The gun rights community may not be doing itself any favors by giving Ted Nugent a seat at the State of the Union speech Tuesday night.
The outspoken rocker will be a guest of Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), one of the most vocal opponents of new gun control legislation following the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. But proponents of things like creating universal background checks and other gun regulations predicted on Monday that Nugent’s appearance will be a boon to their side and make it harder for gun rights advocates to make their case.“If there’s better evidence that the NRA’s Washington lobbyists have lost their way, I can’t think of it,” Mark Glaze, director of New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told TPM Monday. “They keep finding new ways to alienate their own members, which is a strange way to run a membership organization.”
Glaze and other gun control proponents often point to surveys of gun owners that showed broad support for expanded background checks, the chief post-Newtown goal of gun control advocates and a measure the NRA leadership opposes.
Nugent’s role as a political bomb thrower and an especially incendiary critic of President Obama gives him a strong gravitational pull for TV cameras covering the SOTU. And that means more coverage for Obama’s gun violence plan, according to gun control advocates.
“It definitely adds more coverage. And it’s going to play terribly for them,” Ladd Everitt, spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence told TPM.
Gun control advocates have lobbied their allies in Congress to invite survivors of gun violence and their relatives to sit in the SOTU audience. USA Today reported about 20 will be in attendance. Michelle Obama is also hosting relatives of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen who was gunned down days after returning from the President’s inauguration, at the speech.
A spokesperson for Stockman’s office told DCist the congressman invited Nugent “because he is a supporter of the Second Amendment and American values.”
“We thought he would be a good representative,” spokesperson Donny Ferguson said.
But the juxtaposition between the group of survivors and a hardcore gun activist like Nugent during the SOTU is exactly what gun control advocates want.
“You’re going to have a guy who recently threatened the life of the President opposite over 20 survivors from some of our nation’s most gruesome episodes of gun violence,” Everitt said. “It’s heartless, and emblematic of just how radical the Republican Party has become on this issue.”
(Nugent was cleared by the Secret Service in April after he said he’d be “dead or in jail” if Obama was reelected.)
Nugent plans to make himself known at the SOTU, too, already promising to make comments to the press before and after the speech. Gun control advocates found it hard to contain their excitement.
“The country is having a once in a generation debate, and the NRA offers armed guards, Steve Stockman and Ted Nugent,” Glaze said. “They picked a strange moment to unilaterally disarm.”