After a fatal shooting involving gun violence in Minnesota, it wasn’t just gun control advocates criticizing the National Rifle Association.
Some blowback, surprisingly, was coming from within the organization.
People claiming to be lifelong members of the NRA challenged the group’s stance on gun rights after the organization appeared to drag its feet in addressing the police-involved shooting in Falcon Heights, Minn., of Philando Castile, a law-abiding gun owner, which had already garnered national attention.
The organization released a statement on the shooting following the Dallas attack that left five officers dead. When the NRA did obliquely reference Castile’s death by referring to “reports from Minnesota,” it neither named Castile directly nor took a position on the matter.
“It is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing,” the organization said. “Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.”
From the organization’s Facebook page:
As the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.
The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known.
The NRA statement does not mention the officers killed in the line of duty, emphasizing instead the “right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others.”
In tone, the NRA’s approach bore a close resemblance to its statement in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in Orlando. Two days after the massacre, a lobbyist for the gun-rights group wrote an op-ed in USA Today going on the offensive against stricter firearms regulation.
“Destroy radical Islam, not the right of law-abiding Americans to protect themselves,” wrote Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
Cox’s broadside against greater restrictions was viewed as tone-deaf by many gun-control advocates, while gun proponents lined up on the other side.
This time, however, the NRA faces an internal division as its members argue the group did not do enough to defend gun owners’ rights by speaking out on behalf of Castile.
Castile had a valid permit to carry a gun. He also reportedly informed the officer who shot him that he was armed, in an attempt to head off a misunderstanding.
Still, Castile was killed by police — prompting outrage among some Americans that following the rules was not enough to save Castile from a violent death.
The delay in addressing Castile’s death, as well as the promptness with which the NRA spoke out after the Dallas shooting, has prompted complaints of a double standard in the way the organization defends gun owners.
“Your lack of message concerning the Castile case disappoints me and makes me question my membership,” wrote one man, Marco Gallologic, on the NRA’s Facebook page. “…What do I pay fees for if you do not represent gun owners and our rights?”
“Your silence is causing NRA members such as myself to question/wonder what exactly you do and don’t stand for,” another man, Bruce Johnston, wrote.
That sentiment was reflected across social media this week, with members and non-members alike demanding that the NRA voice its support for Castile.
@NRA As a life member, please condemn the murder of Philando Castile, sooner rather than later. Licensed to carry, and no felony record.
— Brad Groux (@BradGroux) July 7, 2016
Other firearms groups have reacted with alarm to the shooting. On Thursday, the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights group based in Bellvue, Wash., said “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.”
As David Graham writes for the Atlantic magazine, U.S. history is strewn with cases of uneven observance of the Second Amendment, with some Americans — mainly whites — benefiting disproportionately from it over others.
But those criticizing the NRA believe the advocacy group should be protesting Castile’s death as an unjust violation of the Constitution.
“Philando Castile had a valid concealed weapons permit but was shot and killed,” wrote Dennis Gesker on Facebook. “As an NRA member I urge you to take a strong position in favor of this man.”
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.