WASHINGTON -- The National Rifle Association on Thursday addressed for the first time the question of whether Adam Lanza or his mother, Nancy Lanza, were ever members of the gun rights group. The answer, the NRA said, is no. The lobbying organization made the statement after it was revealed that police had discovered NRA certificates among Lanza's possessions.
In a sharply worded statement, the NRA said, "There is no record of a member relationship between Newtown killer Adam Lanza, nor between Nancy Lanza, A. Lanza or N. Lanza with the National Rifle Association. Reporting to the contrary is reckless, false and defamatory."
The statement came in response to the release Thursday of search warrants from the home of Adam Lanza, the man responsible for the shooting deaths of 26 people in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
In addition to discovering a large cache of weapons, ammunition, and documents, authorities recovered a pistol shooting guide produced by the NRA among Lanza's things, as well as certificates issued by the NRA to both Adam Lanza and his mother.
The discovery quickly led some to assume the Lanzas must have been NRA members, or that the NRA's statement that they were not members was equal to the NRA challenging the integrity of the police report.
Neither of these is the case, however. The NRA certificates the police found in the house likely had nothing to do with formal NRA membership -- they were possibly awarded for completion of training and safety courses that had been certified by the NRA, the nation's largest gun safety training organization. According to its website, the NRA doesn't offer formal certificates for membership.
NRA training courses are taught by a network of more than 5,000 firing range instructors across the country, and they are available to anyone, even if that person is not an NRA member. Nancy Lanza was described by friends as a "gun enthusiast" who liked to bring her son with her to the gun range -- it's possible she and Adam Lanza secured NRA certificates at a gun range for completing a course offered by the organization, without being members.
In 2012, the NRA sent out more than 200,000 training packets to a wide range of shooting sports participants, including certified firearms instructors, firing range operators, and local rifle and pistol clubs nationwide. Most of these packets included training handbooks.
According to the police report, the book police found in Adam Lanza's house was called "The NRA Guide to the Basics of Pistol Shooting." It's the student textbook for the NRA's Basic Pistol Shooting course, and it's also available online, with a blurb that emphasizes that the $11 book does not come with a pistol course included. Once students have completed the course the book accompanies -- in person at a gun range with an instructor -- they are eligible to receive completion certificates.