On Wednesday, the National Rifle Association's incoming president, Oliver North, compared the supposed victimization of NRA leaders now to how black Americans were treated under Jim Crow laws. The eyebrow-raising comment first appeared in The Washington Times where North even suggested the circumstances are worse today after saying that an NRA leader's home was splashed with fake blood and others received "threats."
They call them activists. That’s what they’re calling themselves. They’re not activists — this is civil terrorism. This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America. You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things — even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.
North's "they" seemed to at least in part reference young students leading a nationwide anti-gun violence movement in the United States. After a shocking mass shooting took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February, gun control activists criticized the NRA for supposedly glorifying firearm possession. The shooting, which killed 17 people on Valentine's Day, sparked a collectively titled National School Walkout on March 14.
Without specifying the exact way a "cyberwar" was engulfing the NRA, North said, "They can do all the cyberwar against us — they’re doing it. They can use the media against us — they are. They’ve gone after our bank accounts, our finances, our donors, and obviously individual members.
"It’s got to stop," he told The Washington Times. "And that’s why the leadership invited me to become the next president of the NRA."
But North did not mention that CNN recently reported donations for NRA tripled after the Parkland shooting.
North also pushed against the notion that the Parkland shooting had galvanized and changed the national debate on gun control. He called that the shooting was "a travesty, a failure on the part of the local authorities and unfortunately the FBI as well" but said that it didn't alter America's conversation on gun access and control.
He told The Washington Times that young anti-gun violence activists were being co-opted by an unspecified "propaganda machine." He said, "What they did very successfully with a frontal assault, and now intimidation and harassment and lawbreaking, is they confused the American people" and that NRA's job is to "get the straight story out about what happened there, and to make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen again because the proper things are being done with the advocacy of the NRA.”
On social media, North's likening of pushback against the NRA to Jim Crow's era of racial segregation was met with criticism and disapproval. One Twitter user said that members of the NRA "look stupid everyday. So glad I canceled membership years ago. I feel smarter for it."
Some social media users were simply stunned. "What? Wait," a Twitter user incredulously asked. "He actually equated lynch mobs and murders of blacks in the south during Jim Crow to folks now marching and protesting AGAINST gun violence? Did he come up with that convoluted logic or did the NRA pay someone for that idea?"
As some observers criticize North for equating anti-gun violence activism with Jim Crow laws, it's worth recalling what the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative reported on the abysmal era that crushed the lives of many Black Americans. According to the 2015 report, a jaw-dropping 3,959 lynchings took place in time span between 1877 to 1950 in America's South.
The report noted that Georgia had the highest number of lynchings followed by Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida. The eyebrow-raising nature of North's comments was not lost on his observers, including one Twitter user who said he wanted to know which NRA member was gunned down in his driveway, presumably alluding to the black American civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was shot and killed by a white supremacist with a rifle in 1963.