DALLAS, TEXAS — While the arsenal of weapons on display over the weekend were the star attraction for the thousands who descended on the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual convention, no expense was spared on seminars that ran attendees through every possible scenario you could face as a gun owner.
One of those was “Armed Citizen: How to Interact with Law Enforcement,” conducted by Glen Hoyer, a career law enforcement officer who now works as the director of the NRA’s Law Enforcement Division. Over the course of an hour, Hoyer walked his audience through the best approaches to dealing with police while armed.
Objectively, the advice was worthwhile. Hoyer talked about the importance of keeping your hands visible at all times, making the officer aware you are armed, and asking them, “What would you like me to do?”
“Just stay calm,” Hoyer said to the audience. “At a traffic stop you may know why they’re stopping you [but you may not]… Keep your hands in sight and tell them, ‘Officer, I’m a concealed carry holder. I’ve got a firearm on me.’ or whatever the case may be, calmly tell them, ‘Yes I am armed.'”
But throughout his seminar Hoyer never mentioned the obvious elephant in the room — how this advice applies to the group most at risk when interacting with law enforcement: young black men. Philando Castile, for instance, followed Hoyer’s advice to the letter in July 2016, making police officers aware he had a legally-owned weapon in his car, before he was shot seven times in quick succession just seconds later.
The NRA was completely silent on Castile’s death at the time — and his case wasn’t even mentioned by Hoyer. Neither were the countless other cases in which police reaction resulted in the deaths of unarmed black men, like Saheed Vassell, who was killed in Brooklyn, New York in April or Stephon Clark, who was killed in Sacramento, California in March. The NRA also hasn’t said a word about the case of Siwatu-Salama Ra, a black woman who defended herself with a registered and unloaded gun last summer, and who is now facing two years incarceration in a Michigan prison.
Instead, Hoyer repeatedly assured his audience — which was almost entirely white, male, and middle-aged — that the police knew what they were doing. He also made repeated references to the “bad guy,” never elaborating on who exactly the “bad guy” would be, or look like.
Despite a campaign to recruit minorities and a series of posters featuring Colion Noir, the NRA’s most famous black supporter, populating the convention center, Hoyer’s seminar pointed to the fact that the NRA continues to view itself as an organization for a white, middle-aged base — a fact that’s plainly evident to many people of color.
“I know that when I see [the NRA] I don’t see many people who look like me,” Sheldon Smith, an African American police officer, told ThinkProgress as he watched a gun control rally on Saturday. “I know my people really don’t get involved in this stuff. Not that we don’t have guns.”
Smith went on to say that while he respected those exercising their Second Amendment rights, there was a large political and cultural gulf that separates NRA members from people of color who also own guns.
“It does not seem the NRA represents all Americans, it seems like they only represent a portion of Americans who are white males,” said Diana Earl, whose 22-year-old son Dedrick was shot and killed last year. “A lot of the deaths that happen in America the NRA doesn’t speak on, especially law-abiding black males who carry guns and get killed.”