Like many Americans, I was shaken by the events that unfolded last weekend in my home state. In Charlottesville, we saw hate in its purest and most repulsive form. We saw white supremacists carrying torches and screaming. We saw Nazis and members of the KKK vowing to “...fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” We saw dangerous men carrying assault rifles ― a despicable intimidation tactic. We saw violence and, tragically, we saw death.
We waited for Donald Trump to condemn the hatred and violence that transpired in his name. But we came up empty. When we looked to Trump for a repudiation of hatred, he gave us hatred in return. His remarks on Saturday and Tuesday were disgusting. His embrace of white nationalism and violence was bone-chilling.
But, unfortunately, we should not be surprised.
Since he began his presidential campaign, Trump has embraced the National Rifle Association’s toxic philosophy of insurrectionism ― citizens’ use of private guns to influence public policy.
The NRA prides themselves on being Trump’s greatest ally. Charlottesville is no exception.
Recent videos and statements by Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch have encouraged NRA members to fight back against the so-called “violent left” ― a concept Trump has amplified. Trump and the NRA have given hate groups a green light for action; so it should come as no surprise that hundreds of their supporters showed up in Charlottesville outfitted for war.
The NRA has always encouraged taking up arms against their dissenters. During the Obama years, they advocated violence against the government. Now their primary ally is the federal government. Their new solution is taking up arms against citizens ― “the resistance” ― those who don’t think like them, pray like them, or look like them. The solution has always been violence; the only thing that has changed is their target.
What makes these threats particularly scary is that the NRA’s insurrectionist philosophy has been coupled with successful legislative efforts that allow nearly every racist domestic terrorist to obtain deadly assault weapons.
The consequences of this toxic intersection became evident in Charlottesville.
As is the case with most national tragedies, the NRA has chosen not to respond to what happened. Their silence is nearly as revealing as Trump’s defense of domestic terrorism. The NRA prides themselves on being Trump’s greatest ally. Charlottesville is no exception.
As of this week, Trump has officially, publicly, overtly aligned himself with white supremacists and insurrectionists. And through their silence and willingness to arm bigots, the NRA stands with him. The NRA is a champion of insurrectionism, and by association, of white supremacy. A champion of violence. A champion of Nazis and Klansman led by their commander-in-chief. And the official provider of their weapons of war. Weapons that intimidate. Weapons that send a message. Weapons that kill. Weapons that threaten our democracy.
The domestic threat that our nation saw on Saturday has been simmering for decades. Racist fringe groups and militias have been organizing underground. They have been emboldened by the rhetoric of the NRA. Now, Trump has further legitimized these un-American traitors. As a result of the NRA’s philosophy and the hatred Trump promotes, there will be more violence. There will be more deaths.
The NRA claims to be a defender of freedom. They claim to revere the Constitution. Donald Trump took an oath to defend the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. He vowed to uphold the Constitution, the rule of law, and the democratic institutions that our founders enshrined in that document. This week, he broke that oath.
And the NRA said nothing.