Rolling Stone Magazine’s latest anti-gun polemic is a tome-length effort at taking down Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt. In The Zealot: Larry Pratt Is the Gun Lobby’s Secret Weapon, Alexander Zaitchik recounts – in mind-numbing detail – Pratt’s career, highlighting his alleged links to everything from white supremacists and neo-Nazis to the biblically-inspired basis for his uncompromising views on the Second Amendment. There’s no shortage of guilt by association employed, as well as some rather spectacular glossing over of salient points that wouldn’t otherwise fit the article’s narrative. Perhaps no example is as illustrative as Zaitchik’s rendering of the roots of the Waco siege . . .
The NRA and GOA may have been moving in the same general direction, but the larger group never followed Pratt to the outer fringes of the right. When ATF agent Robert Rodriguez infiltrated the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, it was a GOA video that David Koresh played for him. According to a Treasury Department report cited by (author Leonard) Zeskind, the video “portrayed ATF as an evil agency that threatened the liberty of U.S. citizens.” This view of the agency hardened when the ATF led a siege of the compound in April of 1993 that killed 76.
See? It’s all so clear. If GOA hadn’t produced its poisonous anti-government propaganda and distributed it to impressionable fringe wack-a-doodles like David Koresh, Janet Reno wouldn’t have found it necessary to save all of those children by immolating them. Or something like that.
Zaitchik similarly glosses over some thorny facts of the Ruby Ridge confrontation, too — impressively, without actually implicating Pratt or the GOA in that particular debacle — but you get the idea. The novella-length article’s take-away: the gun rights movement is led by ultra-right wing extremists and is rooted in racism, homophobia, anti-semitism with a soupçon of insurrectionist anti-governmentalism.
And while the NRA may occupy a slightly less reactionary position a little more toward the center of the real crazies like Pratt, it’s only their political pragmatism that’s restrains their baser, true instincts. It’s an ambitious, if transparent effort to tar the entire gun rights movement. As to its effectiveness, that remains to be seen.