The Washington Post examines the silence of the National Rifle Association, in the fatal shooting of a man with a concealed carry permit who had a gun on a journey across town. Philando Castile announced he had his permitted weapon during a traffic stop and, according to his girlfriend, was shot reaching for his wallet for the identification a Minnesota officer requested. The officer apparently feared he was reaching for his gun.
And there’s also the case of the black man, Mark Hughes, availing himself of the Texas open carry law, who was identified for a time as a suspect in the Dallas police shootings on the strength of a photo at the scene of him with an AR-15 strapped across his chest.
The NRA said it was “troubled” by the Castile shooting, but didn’t mention his name. It was silent on the Dallas “suspect.”
“It’s an inequality. It’s an injustice,” said an attorney for Hughes, Michael Campbell Jr. “The NRA is a very powerful lobbyist group, and they have the means and the ability to affect society. We would expect for them to step up in this situation, for those who are legally carrying firearms.”
But the group is in a bind, said Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center, who has written extensively on the history and politics of the NRA. He said the group’s dilemma about black gun ownership dates to a shift in marketing strategy in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Until it was recognized that there was a longtime decline in household gun ownership, the NRA essentially ignored communities of color — blacks and Latinos. When they made an appearance in NRA publications, it was in the context of a threat,” he said. “What’s happened is that since the 1970s and 1980s, when about half of all Americans had a gun, that’s dropped to about a third, and there’s an acknowledgment that they’re in crisis because the traditional gun-buying public — white males — is dying off. There aren’t enough replacement shooters to fill that void, and so now they’ve been forced to reach out to the communities they once demonized.”
The NRA didn’t return calls from the Washington Post. Other gun advocates said that it was too early to step into the issues until more was known.
The Post produced a letter demonstrating Castile indeed had a concealed carry permit, a fact disputed by several gun advocate websites. Castile also was not “wanted for armed robbery” as several reported though police radio traffic indicates the officer stopped him as a potential suspect in a recent area robbery because he was black and had a “broad nose.”