The National Rifle Association (NRA) in the United States is causing controversy yet again over their latest advertisement. The ad, just a minute long, stars NRA spokesperson and right-wing talk radio host Dana Loesch. Loesch speaks over footage of protests and street violence while accusing “them” of threatening America. The “them” in question seems to be liberal America, whom Loesch accuses of planning a resistance. The ad ends with the statement, “the only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.” Loesch also suggests that “law abiding citizens” must take up arms against protesters who threaten the United States. Many are accusing the advertisement of using “us versus them” rhetoric and encouraging violence against political opponents.
The NRA is hardly new to controversy. In 2013, an op-ed by NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre exaggerated conditions in New York after Hurricane Sandy and argued that if liberals took away guns, a lawless America was inevitable. The NRA has also been accused of aligning themselves with white supremacists and ignoring the needs of non-white gun owners. LaPierre argued in a speech in 2013 that guns were meant to protect against “terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels, car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers.” LaPierre added that “The surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Still, the NRA remains one of the most powerful organizations in modern politics. During the 2016 election cycle, the group donated over one million dollars to candidates.
The advertisement has been met with backlash from not only gun control advocates, who described the ad as a call for a Civil War, but some gun owners as well. One gun-owning Republican who preferred to stay anonymous called the ad “Orwellian nonsense designed to make you cheer and fist pump for your ‘freedom’ like dogs drooling when the bell gets rung.” Loesch responded to the backlash of the advertisement by complaining the video never mentioned guns. She accused liberals of overreacting. “Jezebel” reporter, Anna Merlan, called out Loesch hypocrisy. Merlan writes, “this is the new face of right-wing media: managing to imply, in the same confused breath, that leftists are violent, menacing, and over-sensitive. Meanwhile, brave right-wing pundits are patriotic, strong, and unbothered by PC rhetoric—but they’re also totally about to sue your ass off for calling them names.”
The new NRA advertisement is not surprising. It fits perfectly into the Trump administration method of inciting violence. Trump ran a campaign that described multiple groups as “other” and then described the “other” as violent. Trump speaks at great length about “law and order” in communities of colour, which really means the further policing of black communities. He describes immigrants as rapists. He calls Muslims terrorists. Meanwhile, he and his administration turn a blind eye on hate crimes committed against these communities; it took multiple days for Trump to respond to the murders committed by a white supremacist in Oregon over Memorial Day Weekend. Both the NRA and Trump rely on a false narrative of promoting peace. For both, peace is determined by the state. According to the NRA ad, smashing windows, blocking traffic, and shouting is considered violence while shooting said protesters is just restoring order. This also dangerously makes any person who challenges injustices in society a target that needs to be eliminated.
The NRA advertisement is not about gun rights versus gun control, but rather who gets to determine what is violence. Neither the NRA nor Trump cares about sustainable unity in their country. Instead, they use their power against actual advocates for peace to set new arbitrary guidelines of violence to make protesters worthy of retaliation. For people who actually care about fighting injustice and creating positive change, it is critical that we recognize the manufactured narrative that provides a rationale for the state to justify violence against different communities. Speaking out against injustice is not violent and must continue no matter the threats made by the president or the NRA.