I can understand a gun nut like Ted Nugent saying something offensive and cruel in the wake of Wednesday’s brutal shooting murders of nine innocent churchgoers and clergy in Charleston. That’s what he does.
But who is this guy, Charles L. Cotton? And why is he blaming one of the victims, former South Carolina State Senator Rev. Clementa Pinkley, for all nine murders Wednesday night, when they were clearly committed by a young racist white dude?
The short answer is that, like the Nuge, Mr. Charles L. Cotton is a board member of the National Rifle Association, an organization that makes a mantra out of less gun control and less oversight over the dissemination of dangerous firearms. You know, the guys who made it okay to legally tuck guns into a person’s jacket pocket out of sight of law enforcement, guns armed with huge clips of semi-automatic, armor-piercing ammo? The guys who don’t see their own complicity in statistics like this?
Given their insanity, it was almost inevitable that somebody from the NRA’s leadership (the NRA has something like 70 board members) would come out right after the Charleston shooting and say something tasteless, and false, to promote gun culture while the bodies of the dead were still warm.
But in his hatred for people who don’t own guns, Mr. Cotton, normally a slick lawyer and sage gun guru, slipped up and veered a little too far off the script, even for the NRA. First ThinkPress noticed Mr. Cotton’s comments, then Salon, and Slate, and Esquire, and HuffPo, until the dude had to make a retraction and then have his offensive comments removed from the Texas Concealed Handgun Law forum’s thread about the church shooting in South Carolina altogether (or perhaps he removed them himself? Despite his protestations that he said his comments “as a private citizen,” he is an Admin of this activist newsgroup, and the other members clearly look to him for guidance).
In fact, none of Mr. Charles Cotton’s comments on any topic are listed at texaschlforum.com anymore, nor is his profile. Nor can newcomers to this gun forum even register to join the group and perhaps see if any Charles L. Cotton articles are behind the reg wall, because registration itself has been REMOVED. Nor are any of the threads that quoted his comment showing the whole “innocent people died because of his position” sentence, which has been completely, and deceptively, stripped from the site.
But don’t be fooled into thinking it never happened, or that it wasn’t as bad as claimed–the press has photographic evidence. As ThinkProgress reported, this cowardly man left an insensitive and just plain wrong post yesterday afternoon, blaming the Rev. Clementa Pinkley for his own murder… and that of everybody else killed by Dylann Storm Roof. Eight innocent people “died because of his [Pinkley’s] position,” according to Cotton, because Pinkley once “voted against concealed-carry.”
You might be forgiven for thinking this was a Weekly World News article–“NRA Says Pastors Should Pack Heat in Church!”
But these guys really do think this way. They honestly think the appropriate response to the threat of gun violence is that ministers in churches should carry guns.
I know that some modern Christians have really gotten away from the whole love, peace, turn-the-other-cheek thing. But ministers with GUNS?!? Does Mr. Cotton really love guns so much that he would rather fill his houses of worship with deadly weapons (and yes, of course the dude is a Christian) rather than, say, make the world the peaceable place their religion calls for?
And the craziest part is, even if the minister had been armed with a concealed weapon, there is no way he would have been able to deter the murderer, because no one saw him coming! Dylann Roof didn’t walk into the church with guns a blazin’, an easy target for churchgoing gunslingers; rather, he waited patiently for an hour before suddenly surprising everybody, pulling out his gun, and shooting. I suppose Charles Cotton and his cronies think the minister and deacons should have been pointing firearms at all their parishioners for the duration of the service, just in case one became a mass shooter?
(And no, NRA, and the people on Charles Cotton’s concealed carry forum, Roof would not have been deterred if the church had been a gun-free zone, so don’t even try that one. There is little evidence to support the idea that mass shooters select scenes of the crime based on whether or not they allow concealed carry… only your subculture thinks that way! And in Dylann Roof’s case, his manifesto makes it clear he chose this church as the setting for his murders due to its historic significance, not its safety for him.)
I want to laugh at the ridiculousness of the whole thing, but unfortunately I can’t, and not just because nine innocent people are dead (and, now, slandered). Sure, Charles Cotton sits on a board that also contains such bastions of goofiness, and treason, as Ollie North, Ted Nugent, Grover Norquist, and “Gunny” Ermey (you know, the drill instructor turned actor-who-only-plays-drill-instructors who threatened to gouge a guy’s eyes out and skull fuck him in Full Metal Jacket… and then said he loves Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell). Mr. Cotton is just one of a whole troupe of clowns, all of them laughable. So I wish I could just treat this dude like another Ann Coulter, and snicker as the bumbling baddie tries to wipe the curdled hate speech off his face.
But that board of baddies also has immense power, not only in its ability to persuade decent Americans that gun laws are bad and more guns are good, but even to literally write laws! They helped craft the Stand Your Ground law in Florida that led to Trayvon Martin’s murder. And now they’ve just written another law in that state that would allow you to basically wave a gun around in a threatening manner and even shoot it without legal repercussions. They are, in short, one of the best lobbying and activism groups at what they do. These guys’ opinions, and decisions, affect us all.
Hell, Charles L. Cotton himself even helps write the laws in his home state of Texas–like in this concealed carry law, Senate Bill 60. The law, which gave sweeping rights to gun-nuts to carry concealed weapons virtually anywhere, at least had a few sane provisions to prevent people from carrying firearms into airports or elementary schools or prisons, et cetera–that is, until Mr. Cotton (please do click the concealed carry link… he’s listed in the comments as “Cotten”), who is a lawyer as well as a gun-nut, was allowed to add verbiage to the bill, seemingly verbatim, so that it excluded “any public or private driveway, street, sidewalk or walkway, parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area” of those safe havens. This bozo effectively changed the law so that a potential mass shooter who drives into his high school parking lot with a dangerous firearm, intent on murdering childen, can not be arrested for gun possession until he steps out of the car! Which makes total sense, because no mass shooter has ever shot people from inside his car. The killer could even walk up the sidewalk with his gun hidden–or if it was Florida, he could wave it over his head and fire it in the air!
So yes, while I wish I could find the same ironic joy in this NRA guy’s obscene delusions that I find in, say, Jimmy Swaggart’s preaching about morality, this is a big, serious deal. We have a major leader of a hugely influential, policy-making body who believes that people who dislike guns deserve to be shot, and those who oppose easy access to guns are the same as murderers.
Mr. Cotton may hide his newsgroup posts about it today. But what happens tomorrow if the Republicans come to power, and Charles L. Cotton and his cronies are writing policy carte blanche? What happens when the hundreds, or thousands, of his followers follow that thought to its logical conclusion and decide to get “payback” from the legislators, “liberals,” and clergymen who “take their guns away?”
And meanwhile, what happens when inevitably, another Dylann Roof comes along, who has slightly more money?
One factoid kind of lost in the shuffle of the Charleston shooting is that just this March, in Columbia, SC, Dylann Roof was caught by the police with ammo and weapon parts for an AR-15. That’s the same gun Adam Lanza used to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. And Dylann Roof was just sitting there in a mall parking lot with parts of the same gun, having just returned to his car after creeping out the mall staff enough that they called the police on him. But the cops couldn’t do shit about it, even though one of the same policemen had busted Roof in that same parking lot just weeks prior for weird wiggy drug behavior.
“That’s scary. We ought to be thankful he never got his hands an AR-15,” said former U.S. Attorney and State Law Enforcement Division director Reggie Lloyd, now an attorney in private practice.
An AR-15 is the semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M16 fully automatic assault rifle.
Such a weapon, loaded with a 40-bullet ammo clip, could allow someone to shoot several dozen people without reloading and from a greater distance than the .45 Glock handgun Roof is accused of using in the June 17 church killings…
Roof, then 20, was not charged with a crime because it’s not illegal to possess a forearm grip of an AR-15…
Roof legally could have owned an AR-15. He told the responding officer he wanted to buy one but couldn’t afford it.
Do you SEE how much fucked up shit is mentioned in the above paragraph? “Semi-automatic civilian version?” “M16?” “Not illegal?” “Shoot several dozen people without reloading?” Isn’t it creepy how, after decades of NRA victories at the expense of our safety, we’re all so numb that those details are almost invisible?
Make no mistake—this is a terrible thing, that madmen have guns and those guns are military grade. And no, putting guns in the hands of churchgoers will not fix it. The NRA has gone off the deep end, single-handedly creating a culture where the only thing stopping the Dylann Roofs of our nation from slaughtering more innocent people is the high price tag of better guns. And as the threat of gun control subsides, they’re only getting cheaper. Over 3 million of them are already in the hands of people in this country as we speak.
Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista killer, did have that kind of money. He’d budgeted $5000 for his gun purchases, meaning that if he had just lived in Texas instead of California, he could have purchased about ten AR-15s. No doubt, then, his own murder spree could have easily had a body count as big as Adam Lanza’s–but instead, he settled on handguns, which, while deadly, had a far more limited capacity to kill indiscriminately. Perhaps we can thank California’s gun control laws for protecting us, at least in part, from the worst excesses of modern mass shootings?
One thing is for sure: mass shootings are far from over. And when they do happen again, and again, and they’re committed with semi-automatic weapons that kill dozens of people before anyone has a chance to blink, it will not be the fault of Obama, or the liberal media, or a pastor who just wanted a little sanity as to who walks around with murder weapons.
But some of that blood will be on the hands of people like Charles L. Cotton. There will always be murders, and there will always be murderers, and there will always be hate and insanity and terrorism and evil. But without the weapons that the NRA and people like Charles L. Cotton have put into the hands of evildoers, those murders would be small, one-on-one, local news stories, and not the topic of more and more and more sad debates.
But who knows … maybe Mr. Cotton could be persuaded to see the error of his ways?
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Let him know how you feel. (Politely.)
His concealed carry forum can be found at http://www.texaschlforum.com/.