When Philando Castile was shot to death last July, many people expected the National Rifle Association to leap to the defense of Castile, who had a permit to carry the gun he was carrying. It’s what the NRA does, of course.
Despite its promise to say more, that appears to be the last time the NRA weighed in on the shooting of Philando Castile, the Washington Post says. It asked the NRA why. It heard nothing back yesterday.
“It troubles me tremendously when I see a young man following the rules, doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and there’s still no accountability from a legal perspective,” Phillip Smith, who leads the National African American Gun Association, told the paper.
Slate’s Leon Neyfakh tried to get some sort of reaction from the NRA, too. Silence.
On its face, the Castile case would seem to have all the trappings of a cause célèbre for the NRA. The group’s most fiercely held belief is supposed to be that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be burdened—let alone killed in cold blood—by repressive agents of the government just because they want to protect themselves and exercise their Second Amendment rights. Castile should be a martyr for the NRA, while Yanez—who reached for the holster of his service weapon as soon as Castile mentioned he was armed—should be its bogeyman.
It feels banal to even say it out loud: If Castile had been white instead of black, the NRA would have been rallying behind him and his family since the moment of his death, and fundraising off his memory for the rest of time. Yes, it’s true that the organization is aligned with law enforcement in certain ways that partially explain its reluctance to get in the middle of a police shooting case. (For one thing, most of the NRA’s 5 million members, like most police officers across the country, are white and conservative.) It’s also true that, while many law enforcement leaders view the gun lobby’s most extreme policy goals—like concealed carry reciprocity—with serious unease, most rank and file cops do seem to believe that having more people around carrying legal guns would reduce, rather than increase, crime rates.
Why the silence from an organization that is almost never silent on the issue?
“Your political calculation, I think, at the NRA is: Okay, so we can come to the rhetorical aid of a moderately despised contingent of a minority that already doesn’t like us,” said Nicholas Johnson, a black gun owner and author of “Negroes and the Gun.” “What’s the upside?”
“We should all carry a gun now,” Smith told the Post. “We all have that right. We’re not going to let a rogue officer or a rogue legal decision sway us.”
Related: Philando Castile verdict: Covering a wounded St. Paul turns into a long night in jail (City Pages)