My very first reaction to the shootings in Charleston was a one-sentence tweet:
This is because I knew that after the requisite 24-hour waiting period, there would be yet another barrage of NRA hysteria proclaiming that more guns would have saved those nine victims of a racist domestic terrorist hell-bent on killing some black people. And sure enough, they've proved me right yet again.
Media Matters picked up a post from NRA board member Charles Cotton that actually blamed Reverend Clementa Pinckney for Dylann Roof's evil act.
Gun rights activists have been out in force since the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, once again blaming the slaughter on so-called gun-free zones, and claiming that an armed citizen could have otherwise stopped the attack. It's an argument that the gun lobby has used for many years, but on Thursday afternoon it was marked by a brazen new low with comments from Charles Cotton, a longtime board member of the National Rifle Association. Cotton wrote on a Texas gun-rights forum that slain pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney was responsible for the murders of his congregants because of his opposition to looser concealed-carry laws.
"Eight of his church members, who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church, are dead," Cotton said. "Innocent people died because of his political position on the issue."
For its part, the NRA's official statement on the matter is that board members don't speak for the organization. Forgive me if I don't believe it. This particular board member is a big advocate for the recently-enacted Texas open carry law, which is broadly supported by NRA leadership.
Cotton has long led pro-gun lobbying efforts in Texas: He was at Gov. Greg Abbott's side last weekend when Abbott signed a new open-carry bill at a Texas gun range. Cotton's comments have since been deleted from TexasCHLforum.com, where Cotton is listed as a site administrator. He did not reply to a request for further comment. In a statement on Friday to Politico, the NRA distanced itself from Cotton's rhetoric, saying individual board members "do not have the authority to speak for the NRA."