bizarre conspiracy theory, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pointed out that, far from working to "destroy the Second Amendment," Obama has actually been "saying very little and doing even less on gun laws," with his most notable action on the issue being signing a bill that allows guns in national parks.
But LaPierre and the NRA aren't about to let reality get in the way of their conspiracies.
On Friday's edition of her MSNBC program Rachel Maddow highlighted a variety of right-wing extremist activities on gun related issues, including National Rifle Association (NRA) executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre's increasingly infamous suggestion that because President Obama hasn't pursued gun control he must be secretly plotting to "erase the Second Amendment." Maddow also highlighted Fox News mainstreaming right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh, who gained notoriety last year for advocating throwing bricks through the windows of Democratic offices in response to the health care reform bill.
Maddow reviewed the NRA's factually challenged assertion that Obama had a "ten point plan to change the second amendment" that the NRA crafted as part of their anti-Obama political push in 2008. That claim was rated "pants on fire" by PolitFact in 2008 and in no way resembles the actual Obama record on gun control. Now LaPierre is asserting a "conspiracy" against the Second Amendment. Maddow explains the absurdity of LaPierre's comments:
MADDOW: The NRA says the way you can tell Obama is coming for your guns, is that he's not coming for you guns. It's genius! That is the insane paranoid message from the NRA this year.
Maddow also called out Fox News for featuring right-wing blogger Mike Vanderboegh, who in addition to advocating vandalism has pushed conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma city bombing, advocated for militias, the Minutemen movement and the anti-government three percenters. Last week Media Matters reported on Fox mainstreaming Vanderboegh and noted that his call to vandalism has been widely denounced:
After the Post profile, Vanderboegh drew fire from the left, right, and center. MSNBC's Ed Schultz described him a "whacko," while colleague Rachel Maddow pointed to how Vanderboegh's "efforts to inspire violent action around the country [are] apparently derived from his belief that he leads millions of people who think the same things he does." Jonah Goldberg called him an "idiot" and a "buffoon" whose behavior "is simply wrong, reprehensible, and childish." The Daily Beast's John Avlon wrote that the "parallels, intentional or not, to the Nazis' heinous 1938 kristallnacht ... are hard to ignore."
Fox News doesn't seem to care.
Over the past two weeks, leaders of the National Rifle Association have embarked on a campaign of extremist rhetoric and wild conspiracies. They have called federal law enforcement agents "jack-booted thugs," referred to President Obama as "Communist-trained," and described a "massive Obama conspiracy" in which the administration plans to push for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The organization has also pushed a radical legislative agenda during that period, calling for a national concealed carry reciprocity bill that law enforcement groups call "dangerous" and pushing for concealed firearms on college campuses.
On yesterday's edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Chris Matthews criticized National Rifle Association executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre's recent comments at the Florida Conservative Political Action Conference suggesting that President Obama was secretly plotting to "erase the Second Amendment." Matthews noted LaPierre's comments were of "another strain of the crazy far right" and said they sounded like "civil war" talk.
MATTHEWS: Well here's something that another strain of the crazy far right. Here's the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre, and I've know this guy a long time, I'm astounded by this new accusation that the President is leading some conspiracy.
The language, "lie," "conspiracy," it's almost like, I don't know Lincoln talking about what was going on in civil war below the Mason Dixon line. I mean, this is civil war talk about a President of the United States.
For more Media Matters coverage of gun violence and extremism, visit our Gun Facts microsite.
According to National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, the Obama administration's lack of action on gun control issues only proves just how diabolically anti-gun they are.
In a speech Friday at Florida's version of the Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre explained how by not pushing for new gun laws, Obama actually revealed that he is engaged in a secret plan to "lull gun owners to sleep" so that they would not vote him out of office in 2012. LaPierre claimed that Obama's "strategy" is to "get re-elected" and then "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."
LaPIERRE: [I]n public, [President Obama will] remind us that he's put off calls from his party to renew the old Clinton [assault weapons] gun ban, he hasn't pushed for new gun control laws, and he'll even say he looked the other way when Congress passed a couple of minor pro-gun bills by huge majorities. 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 stinking lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration. It's all part -- it's all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country. [...]
Before the President was even sworn into office, they met and they hatched a conspiracy of public deception to try to guarantee his re-election in 2012. [...]
And Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep, and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools, and we are not fooled. We see the president's strategy crystal clear: get re-elected, and with no other re-elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms freedom. Erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and exorcise it from the U.S. Constitution. That's their agenda.
LaPierre did not explain in his speech why the leader of a group whose top priority is defeating President Obama in 2012 would be made privy to this secret plan. Nor did he explain how Obama planned to repeal the Second Amendment will a Congress that passes "pro-gun bills by huge majorities."