Perhaps it’s not fair to say that the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbying groups in American politics, has been quiet since a member of Minnesota’s St. Anthony police department shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop. News of the shooting began to circulate almost immediately after the shooting, which occurred at approximately 9 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the interim police chief of the St. Anthony Police department. Diamond "Lavish" Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, used Facebook Live to document the immediate aftermath; the footage went viral, coming in the wake of the viral news about the shooting death of another black man, Alton Sterling, in Louisiana.
At 8:57 a.m. on Thursday morning—nearly 12 hours after Castile struggled to breathe while slumped sideways in the driver’s seat of his car, his white T-shirt becoming red—the NRA shared with its Twitter followers that, per the tweet’s Breitbart headline, “GUN-CONTROLLED CHICAGO: MORE HOMICIDES THAN LA, NY COMBINED.”
About 30 minutes later, the NRA's verified account tweeted to 373,000 followers a Washington Times story about Matt Damon. While speaking to an Australian audience, the actor called for the U.S. to follow Australia's lead and ban guns "in one fell swoop." The photo accompanying the article in the Times (and therefore the embedded link in the tweet) depicts Damon, in character as spy Jason Bourne, wielding a grimace and a very, very, very large gun.
More tweets this morning: one is a local news story about an armed teen who successfully prevented the burglary of her home; another is a #ThrowbackThursday retweet from the publication American Rifleman (owned by the NRA) depicting an English Enfield rifle used “in Confederate service.” Right.
Diamond Reynolds who, along with her 4-year-old daughter, watched Philando Castile get shot to death by a cop, told the officer that Castile was licensed to carry a handgun. As training advises, Reynolds says Castile told the cop who pulled him over for a busted taillight that he had a gun in the car and had a license for it. Minnesota is one of many states that, thanks to NRA lobbying, does not permit public access to gun permit records. But if you take Reynolds at her word—and anyone who would question the lucidity of this woman in this video does so at their own moral peril—then the NRA should be very very interested in investigating whether the rights of a legal American gun owner were snuffed out forever during a traffic stop.
Except the NRA seems more interested in painting Matt Damon as a poseur dupe and showing off a Confederate rifle alongside the hashtags #guns, #firearms and #tbt.
Contrast yesterday’s tragedy with a recent NRA tweet about the shooting in Orlando. Early on Wednesday, the NRA retweeted from the NRA News account a news item about a pro-gun LGBT group that's membership has “more than doubled since Orlando.” The photo depicts Matt Schlentz, a white man, holding an AR-15 and standing before a rainbow Gadsden Flag. (The Gadsden flag is popular among American conservatives, libertarians, and the Tea Party; it’s the one with the snake.)
We’re waiting for the NRA to stand up for the rights of Philando Castile, a black American man.
On Wednesday, the NRA tweeted a link to some proprietary NRA blog content about concealed carry: “Things you need to know when choosing to #concealedcarry.” It weighs the pros and cons of semi-auto vs. revolver, lists the various holster options (bra? Thigh? Ankle?), and enumerates the most important qualities to consider when making your choice: “concealment, comfort, access, and retention.”
The Concealed Carry 101 infographic doesn’t discuss what to do if a police officer pulls you over while you’re black and licensed to carry. The infographic doesn’t list your options when the police officer shoots you even after you’ve explained that you have a licensed gun in your possession. It doesn’t weigh the pros and cons of delivering your final words to your girlfriend (passenger seat) or your girlfriend’s daughter (backseat, meaning you may expend more of your final breaths swiveling to meet her gaze). It doesn’t provide instructions for loved ones who witness your death.
Diamond Reynolds didn’t need anyone to tell her what to do. Recent history has been more than instructive, and so she documented the atrocity. Now we all share it and wait with bated breath for nothing at all. Nothing from the NRA. No sentencing for the officer. No sea change in local law enforcement practices. Nothing.
Complex reached out to the NRA for comment on the Castile shooting and did not receive a response as of press time.