Wayne LaPierre Speech Was A Total Public Relations Disaster, Say PR Experts

12/21/2012 04:22 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2012

Public relations experts who have experience working with the gun industry expressed horror on Friday afternoon at the National Rifle Association's response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

The group's executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, struck a scolding tone on Friday, blaming the video game industry and media for exposing youth to a culture of violence, and calling for armed police or security guards in schools: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.

Public relations professionals reached by The Huffington Post said the timing of his message, which broke a week of silence in the wake of the tragic murder of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, could be an irredeemable mistake for the group.

“It was worse than if the NRA had not spoken at all,” said Gene Grabowski, executive vice president of Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington, D.C.-based issues management firm that has worked with firearms manufacturers. "The same message about the culture in another time and place might have made sense, but in context of tragedy, it seemed mean-spirited, cold and misguided."

Grabowski also said the NRA made a mistake by remaining silent on its social media channels last week. After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the organization stopped activity on all of its Twitter, Facebook and YouTube accounts.

The NRA is under close scrutiny this week as the Sandy Hook shooting renews the political and social debate over gun-control laws. The organization is one of the nation's most powerful lobby groups, but its extreme policy positions don't jibe with all gun owners, many of whom support tighter gun-control laws, according to a survey from a prominent Republican pollster in July.

"They have come out too aggressively," said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Los Angeles-based Bernstein Crisis Management. "[I'm] not even sure they have listened to their own members."

The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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