It’s one thing to put your foot in your own mouth …


… and quite another to put your foot in 5 million other people’s mouths. After a tragedy, NRA usually doesn’t have much to say other than thoughts and prayers for the family. And why would they? Let the media and politicians start throwing blame in NRA’s direction; it only makes it stronger. The debate is going to come to us regardless, so it makes sense for our side take the high road while nerves are still raw, and let the other side be the ones seen as not letting a crisis go to waste. Of course, it would be nice if everyone were on board with this.

The media, of course, quickly picked up on Cotton’s post, and before he could even delete it, headlines went around like: “NRA Board Member blames victims for church massacre.” Here’s what Charles Cotton actually wrote on a Texas gun forum Jun 18:

And [State Senator Clementa Pinckney] voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.

I think some of the headlines about this were overwrought, but that’s not to excuse Cotton’s statement. I have no disagreement with repealing government mandated restrictions on carrying in churches. Whether or not carry is allowed in a church should be between a church and its parishioners, not between a church, it’s parishioners, and the state. Even if carry were legal in churches in South Carolina, it would seem very likely none of the parishioners would have been carrying. I agree they should have the choice, but I don’t think the law in this case would have fundamentally changed the outcome.

But I don’t want to detract from the main issue here: whether it’s appropriate to second guess the voting record of a Senator who was ruthlessly murdered only the evening before, and on top of that to do it on a public forum as an NRA Board member. The answer for me is an emphatic no.

NRA Board members have one thing, just one thing to do in the wake of a tragedy like this: shut up. We’ll have our say eventually.

22 thoughts on “It’s one thing to put your foot in your own mouth …”

  1. NRA Board members have one thing, just one thing to do in the wake of a tragedy like this….

    Two things, really. First, offer up thoughts and prayers for the deceased and their family and friends. Then shut up.

    1. And they’ll keep voting for the likes of him and Ted Nugent and then wonder why the membership stagnates at 4-5 million. Or maybe they don’t even have the brain cells to even ponder that question. ‘Merica!

  2. Mr. Cotton is an invaluable asset for gun rights. And lumping him in with the likes of Ted Nugent is utterly ridiculous. He made an increasingly common mistake: he assumed he could have candid discussions in an online forum that is open to the public. In an environment that is more politicized daily, you just can’t. Especially as a public figure, as an NRA Board Member is most definitely.

    He made a mistake and needs to be much more aware of his public role, but let’s not lump him in with jerks that consistently damage our cause. That is definitely not Mr. Cotton.

    1. I stand by my comment.

      Does this NRA *board member* not know the antis have websites like NRA on Record? Link:

      Do they not know that they are ready to pounce on any comment the NRA makes just after a shooting? Especially one where the victims haven’t even been given a burial?

      This is board membership we’re talking about here. And as far as I have read, he did not even issue an apology.He should have known better. Board member should know that they need to be playing chess and not checkers.

      There’s on old saying in the fine dining restaurant business: You’re only as good as your last service.

      1. I’ll agree with Matt that I would not lump him in with Ted Nugent, who has been a serial embarrassment, especially lately. But Cotton made a huge mistake. Huge. If I were a Board remember, I’d be reluctant to even speak in a quiet restaurant about the issue after something like what happened in Charleston. The expectation should be that everyone is watching you and waiting for you to say something they can use against NRA.

        1. I completely agree it was a huge mistake. But I am not prepared to throw a very effective advocate for our side out with the trash based on this one mistake.

          Now, if he repeats the mistake or doubles down? Different story then.

          1. I’m not at the point yet where I’d advocate people not vote for him. I agree he probably never thought our enemies would be watching. Now he knows.

        2. Sebastian,

          My point is that it doesn’t matter whether you or Matt think it’s appropriate to lump him in with Nugent. You’re insiders.

          The non gun owners and the fence sitters. That’s where the long term damage has been done. To them, he’s just like Nugent.

          And Cotton is already listed on that NRA on Record website for his remarks.


          1. I get what you’re saying. But as you can see from that site, Cotton isn’t the only Board member that’s had stupid statements seized upon. It would be a very small Board if that were disqualifying!

    2. MattW – Agreed. Our public flogging of OC activists (where right or wrong) has left a poor general impression of OC at a time when we need to be careful. Like any good military commander, we need to defend in public, bash in private.

  3. I can’t analyze Cotton, but here’s a theory based on other people I’ve consorted with:

    For any political organization, there are two distinct (but also overlapping) purposes for making public statements. They are, statements intended to persuade people to your position, and statements intended to rile up your choir and extract money out of them. The latter is not necessarily as cynical as it sounds, because of course money can be the lifeblood of politics, when used properly to extend your organization’s reach.

    The trouble is, some people forget that there can be two purposes, and because talking shit is more immediately and tangibly rewarded, with money and attaboys, like Pavlov’s dogs the people who do it can become conditioned to doing nothing else. But the same rap that pries checks out of the already-persuaded, and hosannas from the choir, can be unpersuasive or counter-persuasive with the general public or with legislators who recognize that you’re only talking shit to the ether.

    These days, many people seem confused, and broadcast in front of the eyes of millions, sentiments that would be appropriate and effective for a fundraiser or recruitment mailing to a relatively known, targeted audience of probable sympathizers.

    Was that what Cotton was doing? Did he even know what his motives were for conveying that message, or, who he was conveying them to? I have to wonder.

    1. Just a guess, because I don’t know the guy, but he’s probably a familiar face on that forum, and thought the forum was only being read by a sympathetic audience, without any idea his posts were being watched by people waiting for him to say something stupid, who of course were not disappointed. He should have been aware of this, but a lot of people aren’t. I’ve had things I’ve said taken out of context before, and I get it takes a while to learn how not to get burned.

      1. “I’ve had things I’ve said taken out of context before. . .”

        We should probably form a club, because I had similar things taken out of context from one of our state-level listservs many years ago, and quoted on Delaware Valley network TV.

        I guess a lot of us learned from that, but I’m not sure I learned enough.

  4. This is an example of a public-oriented organization not paying proper attention to the complexities and impact of public commentary by not training individuals who may find themselves injected into the position of spokespersons.

    I’ll agree that Cotton, in his public persona – and as an NRA Board member he has no other – should have expressed sympathy and condolences, followed by silence. If one has been paying even slight attention over the last few decades one should be aware of the severe leftist bias in all factions of the media and the pervasiveness of “gotcha” journalism. There will come a time in the life cycle of this event when a generic comment about state-mandated gun free zones can be useful, but it’s not now, and should come from someone much more highly skilled in dealing with the media.

  5. I disagree somewhat. Lots of people would never otherwise be exposed to comments like Cotton’s, and even the rabid rants against him won’t stop some of them from thinking, “He might be right.” And of those thinkers, a few will eventually arm themselves. And that’s how we’re winning the war, a few at a time.

  6. As a Texan. Charles Cotton has done amazing work in the courtroom for the Second Amendment. He has a decades long record of accomplishments and has represented gun owners who would otherwise have been run out of business, bankrupted, or worse.

    Don’t judge someone’s record by isolated media hype about a single sentence. That’s exactly what the antis want to see: eating our own.

    1. The other side of that coin is that criticizing our own side when they make mistakes raises awareness of those mistakes and helps others avoid them. We should be free to offer constructive criticism to people on our own side. Not only should we be free to, it’s critical for keeping the movement strong.

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