The National Rifle Association, famous for its tone-deaf response to gun violence, once again is facing a barrage of criticism — this time for a shocking headline in its American Rifleman magazine.
Next to a photo of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) announcing new gun legislation, they used the headline “Target Practice.”
The photo was taken in January as they announced the introduction of H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019. The article, by the NRA’s chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox, attempts to spin the proposal — which would require universal background checks before private gun sales and close the notorious “gun show loophole” — as an effort by Congressional Democrats to “target gun owners for persecution with extreme firearm transfer bans. The bill already has five House Republican co-sponsors.
After the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery posted the photo on Twitter on Friday, gun violence opponents were quick to note the — at best — insensitivity of the juxtaposition of the headline with the photo.
Giffords retired from Congress after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011 at a community event. While no link was ever demonstrated to the mass shooting, many news reports at the time noted that months earlier, the political action committee for former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) had circulated a map of targeted House districts with the names of Democratic incumbents and images of gun crosshairs.
Fred Guttenberg, an anti-gun violence activist whose daughter was murdered in the 2018 Parkland school shooting, called the headline “intentional” and decried it as an “incitement of violence.”
Magazine covers and titles are highly thought out. People get paid a lot of money on decisions like this. The decision in NRA magazine to have an article titled Target Practice next to photo of Pelosi and Giffords is intentional. This is incitement of violence and not OK! https://t.co/63mXCLn6UN
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 23, 2019
Christine Pelosi, a Democratic strategist and the daughter of the House Speaker called it an “intentional, outrageous criminal incitement.”
The NRA published a magazine headline “target practice” with a photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep Gabby Giffords. We must condemn this intentional, outrageous criminal incitement. We cannot allow this hate speech to stop common sense gun violence prevention.
— Christine Pelosi (@sfpelosi) February 23, 2019
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) observed that the NRA “know what they’re doing here.”
Newsflash: they know what they’re doing here. https://t.co/VAOMVYLmdW
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 23, 2019
And Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) suggested that the “call for violence” should be met with “legal consequences” as well as a public boycott.
This is a call for violence by the @NRA against @GabbyGiffords, who was nearly killed by gunfire and @SpeakerPelosi, the most powerful legislator in America. The NRA should face legal consequences. But let’s put them out of business with boycotts and ballot boxes. #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/XFTAg5XJWI
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) February 23, 2019
First-term Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), ignored the headline and tweeted that since the article is “about legislation targeting gun owners, not the NRA targeting Democrats,” the concerns about the headline amount to nothing more than “outrage culture.”
How can you claim this? Are you deliberately lying or did you just not read it?
The article is about legislation targeting gun owners, not the NRA targeting Democrats.
If your goal is to ensure that “outrage culture” is alive and well, continuing to divide us, congrats. https://t.co/KsnSdPWPb6
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) February 24, 2019
While Crenshaw ran on a platform that included a claim that “We must do a better job of enforcing current laws, especially background checks, so that guns stay out of the wrong hands,” he is not a supporter of the underlying bill.