The Slatest

NRA Board Member Blames Slain Reverend for Charleston Deaths, Lamented “Loss” of Civil War

The name of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, one of the shooting victims, is seen outside the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 18, 2015.


National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton blamed slain reverend and South Carolina state Senator Clementa Pinckney for the deaths in his congregation after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A gunmen assaulted Pinckney’s historically black church on Wednesday, killing him and eight others.

Cotton posted the comments in an online forum he runs for discussion of Texas firearms. A quick dig into the forum’s history revealed other troubling comments, including a lament that it was “too bad we lost the civil war.”

The post about the Charleston attack, which faulted Pinckney’s gun control positions and said his church members would have lived had it not been for that political stance, were apparently deleted from the site as of Friday morning after having been reported on by Media Matters on Thursday night. Here are the remarks:

And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Cotton said that the comments were in the context of a discussion about gun-free zones.

“It’s my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else,” Cotton said. “If armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens.”

As the Post noted, the evidence contradicts the oft-repeated NRA claim that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun:

recent report from the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, analyzing FBI data found that “guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.” In 2012, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides, compared to only 259 justifiable gun homicides, according to the report.

And last year, an FBI report on mass shootings found that unarmed citizens were three times more likely to successfully stop an active shooter than armed private citizens. Armed civilians stopped only 4 percent of the mass shooting incidents in the FBI’s study.

Cotton told the Post that the comments were made as a private citizen and not in his capacity as an NRA board member. But, as Media Matters noted, the online signature that appears at the bottom of his forum posts is a banner link that promotes NRA membership.

This was not the only controversial, racially charged remark bearing the NRA logo that Cotton has posted to the forum over the years.

In 2008, as part of a discussion of federalism and the Commerce Clause, Cotton wrote “Too bad we lost the civil war; the Tenth Amendment pretty much died in 1865.”

In a subsequent post, he clarified that he was talking “purely from a states’ rights viewpoint and in light of the exponential growth of federal power after the war.”

But the general sentiment should be at least slightly disturbing to anyone that recognizes the Civil War for what it was: a fight to save slavery.

As of press time, the NRA had not responded to request for comment. The NRA Board of Directors has more than 70 members including Larry Craig, Karl Malone, Ted Nugent, and Oliver North, and Cotton’s term on the board is set to expire in 2017.