The National Rifle Association has disavowed its recent criticism of pro-gun demonstrations in Texas.
In an interview on Tuesday with the organization’s own news site, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm blamed a staff member’s “personal opinion” for the content of an unsigned statement published Friday on the organization’s website, and he apologized for “any confusion” the statement may have caused.
“It’s a distraction,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told NRA News. “There was some confusion, we apologize, again, for any confusion that that post caused.”
The statement in question reproached gun activists in Texas for their attempts to take high-powered semiautomatic rifles into fast food restaurants. It said the activists had “crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness,” and denounced their tactics as “weird” and even “scary.”
In response, the activists flipped out. The group most notably involved in the fast food demonstrations, Open Carry Texas, issued a statement demanding that the NRA retract its “disgusting and disrespectful comments.” That’s basically what they got from Cox on Tuesday. Cox said the NRA shares the activists’ goal of getting Texas’ restrictions on the open carry of handguns changed.
“Ultimately, what this comes down to is a tactics discussion,” Cox told NRA News host Cam Edwards. “Some people believe that the best way to effectuate that sort of policy change is in protest. And what they did in Texas is, some people decided to protest the absurdity of the ban on … open carry of handguns by carrying their long guns openly, and legally. Now, the truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird, or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece, and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”
Cox insisted that the NRA “unequivocally” supports open carry, and that the conflict with the activists was a distraction that the media “has had a field day with it.” And he noted that the activists in Texas had decided to stop taking rifles to restaurants even before the NRA’s statement Friday. (The backlash to these demonstrations — several chain restaurants asked customers to leave their guns at home — prompted several pro-gun groups, including Open Carry Texas, to issue a statement to members telling them to avoid the tactic.)
“It was a poor word choice in an alert that went out,” Cox said. “But again, the underlying point here is: what is the best tactic to win? That’s what we’re interested in. We’re not interested in distractions. We’re not interested in arguing with the national news media over this. We’re interested in winning.”