Response to accusations by Gun Owners of America

Lobbyist group Gun Owners of America raised issues with a recent article by that discussed a shift in mainstream gun politics when presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said he was “honored” to be endorsed by the group.

The specific issues raised by GOA was our reference calling the group “controversial” because of connections and alleged connections to hate groups. The group penned an open letter to — but never actually sent it to — claiming inaccuracies.

To be clear, the article did not explicitly state that GOA was a hate group nor its executive director, Larry Pratt, a racist. However, because of accusations brought about by the lobbyist group and its members, we reviewed key details in the report that supported calling it “controversial,” particularly when compared to the much larger National Rifle Association.

Last September, GOA made headlines when it submitted an amicus brief challenging mandatory sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act. This was controversial because the defendant in the case was Samuel Johnson, a convicted felon, repeat violent offender, and known neo-Nazi who had been accused of plotting terrorist attacks.

While the GOA’s goal was not to defend Johnson but rather challenge the law that sent him to prison for 15 years, which is what reported last year, the group caught flak from both political opponents and gun rights advocates for defending Johnson.

GOA also raised issue with the inclusion of the detail that Pratt attended a rally organized by white hate group members in 1992 after the deadly stand-off at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

(The incident at Ruby Ridge involved federal agents attempting to arrest Randy Weaver, a man tied to a white power group and who decided to live off the grid with his family, on federal gun charges, but ended up killing his wife and son instead. The government’s poor strategic planning is seen as what escalated the incident, and is credited for influencing and empowering militia and separatists movements.)

While working for the campaign of then presidential candidate Pat Buchanan in 1996, news broke that Pratt attended the rally in Estes Park, Colorado, and he subsequently resigned from his position. (See the connection here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here).

The rally has been described as the birthplace of the modern militia movement — concepts that Pratt has advocated and are the subject of controversy among the general public.

Pratt issued a statement dated March 1, 1996, to GOA members to address the accusations that he was a racist. “The ultimate target of this very carefully constructed smear campaign was to kill the momentum of the Buchanan campaign on the eve of the all-important New Hampshire primary,” he wrote.

As a news source, we recognize the value of including a variety of viewpoints and opinions, and the veracity of facts is important to us. We take accusations of unethical journalistic practices and bias seriously. We see it as our duty to you, the reader, to be honest and objective in our reporting.

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