Two Decades of Paranoid Pronouncements by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre will say some controversial things in his testimony before Congress Wednesday, and while he's said some shocking things since the Newtown massacre sparked a gun control debate, the archives show that LaPierre has actually toned it down in the two decades he's been the face of the National Rifle Association.

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Since the Newtown massacre Wayne LaPierre, the face of the National Rifle for the last 20 years, has said some pretty shocking things, and he will say some more controversial things in his testimony before Congress today. (You can follow along live right here.) But in anticipation of his latest high-profile opportunity to make the case for guns, we took a tour of the archives, and learned that, if anything, LaPierre has toned things down. He hasn't — yet? — claimed that President Obama is not prosecuting criminals because he wants to stir up public demand for gun control, or blamed murders on one specific rap song, or said the press has one-upped Joseph Goebbels, or engaged in any other Nazi imagery. Indeed, LaPierre spent most of the 1990s warning how Bill Clinton had lead America to the brink of tyranny. Let's peruse the history of controversial LaPierre comments that led up to the kinder, gentler LaPierre we know today. Many of the comments have the same theme: a paranoid insinuation that the government is coming for your guns.

1987: Bernie Goetz is a political prisoner. As head of the NRA's lobbying arm, LaPierre sent a letter to New York Gov. Cuomo demanding a pardon for "Subway Vigilante" Bernie Goetz, who was convicted of possessing an unlicensed handgun but acquitted of attempted murder in the shooting of shooting four black teenagers. The case was very controversial, as Goetz told police that after wounding three men, he said to a seated one, "You don't look too bad, here's another" and then shot him. LaPierre wrote"Mr. Goetz has suffered three long years as a political prisoner, exonerated of real crime by a jury, yet ultimately condemned to jail by a New York judge inflicting his own outrageous, personal biases against this victim."

1992: Teenagers might kill cops because of Ice-T. NRA head Charlton Heston and LaPierre went to a Time Warner board meeting to protest the rapper Ice-T and his song "Cop Killer," citing music as a real source of violence. Heston solemnly read Ice-T lyrics out loud. "If one cop is killed by some teenager motivated by this album, where are they going to put that in their profit-and-loss statement? It gives a whole new meaning to 'That's entertainment,'" LaPierre said, according to The Washington Post on July 8, 1992.

1993: Clinton's running a gun-grabbing goon squad. ''He [Clinton] kissed Sarah Brady at a rally, delivered anti-gun speeches and promised gun bans by the dozens,'' LaPierre wrote in an NRA fundraising letter, according to the March 10, 1993, Capital Times of Madison, Wisconsin. ''And now one of his first moves as president could be to turn his administration into a gun-grabbing goon squad.'' According to the January 7, 1993 Miami Herald, he urged members, "Only with your direct input can we stop President Clinton and his anti-gun allies from RIPPING THE SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT OUT OF THE CONSTITUTION."

1994: American reporters are worse than Nazi and Stalinist propagandists. The New York Times reported September 11, 1994:

Much of the annual convention in Minneapolis was devoted to attacks on the press. "Our media has become the master over the very Constitution that created it," said Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A. leader. "Forget Stalin's Russia. Forget Hitler's Germany. The mightiest propaganda machine the world has ever known is right here in 1994 America." ...

But when LaPierre addresses his constituency, he preaches nonaccommodation on guns. "The Final War Has Begun" was the message he delivered in The Rifleman after the House passage of the weapons ban.

1995: The government is full of jack-booted thugs in bucket helmets. "It doesn't matter to them that the semi-auto ban gives jack-booted government thugs more power to take away our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property, and even injure or kill us," LaPierre wrote in an NRA fundraising letter, according to the April 28, 1995 Washington Post. "Not too long ago, it was unthinkable for federal agents wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms to attack law-abiding citizens... In Clinton's administration, if you have a badge, you have the government's go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens," he wrote. "Even murder" was underlined. A rival, more radical NRA official suggested LaPierre respond, "If the jackboot fits, wear it." He later tried and failed to oust LaPierre, according to the May 1997 American Spectator.)

1999: Bill Clinton is encouraging criminals to commit crimes to build support for new gun laws. "By not prosecuting and enforcing the laws that are there -- we're talking about felons and possession of guns, violent juveniles, gang members in possession of guns, drug dealers in possession of guns -- they're making a decision to let the blood flow on the streets... and they're getting people killed every day," LaPierre said on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes on November 15, 1999.

2000: Clinton has blood on his hands for specific gun deaths. "The key question here for the president is has he looked into the eyes of Ricky Birdsong's family because that blood this hands," LaPierre said, according to a March 15, 2000 report from ABC World News Tonight. Birdsong was a former college basketball coach who was killed by a man who first tried to buy a gun, but was turned down after a background check. The killer then bought the gun from an unlicensed dealer. "That death is on the president's hands. If he prosecuted, he would have prevented the death," LaPierre said.

2000: No, really, Clinton is letting criminals kill people to get the public to support gun control. "I've come to believe he needs a certain level of violence in this country," LaPierre told ABC News on the March 15, 2000 episode of Nightline. "He's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda. And the vice president, too. I mean, how else can you explain this dishonesty we get out of the administration?"

2012: Only an armed guard in all 99,000 public schools can stop mass murderers.  "If it's crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy," the NRA's Wayne LaPierre said on Meet the Press. Well, as an NRA official told LaPierre in 1995, if the jackboot fits...

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.