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The NRA Shows How it Feels About African-Americans

Kayla on Voting Day

Kayla Hicks, the Director of African-American and Community Outreach for EFSGV

[The following blog post was written by Kalya Hicks, the Director of African-American and Community Outreach for the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, the 501(c)(3) affiliate of CSGV]

Recently, I watched a video that the National Rifle Association (NRA) released in response to a speech that President Obama gave in Chicago at a conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on October 27. In that speech, the President stated, “It’s just a simple proposition—cops should not be out-armed by the criminals that they’re pursuing.” And he praised IACP for supporting universal background checks and a renewal of the federal Assault Weapons Ban.

This was simply too much for the NRA, and they responded immediately with their video, entitled “How to Stop Violent Crime” and narrated by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.  I watched it in full and found it to be racist, offensive, and based entirely on untruths. All the key code words popularized by Fox News were included in the script: “thug,” Chicago as a “Third World nation,” “criminal gangbangers,” etc. As a responsible gun owner, the spouse of a police officer, and an African-American mother, I felt compelled to respond.

All too often, I feel like I am living in the Dred Scott era when I watch the NRA comment on gun violence in urban, predominantly African-American communities.  In 1857, the Supreme Court denied Mr. Scott his freedom based on the idea that African Americans were inferior and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  To me, that sounds like exactly what the NRA is peddling in a reckless attempt to improve the gun industry’s bottom line.

In the video, LaPierre declares that “nothing illustrates America’s breakdown like the way the President’s hometown [of Chicago] celebrates its holidays,” while citing statistics about homicides in the city during Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The implication is clear—it’s those thuggish black kids who are to blame with what’s wrong with America today. There’s no mention, of course, that communities like South Side Chicago are chronically underserved and ignored by legislators. The NRA wants you to believe that African-Americans enjoy the destructive force of gun violence and burying their children. Meanwhile, LaPierre subjects us to bromides about “good, honest [white] Americans living out in farm towns in Nebraska or Oklahoma,” as if no one in those states had ever been violent or misused a firearm.

You will notice that one “thug” is conspicuously left out of the NRA’s video:  Dylann Roof, the South Carolina gunman who murdered nine peace-loving African-American congregants in Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. No mention, either, of Wade Michael Page, the neo-Nazi who gunned down praying families at a Wisconsin Sikh temple. They didn’t fit the NRA’s portrait of a “Bad Guy,” did they? And let’s remember:  The NRA made sure both Roof and Page were able to legally buy the guns they used to kill with despite long histories of violence, substance abuse, and trouble with the law.

NRA leaders like LaPierre know fearmongering about black youth works wonders in terms of selling more guns. As for African-Americans, we see right through it.  For example, if the NRA was really concerned about protecting law enforcement and preventing repeat offenders from shooting people in Chicago, wouldn’t it make sense to immediately implement universal background checks so that convicted felons would no longer have an outlet (in a majority of states) to buys guns without being screened for criminal history?  Of course it would. How stupid do they think we are?

But the NRA has no interest in stopping a single gun sale to a bad guy because that would mean cutting into their profit margin.  The NRA has gun industry executives sitting directly on their Board of Directors and they receive millions upon millions of dollars every year in direct corporate contributions from gun companies through their Ring of Freedom program. The NRA never met a gun sale it didn’t like.

The welfare of young black men dealing with a criminal justice system that is often racially-biased and void of any pretense of rehabilitation isn’t a problem for the NRA, however. “Take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun, and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more” proposes LaPierre in the video.  It’s a terrific solution if you’re a multi-millionaire corporate shill who cares more about selling firearms then developing the type of gun violence prevention policies and programs that would actually keep people out of jail but, hey, when you’re heading an organization with Ted Nugent as one of its primary spokespersons, responsibility and respect for your fellow human is not exactly an honored value.

While we are on the topic of NRA Board Member Ted Nugent, did you happen to hear what he said about the 16 year-old, orphaned girl who was viciously body slammed to the ground by school resource officer Ben Fields in South Carolina?  Nugent offered a “huge Nuge thank you and salute” to Fields, and wrote the following:

Obey and you won’t get ripped from your desk and put under control. Act like an animal and you will end up being treated like an animal … None of my children would steal anything from a store and then assault the shopkeeper. None of my children would defy orders from a cop, assault him and attempt to steal his gun, then attack him and get shot in self-defense. None of the Nugent family would sell illegal cigarettes then violently resist arrest.

And this man has now served on the NRA Board of Directors for more than 20 years with no opposition from either their leadership or rank and file. If this is not the rhetoric of white supremacy, I don’t know what is.

Spike Lee, who recently finished a documentary about gun violence in Chicago, has stated the NRA is responsible for gun violence in this country, and I agree. Movements across the nation are bringing important attention to the issue of police abuse in this country, but we’d be wise not to lose sight of the role the gun lobby plays in fueling urban violence.  The NRA has been perfectly content for decades now to promote an arms race between law enforcement and violent individuals in our communities—from revolvers in the 1970s to semiautomatic firearms in the 1980s and now assault rifles—without any regard for the collateral damage it causes. My wish is to see all sides put their guns down and find a better way to work together, as partners in peace.

All human life is precious and we accomplish nothing by dividing our community house against itself at the behest of cretins like Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent.

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The Discussion

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  • Gun violence is an issue that often coincides with race when presented by the media or in political debates. Kalya Hicks, President of an African-American educational fund affiliated with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), brought this to light in a blog post on the CSGV website. She uses a combination of emotional appeal and attributions to the character of the NRA president to invoke a response in readers.

    Citing an NRA video prompted by a speech given by the President, this blog reinforces the idea that the NRA targets the African-American population as a reason for gun violence. In the video cited, Executive Vice President Lapierre, of the NRA, cites statistics about homicides on national holidays. In the video, Lapierre used the phrase, “nothing illustrates America’s breakdown like the way the President’s hometown [of Chicago] celebrates its holidays.” The NRA video uses vocabulary like “thugs”, “gangbangers”, and even refers to Chicago as a “third-world nation.” These terms, specifically “thugs” and “gangbangers” are often portrayed in the media as African-American males thirsty for violence. Using logical appeal, Kalya Hicks rebuts this by asking why there is no mention of white gunman, such as the one who killed nine African-American churchgoers in South Carolina. As far as emotional appeal, Hicks properly uses phrases like “how stupid do you think we are” and “they didn’t fit the NRA’s profile of a bad guy, did they?” The latter was used to invoke emotion when she brought up the fact that the NRA video refused to acknowledge white gunmen; it is her belief that these people do not fit the image of gangbanging, black males that the NRA is trying so hard to attribute to the rise in gun violence. She also makes reference to the documentary Chi-raq, a film made by Spike Lee. By referencing a well-known figure who also shares her stance -specifically, that the NRA is to blame for the rise in gun violence- she inherently adds to her own ethos. She recognizes that more readers will take her seriously when comparing her to a respected filmmaker, one idolized by millions.

    Even if one does not share Hicks’s viewpoints, it is hard to argue with the stance that she takes. She offers not only strong emotional appeal, but also relies on logic and quotes to support her claims. This blog was powerful and offers a substantiated opposing view to the way African-Americans are commonly portrayed in the media. Her use of emotional appeal is likely to resonate with all readers. However, she is more likely to be calling on her fellow law-abiding African-American brothers and sisters to stand up and fight the stereotype.

  • Ade: March 29, 2016 4:54 pm

    Hello Kayla I really appreciate your article. I realize our problem of Ignorance in the black community when I read Phillip Smith article I cannot believe he is the President of anything black well being in charge of the National African American Gun Association is not really black. Having a gun in your hands when the other person has a Missile or Nuclear weapon is suicide, you are in a no win situation. What in the world would a handgun do in that situation. All we have are handguns and some have assault weapons which are still no good to the mass amount of weapons we face. It would have been nice if the slaves could have defended themselves but, the fact is they did not have weapons. And even if we did the problem back then is still the problem is now, we refuse to organize. We look out for No.1 that is our problem. If every black man and woman in America had a gun it would be Chaos in the black community. We kill more of each other than any other race. Mr. Phillip sounds like a spokesman for the NRA. I can feel his pain but, it simply not the way.

  • Kayla Hicks: February 29, 2016 8:59 am

    Hi Phil,

    One may easily believe from your post that you and i are not friends…

    I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your online and offline dialogue with me and others who share our top priority to keep firearms out of the hands of violent convicted felons, dangerous individuals and domestic abusers.

    We both agree that as Americans who care about gun violence prevention, it’s time to stop talking about gun violence and do something about it! We both want our kids and loved ones to live in a world where they don’t have to fear being gun down at school, church, the movies, the mall, work, at home or for just going outside…

    Work to be done and looking forward to getting it done together!


  • Philip Smith: February 20, 2016 5:02 pm

    Hello Kayla,

    Just read your article and would love to have a conversation. I certainly understand your perspective on Guns and I respect that. But I don’t agree with your final analysis. We are all a result of our environments and experiences including myself. Guns used in the correct manner are very good. To not have a gun in America means you are a victim. Look at the history of Africans in America…. From my perspective as a African American male, guns or the lack of them are the sole reason our community has been attacked since slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and our community is still under attack. Guns are the solution. The one thing I will never agree as a Black man in America is to tell me I am better off and safer if I don’t have a Gun. Just imagine how many black men could of saved their own lives in slavery and and in the “deep south” if they would have Gun . ……Ida B. Wells “a Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give.”……..Ida B Wells

    Or the famous quote by Frederick Douglass put it in 1867, “a man’s rights rest in three boxes: the ballot box, the jury box, and the cartridge box.”

    And no I am not trying to make a Liberal or Conservative statement,…..I am making a Personal Statement.
    And just to give you some perspective I attended Morehouse like Mr. Lee and voted for Obama twice but I dont’ agree with his politics when it comes to Guns…he doesn’t get it.

    I would recommend the following instead of the Left and Right making sweeping stereotypical sermons lets try to talk to each other as people and Americans who care…..

    How about that…

    Philip Smith
    National African American Gun Association

  • Jay Thacker: January 20, 2016 12:30 pm

    This is a very well-written piece that tells the truth about the gun lobby, particularly the No Reasonable Action (NRA) organization. I would add that large cities like Chicago have a serious problem with illegal trafficking of guns from Indiana and elsewhere, which have weaker gun laws. Howeve, owe don’t hear on False News and other Right-Wing media outlets about the trafficking problem or the problem with straw purchasing or the lack of adequate data allowed to the CDC or ATF to keep track of crime guns and their users. Kayla Hicks is absolutely right when she says it is about selling guns and making rich those who gain from fear and paranoia. Where is the justice?

  • Nely Johnson: January 5, 2016 11:36 pm

    It’s a disgrace that elected officials are too afraid to pass reasonable legislation to curb gun violence. The NRA statement that only “a good man with a gun can stop a bad man with one”, (aside from all the issues connected with this wild west attitude) fails to acknowledge that all too many of those using guns to kill or hurt others were the good guys until they became enraged at the traffic officer, at their spouse, stopped taking their medication, found some passage in some religious book which gave them permission to kill, decided they hated their coworkers, etc. There is no guarantee that the person who owns a gun is a good guy, and frankly I don’t want that person anywhere near me or my family.

    Photographs are so much more powerful than words. If I were a parent of a murdered child, hard as it might be, I’d force all to look at the graphic result of gun violence.

  • Juan B: January 4, 2016 2:14 pm

    This article is such an eye opener for many, unfortunately Ms. Hicks efforts as hard as they may be need to be taken to a larger scale. Everyone reading this article now has the power to spread the word. Fight NRA in the way they understand….FINANCIALY. DO not support this domestic terroristic organization by becoming victim to their propaganda. We as citizens should stand for what we believe in and taking control of our community and educating each others about firearms and how to communicate versus destroying ourselves. The NRA is scared of things they cannot control. So now we have a president who is not going to sit by and give in to your tactics. So as you sit around in your board meetings aka Klan rallies ask yourself how much longer will it be before the violence takes a toll and puts you The NRA out of business?

  • Tony Bruce: December 25, 2015 4:17 am

    Fighting Texas open carry new gun law, a new film entitled “House of Guns” is currently seeking funding on kickstarter. Donate now to stop gun violent.

  • Ib Ottesen: December 11, 2015 1:49 am

    A song to match your theme. Enjoy

  • Alice Schwartz: December 9, 2015 7:13 pm

    It is beyond my comprehension that money in their pockets is more important than a safer country‼️ What will it take…one of theirs to be killed

  • Michael Agosta: December 9, 2015 8:14 am

    NRA rhetoric is reactionary, and becomes more so the deeper one delves into the American gun culture. Ms. Hicks, you are spot on. The NRA does read like a throwback to the Dred Scott era. Coupled with Donald Trump’s unbridled racism, we are confronted with a noisome political constituency that threatens our very values.

    I work in politics and campaigns fulltime, on the demographic side; we are the nerds that study trends. One of the challenges we see on gun control is the pervasive belief that the NRA is all-powerful, all-rich and so plutocratic that we cannot fight back. I don’t adhere to that notion. I think we can fight back, if we stay organized and work together. I have more thoughts on that here:

    You see this in the comments below: folks, when countering the NRA, follow the money. But the money, if you dig deeper, isn’t the core problem. It’s our lack of lobbying expertise and our inability to stay focused, as a larger progressive movement, on the issue over the long haul.

  • Marilyn Coleman: December 2, 2015 11:15 pm

    I believe ALL guns should be banned. The South Side of Chicago is NOT the “hot spot” for crime. And the people who live in that area are Not all criminals. The mass shootings recently have NOT been done by African Americans, so why is it that African Americans are “always” the problem with guns? Take all the guns away and it stops being a racial problem. We have enough problems with race without throwing guns in the mix.

  • Andy Tones: November 29, 2015 2:11 pm

    Second Amendment
    The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Such language has created considerable debate regarding the Amendment’s intended scope. On the one hand, some believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”

  • Patricia: November 12, 2015 10:35 am

    Just crazy how some white people are such bigots, do they really think the world would be better with just white? I applaud Kayla Hicks for this article, Thank you God Bless you.

  • Mark C.: November 9, 2015 11:28 am

    The NRA lobbyists have bought Washington, DC and over forty state governors. The final piece of the ugly puzzle was the Citizens United ruling, where the richest of the rich can donate whatever they want to political candidates, and outright buy influence, as easy as buying guns at a gun show. And that’s probably not a coincidence.

    The rest of the civilized world looks on in horror and dismay, as the open faucet of guns make our American society less and less civilized.

  • Jeanne Paradise: November 6, 2015 8:22 pm

    Propaganda! LaPierre has lots of innocent blood on his hands and he’s blaming gangs and government. He’s so responsible and buys his influence. Lock HIM up!

  • Irving: November 5, 2015 6:58 pm

    One problem is the clear color believes dark color only do wrong with guns

  • Joan Carrara: November 5, 2015 4:21 pm

    There have been more killings by responsible gun owners and their children than the gangs in this country!!

  • Doris Evens: November 5, 2015 3:13 pm

    Ms. Hicks: your article is insightful, informative, and inspirational. Thank you for continuing to fight for gun violence prevention. You are amazing!

  • Brian Sullivan: November 5, 2015 3:11 pm

    Chicago is the perfect example to cite. The city has been and continues to be among the most segregated in the country. Tourists and white people generally live in areas that are relatively safe. African-American and Hispanic residents of the City largely cannot afford to move out of the much more dangerous areas located on the South and West Sides (the similarity to apartheid-era Johannesburg is both ironic and tragic). There is strict gun control in Chicago. There is lax gun control in some of the surrounding municipalities. Between guns obtained legally in those municipalities and guns illegally trafficked to Chicago, the number of people with guns on the South and West Sides is extremely high.

    Doesn’t the NRA believe that the way to stop gun violence is to have more guns in the hands of “good guys?” So, either that statement is wrong, or, as the author points, relies on the premise that African-American and Hispanic males are generally bad guys. So, is it a failure to face the realities on the ground or just plain old racism? The NRA can’t have it both ways.

  • Chris Jowett: November 5, 2015 1:21 am

    I sympathize with your efforts to do something, anything to halt the escalation of gun violence in your country. I can’t empathize because we banned semi-automatic rifles and shotguns after one massacre in 1996 and haven’t had one since (assault weapons have never been legal here). That happened under the most conservative government in 30 years and no-one has ever even claimed it was a mistake. Consequently it makes it really hard to understand how you got to where you are. You have a black President to the left of most of our governments since then, but still no improvement. Is your democracy broken? We have corporations, interest groups and lobbyists too, but we don’t blame them for the failure of democratic government. You all really need to suck it up and take responsibility for your mess. I’ve holidayed in your country twice, once as a backpacker and again as a parent. We visited Disneyland, Vegas and other tourist sites. I would not and will not do that again. You have allowed a situation where my family could be murdered by some gun-toting fool in a public place. Why would you let this happen? Death by gun in Australia is remarkably uncommon so we tend to focus on more threatening things like obesity and food allergies. Wouldn’t that be nice for you? Wouldn’t you like to be more threatened by a peanut than an AR-15? I implore you to accept the responsibility of representative democracy and stop blaming others for your predicament before you slide any further into the abysmal status of international pariah.

  • Venus M: November 4, 2015 10:23 pm

    What a powerful blog for those who need to know… Knowledge is power! From victim to advocate! VICTOR Equates to becoming Victorious over what was meant to keep you afraid! There is NO fear in God…Thank you Kayla for being a courageous advocate for so many! Blessings always

  • Susan Ahern: November 4, 2015 9:55 pm

    Good article, Kayla! The NRA does pander to its base by using racism. Can’t tell you how many posts I’ve read from Gunnies that write off inner-city violence as that “demographic problem,” w/ out discussing the systemic economic disparities that fuel urban violence.

    Lots of good stuff in the article. Made me more aware of the problem.

  • Texas Liberal Veteran: November 4, 2015 8:04 pm

    The NRA used to be a sportsman’s organization, devoted to hunting safety.

    Now, it is an armed insurgency, the military wing of white nationalists. The NRA is probably the closest thing to ISIS most Americans will ever witness.

    Historians for centuries to come will marvel at how a minority of Americans managed to hold our nation hostage for so long.

  • Stephen H Giers: November 4, 2015 5:49 pm

    Right on! Criminals have more guns and more fire power than Police because of the NRA and the right,or should I say wrong, interpretation of the constitution is the real problem. Yes we have the right “to bear arms and maintain a ready military ” but never automatic weapons.

  • Mary Huber: November 4, 2015 4:21 pm

    Excellent article. So true about the NRA and white supremacy. Thank you, Ms. Hicks!

  • Catherine K: November 4, 2015 1:39 pm

    The NRA is invested in fueling white supremacy because nothing sells guns to white people like fear of blackness. Gun shops literally keep cardboard cutouts of Obama to remind (white) customers they have a black president. NRA and gun industry advertising is a polluting force, fueling racism. They created George Zimmerman.

  • Jeffrey Smith: November 4, 2015 12:35 pm

    Thank you, Ms. Hicks, for a thoughtful, informed and persuasive commentary. You’re helping to turn the tide against this nation’s unique, disgraceful level of gun violence.

    The U.S. cut the motor vehicle death rate by 78% since 1960, from 5 per Million Miles Traveled (MMT) to 1 per DOT data. We did it without taking away our cars. Instead, we did it through well-funded research; better laws involving motor vehicles, roads, and drivers; and cultural changes about, for example, drunk driving. We can cut gun violence with a similar approach.

    I’m a former GOP, now independent, New Hampshire voter focused on achieving sensible firearm restrictions.

  • Virginia Rankin: November 4, 2015 11:50 am

    This is such an enlightened article pointing out many truths. Ted Nugent is so outside my understanding and respect that it is hard to even read his words.

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