Recordings of a 1999 conference call that included members of the National Rifle Association’s leadership have been leaked. The call took place in the aftermath of the Columbine High School shooting as NRA leadership struggled to formulate a public response.
NPR reporter Tim Mak got his hands on 2.5 hours of recordings and has made some of the details public. The contents of the tapes reveal what Marion Hammer and Wayne LaPierre thought of their fellow NRA members at the time and how they feared being embarrassed by the membership.
Mak has released selected clips of the recorded conversations. When the group considered cancelling the upcoming NRA convention that year, Marion Hammer had this to say . . .
“If you pull down the exhibit hall, that’s not going to leave anything for the media except the members meeting, and you’re going to have the wackos … with all kinds of crazy resolutions, with all kinds of, of dressing like a bunch of hillbillies and idiots. And, and it’s gonna, it’s gonna be the worst thing you can imagine.”
Mak shows his receipts as part of an NPR hit piece on America’s oldest civil rights organization. He’s clearly doing his best to undermine NRA with a 22-year-old recording. Listening to Marion Hammer disparage many of the NRA’s members as hillbillies and wackos won’t please many of association’s members.
From NPR . . .
The tapes of the NRA discussions were recorded secretly by a participant and shared on the condition that the participant’s name not be divulged. NPR has taken steps to verify the tapes’ authenticity, including by confirming the identities of those speaking on the tapes with two sources and comparing the voices on the calls with publicly available audio.
Obviously plenty of people, both within the NRA and outside, don’t care for Wayne LaPierre’s continued leadership. Or the continued involvement of his longtime crony, former NRA president Marion Hammer. So the list of possible leakers is a lengthy one.
“Everything we do here has a downside,” NRA official Kayne Robinson says on the tapes. “Don’t anybody kid yourself about this great macho thing of going down there and showing our chest and showing how damn tough we are. … We are in deep s*** on this deal. … And so anything we do here is going to be a matter of trying to decide the best of a whole bunch of very, very bad choices.” …
In addition to mapping out their national strategy, NRA leaders can also be heard describing the organization’s more activist members in surprisingly harsh terms, deriding them as “hillbillies” and “fruitcakes” who might go off script after Columbine and embarrass them.
And they dismiss conservative politicians and gun industry representatives as largely inconsequential players, saying they will do whatever the NRA proposes. Members of Congress, one participant says, have asked the NRA to “secretly provide them with talking points.”
The NPR piece includes a couple of other clips. Former NRA lobbyist Jim Baker sounds the most savvy with his remarks on handling the hostile publicity from the mainstream media.
Not all of the NRA officials sounded as wise as Jim Baker. For instance, Kayne Robinson, then the NRA’s first vice president, suggested creating a victims’ fund for those killed or injured at Columbine.
“Is there something concrete that we can offer? Not because guns are responsible, but because we care about these people? Is there anything? Does that look crass or…”
If it didn’t sound crass then, it certainly does now.
Clearly, NPR posting these decades-old internal deliberations is intended further to undermine an already wounded NRA. At the same time, the recordings speak volumes how the NRA’s leadership views many of the association’s own members.