Let's do an imaginary scenario. A white, middle-aged male in a southern or border state is pulled over by a federal officer. He has a pistol and a CCW permit. There is a confrontation in which the civilian announces that he is a permit holder and has a legal right to a firearm, yet the officer shoots and kills the individual.
This is hypothetical, so we can't state as fact what the NRA's reaction was. But we can look at their past history to get a sense of what that response might be.
For a long time, the NRA has been an outspoken advocate of open carry laws, and those who legally carry firearms under these laws. As an article in the American Conservative put it, "NRA supporters and certain other Second Amendment support groups define guns and weaponry as not just the symbolic but also the highest material expression of liberty, freedom, and moral rectitude. Anybody who can buy and possess a gun, especially if he or she conceals it -- or even open carries -- in public, automatically passes into the ranks of being a 'good guy'. No matter what this new hero's background, inclinations, or emotional make-up might be." Notice that there is no mention of race in this list.
The NRA has been a stalwart and long-standing supporter of open carry laws across the United States. At the 1914 Annual Meeting, the AP reported,
With concealed weapons now legal in all 50 states, the National Rifle Association's focus at this week's annual meeting is less about enacting additional state protections than on making sure the permits already issued still apply when the gun owners travel across the country. The nation's largest gun-rights group... wants Congress to require that concealed weapons permits issued in one state be recognized everywhere, even when the local requirements differ. Advocates say the effort would eliminate a patchwork of state-specific regulations that lead to carriers unwittingly violating the law when traveling.
Based on their emphatic position on this issue, it is fair to postulate that their response to the situation posited at the start of this article would have been loud, quick, and vigorous.
But their reaction to the Philandro Castile case has been minimal and muted.
First, some facts. Philandro Castile was shot by a police officer for having a gun after the officer had been informed that Mr. Castile had a firearm and was a legal permit holder. This occurred on Wednesday, July 6 at roughly 9pm.
On Thursday at 8:57 am, nearly twelve hours after the now nationally recognized incident, the NRA tweeted, "Gun-Controlled Chicago: More Homicides Than LA, NY Combined". Thirty minutes later, they tweeted an attack on Matt Damon, who had called for a ban on guns. A full two days passed before the Rifle Association finally released a mild and equivocal statement: "The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing."
Even other pro-gun advocates were more concerned than the NRA. Andrew Rothman, 46, the president of Saint Paul, Minn.-based Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, exclaimed, "It scares all of us... This is the first incident that approaches this level of seriousness with permit holders." The Second Amendment Foundation, a gun-rights group based in Bellevue, WA, said that "exercising our right to bear arms should not translate to a death sentence over something so trivial as a traffic stop for a broken tail light."
NRA members questioned the silence as well. Marco Gallologic wrote on the NRA's Facebook page, "Your lack of message concerning the Castile case disappoints me and makes me question my membership." Dennis Gesker posted on his own page, "Philando Castile had a valid concealed weapons permit but was shot and killed... As an NRA member, I urge you to take a strong position in favor of this man."
So what is the difference between the real and the hypothetical examples? Why did the NRA react slowly and with diffidence to this government use of lethal force against someone with a legal right to bear arms?
There seem to be two divergencies. The Phalandro Castile case involved an officer of the local, vs. the federal government. It seems that the Rifle Association chooses which law enforcement officers to support and which to condemn, depending on the level of authority they work for. Local law enforcement officers will receive support, federal law enforcement officers are "jack-booted thugs", according to the NRA. Both uphold the laws of this nation. But some are good guys, others not. (5)
The other obvious fact is that the victim in the hypothetical was white, while Philandro Castile is black. Kind of glaring.
There is precedence for their inactivity in a gun rights case involving African-Americans. In 2012 Earl D. Brown was a 73-year old black night watchman in Lauderhill, FL. Employed as a security guard, he was carrying a licensed gun, a .44 Magnum. Police officers showed up to investigate a possible burglary and confronted him. Mr. Brown raised his hands and announced, "I'm security." The officers fired 22 rounds, two of which struck Mr. Brown, who had a heart attack at the hospital and died. A grand jury chose not to indict the officers but issued an extremely negative report calling them poorly trained and inexperienced. After an Internal Affairs investigation within the department, they were exonerated.
The NRA did not comment on this situation.
Mr. Brown's widow, Gloria, did, however: "Honestly, I hear the NRA talking about the right to bear arms... He had the right to bear his that night; they just never told us he wouldn't have the right to life. It seems like white men and police officers are the only ones who have the right to bear arms in this country."
In a press release, the NRA has declared that it "represents law-abiding gun owners." If you're white.
Racism is often used casually: a "racist" is simply someone who is prejudiced in one situation or the other.
But the technical definition of racism is that people of separate races are different, and ranked in a hierarchy. Some races are higher, better, matter more. Some are lower, inferior, matter less.
From their reaction -- or lack of -- to these cases, the only logical conclusion one can reach is that the NRA is racist.