It Took Less Than A Day For an NRA Official To Blame Charleston Victims For Their Own Deaths

For those of us who lived through the NRA’s utter shamelessness in the wake of the Newtown school massacre, it was well understood that it would only be a matter of time before the group managed to reach those toxic depths again. Once you go so deep into soulless muckraking to defend your hobby that you do so at the expense of addressing the deaths of twenty 5- and 6-year-olds, you can’t easily go back. It was just a matter of when.

In less than 24 hours, the NRA took a massacre of nine innocent people in a South Carolina church and turned it into a smear campaign against the victims. Apparently afraid to not go on the offensive immediately, NRA officials are already lashing out at the dead for the crime of being shot by the things they insist aren’t hurting people.

Judd Legum at ThinkProgress noticed that Charles Cotton, a board member of the NRA, was already spinning the narrative that Reverend Clementa Pinckney, a beloved state senator, was not just to blame for his own death, but that of the other eight victims. Why would Cotton say such horrible things while Pinckney’s loved ones are just beginning the grieving process? Because Pinckney had the audacity to be pro-gun control and therefore to Cotton and his gun organization, he’s The Enemy.

In a post on, Cotton reassured his fellow gun lovers that it was not guns that were to blame, but people like the victims themselves for not having guns.


As ever, the twisted logic of the NRA seeps into even the most straightforward of gun crimes: If you’re afraid of getting shot because there are so many guns out there, buy one yourself so you can shoot back.

Cotton is right about one thing. Pinckney was a fierce fighter for gun control. That’s no small task in a state like South Carolina. In 2013, on the heels of Newtown and Aurora, Pinckney introduced a bill that would have made it much harder for mentally unstable people to get their hands on assault rifles. The law would have required stricter background checks including requiring firearms dealers to conduct criminal background checks, family background checks, and a “personal interview to determine if a person is mentally fit” before they could purchase, say, an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

South Carolina’s conservative legislature ensured that it never made it past committee.

To honor Pinckney is to never stop speaking about the work that he did, both in his church and in politics. And that means talking about gun violence. Despite Cotton’s astoundingly cruel take on things, it is perhaps because Pinckney knew of the dangers of guns that he fought so hard to make it more difficult for them to get into the wrong hands. He, nor anyone, could imagine that he would be gunned down inside his own church, but the fact remains that gun violence in the United States is an epidemic with little to be optimistic about.

Cotton and his ilk have made it clear that whether kids die in school or worshipers die in church, the antidote will always be the same: more guns. We’ve tried that approach. And there are thousands of reasons, including nine in South Carolina, to say that it doesn’t work.

Feature image via Donkeyhotey/Flickr