House Democrats wasted no time in bringing up the gun debate once they regained control of Congress in January. The NRA reacted to the Democrats' moves to institute universal background checks with an article in the organization's magazine claiming that the Democrats were "targeting" gun owners. However, the NRA Magazine's "Target Practice" article featured a photo of House majority leader Nancy Pelosi and former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in 2011 while speaking with her constituents.
The article's headline, "Target Practice," appears directly next to Pelosi and Giffords, as Huffington Post reporter Jennifer Bendery first noted on Twitter. "Congressional Democrats target gun owners for persecution with extreme firearm transfer bans," the article's subtitle read. Bustle has reached out to the NRA for comment.
That description refers to the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which House Democrats introduced in early January. The bill has five Democratic and five Republican co-sponsors, and its main purpose is to close loopholes that allow people to acquire firearms from unlicensed dealers or even family members without undergoing background checks. If the bill passes, then a background check would be required in any case where someone is getting a gun from someone else, whether at a gun show from an unlicensed dealer or from a family member where no actual sale is taking place.
The article in the NRA's magazine described the proposed legislation as “a broadside against gun ownership in America" that was being “deceptively marketed to the public” and described Pelosi as an “arch anti-gunner.” Numerous people reacted to this on Twitter by saying that these editorial decisions amounted to the NRA calling for violence against leaders like Pelosi and Giffords, as The New York Times noted.
"Magazine covers and titles are highly thought out. People get paid a lot of money on decisions like this," tweeted Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter died in the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida. "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!"
"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," tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell on Saturday. "The NRA should face legal consequences. But let’s put them out of business with boycotts and ballot boxes."
At least one of the NRA's defenders in Congress said criticisms of the article were overblown. "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," tweeted Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, responding to Swalwell's tweet. "If your goal is to ensure that 'outrage culture' is alive and well, continuing to divide us, congrats."
Expanding background checks for gun purchases is a very popular policy proposal, according to the Pew Research Center. As of December 2018, 91 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans agreed that background checks should be mandatory for private gun sales and sales at gun shows — so the NRA is espousing the minority position. However, articles like this one indicate that it shows no signs of backing down.