The recent acquittal of Minneapolis police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile has surprisingly caused outrage among many members of the National Rifle Association. At issue is a prime example of a licensed gun owner who was killed while in possession of a legal firearm. A jury believed Yanez when he said that he was in imminent fear for his life after Castile stated he was licensed to carry and was not reaching for his weapon. Yanez fired his weapon into the vehicle killing Castile and his dying moments were live streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend.
This was a clear case of an American citizen who exercised his Second Amendment rights to legally bear a firearm and was killed for it. Castile should be a poster child for gun ownership and gun rights by the NRA and yet the organization that has called itself “the oldest civil rights organization in America” gave a lackluster response when Castile was shot by police stating on its Facebook page two days after the shooting: “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.”
Not once was the name of Castile officially mentioned by the NRA in its statement. Even now the leadership of the NRA has not mentioned Castile and his rights as a gun owner. The silence has not gone unnoticed among its more than five million members on social media. Going to the official NRA Facebook page there are numerous statements that ask directly “What about Philando Castile” and the NRA’s silence.
One poster wrote, “Is this for White concealed and carry owners only? Because Philando Castile’s case proves it doesn’t work for us. So what is your vaunted advise [sic] for Black Americans that exercise our 2nd amend rights in regards to Law Enforcement?”
It’s a sentiment echoed by others across social media who ask if the NRA is really the National Rifle Association for White people? These questions are what sparked the creation of Black gun rights groups. One such group is the National African American Gun Association led by Phillip Smith. SSmithstated recently to the media that “It troubles me tremendously when I see a young man following the rules, doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and there’s still no accountability from a legal perspective.”