Ferguson, the NRA and the hypocrisy of silence

Why the NRA’s silence in the tear-gas wake of Ferguson, Missouri is so telling

Demonstrators raise their hands while protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Demonstrators raise their hands while protesting the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri August 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

On the morning of Feb. 28, 1993, 80 heavily armed agents from the U.S. law enforcement agency Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms stormed a compound in Waco, Texas, in an attempt to serve a search-and-arrest warrant to David Koresh, a 33-year-old preacher and leader of a religious sect. Four agents and six Koresh followers died in the ensuing gun battle. A little less than two months later, similarly armed FBI agents rammed Koresh’s compound with tanks, shooting some 400 canisters of CS gas into it. Seventy-four people, including Koresh and 25 children, died in the ensuing blaze.

The National Rifle Association came out, if you’ll excuse the pun, guns blazing. “If you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens,” said Wayne Lapierre, then the NRA’s executive vice-president, calling the agents “jack-booted thugs.” Along with the 1992’s Ruby Ridge assault, in which government agents killed the wife and son of white supremacist Randy Weaver, Waco became a stump issue for the NRA.

It’s easy to see why. Both incidents fuelled the group’s reigning paranoia that Americans are forever under threat from well-armed, Kevlar-wearing government commandos. We see the results in the NRA’s ensuing campaign today: weak gun laws, a lack of comprehensive background checks and a hobbling of the ATF itself through budget restrictions and politically motivated laws.

It’s why the NRA’s silence in the tear-gas wake of Ferguson, Mo., is so telling. The four-day police operation following the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown has essentially shut down the city of 21,000. The resulting images are a gun-obsessed paranoiac’s nightmare made flesh: Phalanxes of flak-jacketed police officers line the streets, firing tear gas and pointing assault weapons at unarmed citizens, often with tank-like police vehicles behind them. Dozens of people have been arrested, including journalists and municipal politicians, and a media camera crew had its camera forcibly turned off and its equipment torn down. The “jack-booted thugs” haven’t just stormed a private residence or seized a compound—they’ve taken over an entire city.

And yet, there hasn’t been a peep from the NRA about the incident. The Gun Owners of America, the NRA’s even more paranoid offshoot, mentions Missouri only to congratulate citizen gun owners there. Former congressman Ron Paul spends much of his time regaling his flock about big-government abuses when he isn’t giving away assault weapons or asking for money. He, too, has been mum. (A blog post on his website, not written by Paul, decries the “militarization of police,” but chides protestors for not remaining calm.)

This seemingly perfect spectacle for NRA outrage—the shooting of an unarmed man, cops with outsized weapons, mass arrests—is flawed for one reason: Michael Brown was African-American. As such, he doesn’t fit the profile of the typical NRA member and, apparently, doesn’t warrant the group’s paranoid rage it has displayed in the case of Randy Weaver, a known racist who was armed to the teeth at the time of the standoff. The NRA’s lack of rhetoric about Michael Brown, like Trayvon Martin before him, speaks volumes about the group’s other reigning paranoia, this one, race-based.

As an 18-year-old black youth, Brown was less an NRA poster boy for the militarized overindulgences of law enforcement than the unspoken reason why many of its members buy guns in the first place. The NRA is too politically savvy to admit its racial bias; thankfully for us, proud Gun Owners of America member Ron Paul isn’t. “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 per cent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal,” was but one choice nugget from a series of newsletters carrying Ron Paul’s name from the ’80s and ’90s.

There are pro-gun types who have decried police action in Ferguson. Libertarian blogger Will Grigg wrote brilliantly about how Brown’s killing is both a demonstration of law enforcement’s tendency to use unreasonable force and the “low-grade military occupation” of Ferguson’s black residents. Rand “son of Ron” Paul, meanwhile, called for the immediate demilitarization of police.

Yet the NRA’s silence following the shooting of an unarmed American, and the subsequent police takeover of his town, is louder than hell.

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Ferguson, the NRA and the hypocrisy of silence

  1. What a pathetic incendiary article. The NRA is guilty of racism because it hasn’t issued a statement on the situation in Ferguson. The list of racists must be quite long if that’s all it takes. Silence…you’re guilty. He should have interviewed a NRA official before writing this trash but he had time to search for articles written by non-NRA officials who were not named from 30 years ago. Giving the NRA a chance to have it’s say would be bad for the narrative.

    It would also have been helpful if the author could distinguish between the calculated actions of senior police managers under no immediate threat at Ruby Ridge & Waco and those of a small police force reacting to rioting. Apparently firing off tear gas in the open is the same as attacking a building you know is full of kids.

  2. The author is also behind in reporting. The State Police have replaced the Ferguson Police. The FBI is investigating civil rights abuses. The lone shooting is being investigated. No one was shot with any of the outsized weaponry. The mass arrests were of looters.

    As usual it seems the most reasonable policy for an organization or individual (including the author) is to withhold announcing “what happened” until enough information is obtained to come to a reasonable conclusion.

    I suspect if you look back to the Moncton RCMP shootings you’ll find some of the writers complaining about militarized police in Ferguson criticizing the RCMP for not issuing assault rifles and heavy body armour to patrol officers before the incident. Anything to get published and follow the herd I guess.

  3. This article is laughably ignorant.

    The Waco assault was the ATF executing a warrant to inspect the guns held by the Branch Davidians. It had everything to do with citizen’s rights to keep arms.

    This was a cop interacting with a known criminal and had nothing to do with firearms law or the 2nd amendment.

    Martin Patriquin you are an ignorant fool trying to say pro gun rights activists are racists.

    The NRA does not oppose firearms possession by any racial group.

  4. A lot of journalists, including Patriquin, have jumped on the “militarization of police” bandwagon. It is true that SWAT teams are being used for a greater variety of purposes than in the past and some involve searches and arrests for non-violent offences. This should cease. SWAT teams should be reserved for dealing with criminal violence.

    Ferguson isn’t an example of using a SWAT team to arrest overdue library loan holders. It’s a riot with looting and arson and the potential for murder.

    The police have every right to wear protective gear (remember the outrage that RCMP members didn’t have assault rifles and rifle proof body armour at hand in Moncton). Tear gas isn’t something new. It’s been a standard tool for riot control in the US and Canada for generations- as have shields and batons. Rubber bullets and bean bag rounds have been with us since the early 70s. As of mid day Sunday no rioters have been shot at by the police. If anything the police response has been restrained.

    So if the police response has been measured, using standard riot control tactics and no lethal weapons have been used why would the author expect statements from the NRA criticizing the police? It’s simply a cheap shot. The worst type of journalistic opportunism.

  5. If Americans don’t get their gun culture, and their racism, under control pretty soon…..they won’t have a country left to worry about.

  6. As more info comes out from the agencies doing the investigation into the Brown shooting it’s clear that all the journalists and pundits etc who “knew” what had happened a day after the event should have kept quiet. You’d think the media would understand that the first stories out about a confusing situation are nearly always wrong but I guess waiting to sort out the facts would hurt ratings. It would also hurt predetermined narratives. In this case the initial story of the poor teenager shot in the back with his hands up from 30 feet away (improbable at first glance) didn’t happen. Any responsible media organization should have seen that.

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