Critics are calling out the National Rifle Association for not quickly coming to the defense of Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by a police officer in Minnesota this week after reportedly acknowledging that he had a weapon and a concealed carry permit.
“Where is the gun rights lobby?” wrote Amanda Marcotte on Salon.com of Castile’s case and that of Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed by police in Louisiana after a 911 caller said he brandished a gun. “Here are two American citizens that were killed while doing what the NRA claims is a constitutional right. Surely this must be a gross injustice in the eyes of the NRA! Surely they will be demanding action, petitioning congressmen, demanding the Department of Justice to step forward and make sure that every American has a right to arm themselves without fear of being gunned down by the police! Right?”
Castile’s fiancée live-streamed the immediate aftermath of the shooting, showing Castile slumped against the driver’s seat, with blood soaking through his shirt. She says he told the officer he had a gun and a permit, but police have not commented on the events that led up to the shooting.
But Friday afternoon — almost two days after Castile was killed — a statement appeared on the NRA’s official Facebook page. It did not mention him by name.
“As the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.
“The reports from Minnesota are troubling and must be thoroughly investigated. In the meantime, it is important for the NRA not to comment while the investigation is ongoing.
“Rest assured, the NRA will have more to say once all the facts are known,” the statement said.
CNN cannot independently confirm that Castile had a concealed-carry permit, as his family has said. Officials with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office told CNN such data is private under state law.
“Under Minnesota law, information about an individual’s ‘permit to carry’ status is not public,” Bruce Gordon, communications director for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said in an email.
Before the NRA statement was posted Friday afternoon, the group took a lot of heat for its silence.
Cam Edwards, who hosts an NRA podcast, seemed to raise questions about the situation.
“Our right to keep and bear arms is not based on the color of our skin,” Edwards said. “It’s not based on how much money we make, it’s not based on where we live… that’s what our rights are based on, those protections that are enshrined in the Constitution — not granted by the Constitution, but protected by the Bill of Rights.”
Others were angered when the NRA maintained its early silence on Castile’s death, in particular, but posted a statement from CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre regarding the killings of five police officers in Dallas on Thursday night — killings that came during a largely peaceful protest of the deaths of Castile, Sterling and other African-Americans during encounters with police.
“On behalf of the more than five million members of the National Rifle Association, and especially on behalf of our members from the law enforcement community, I want to express the deep anguish all of us feel for the heroic Dallas law enforcement officers who were killed and wounded, as well as to those who so bravely ran toward danger to defend the city and the people of Dallas,” the statement read.
“With heavy hearts, NRA members honor their heroism and offer our deepest condolences to all of their families.”
Some commenters were angry there was still no mention of Castile at the time of its statement on the police deaths.
“I really am not trying to rock the boat but no words about Philando Castile? This whole week has been a mess for every side at least say something,” wrote Kris Taylor on Facebook. “Stop hiding behind political correctness and pride and who supports who to open your eyes that there is a serious conversation that needs to happen and it starts with establishments of influence like National Rifle Association.”
Others supported the organization.
“The NRA represents ALL law abiding gun owners,” wrote Jodie L Dine.