The National Rifle Association has yet to respond to Wednesday's fatal police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, or Tuesday's fatal police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. According to the explicit and now widely-circulated video of Castile's shooting taken his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, he was pulled over because of a broken taillight. Reynolds says that Castile was reaching for his wallet in response to the officer’s question when he was shot four times.
The St. Anthony Police Department confirmed Castile's death during a Thursday news conference "but did not identify the officer involved in the shooting or his race" nor "provide details about the encounter," according to The Washington Post. St. Anthony officials said the officer was placed on administrative leave, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he has requested a federal investigation into the shooting. The Baton Rouge Police Department released a statement on Alton Sterling's death: "Sterling was shot during [an altercation with officers] and died at the scene. Two BRPD officers have been placed on administrative leave per standard procedure." The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation into the Sterling shooting on Wednesday.
The NRA has yet to respond to Bustle's request for comment.
Perhaps the NRA is taking the time to draft a thoughtful response, but no one would really be surprised if it ended up never commenting on the deaths at all. The shootings of Castile and Sterline, which took place less than 48 hours apart, have prompted widespread protests, media coverage, and vigils. It is the responsibility of the NRA to comment on this constructively and discuss the degree to which it, as our nation’s largest gun-advocating non-profit, plays a role in these deaths and contributes to a climate of violence. But I don’t think any of us are really expecting that kind of accountability.
The NRA has been tweeting out its usual fare about how cool and useful guns are, and how gun control is a futile exercise when it comes to making people more safe.
Gun control, race relations, and inadequate police training have become inextricable issues. Police officers should be the paragon of “good guys with guns,” but they are not. They are responsible for the deaths of 123 black men this year alone, according to The Washington Post. I believe the NRA’s silence is a tacit endorsement of that violence, a continuation of the message that it values an antiquated and distorted protection of the Second Amendment more than it does human life.
Sterling was initially said to be carrying a gun when he was shot. Castile was reaching for his legal carry permit. The NRA is quick to point out that carrying a gun will save you, but silent when it comes to the reality that just the idea of a black man carrying a legal gun is enough to get him immediately gunned down. Even if Sterling and Castile had access to their guns at the time of their deaths, shooting back at police wouldn’t exactly have saved them. Panicky police shootings of black men are central to the gun control debate, yet it doesn’t look like the NRA will ever acknowledge that.