In the immediate aftermath of the Columbine High School massacre in April 1999, the leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA) gathered on a conference call to discuss damage control and their upcoming conference in Denver, set to take place just miles away and days after the deadly shooting.
NPR obtained tapes of that call and revealed their contents on Tuesday in a bombshell report. On the tapes, senior leaders at the NRA can be heard describing their most loyal and activist members as “hillbillies” and “fruitcakes” that the organization needed to be guarded against.
From the NPR report:
Thirteen people lay dead at a high school in Colorado. More than 20 were injured. Images of students running from the school were looped on TV. The NRA strategists on the call sounded shaken and panicked as they pondered their next step into what would become an era of routine and horrific mass school shootings.
“Everything we do here has a downside,” NRA official Kayne Robinson says on the tapes. “Don’t anybody kid yourself about this great macho thing of going down there and showing our chest and showing how damn tough we are. We are in deep s*** on this deal. And so anything we do here is going to be a matter of trying to decide the best of a whole bunch of very, very bad choices.”
Asked for comment, a current NRA spokesperson said, “It is disappointing that anyone would promote an editorial agenda against the NRA by using shadowy sources and ‘mystery tapes’ in order to conjure up the tragic events of over 20 years ago.”
SCOOP: The day after Columbine shootings, top NRA execs, PR experts, lobbyists scrambled on conference calls to strategize.
Over 2.5 hrs they laid out the playbook of the NRA after mass shootings for the next 20+ years.
I have the secret tapes.https://t.co/uwZYoP7jnF
— Tim Mak (@timkmak) November 9, 2021
NRA Called Members ‘Hillbillies’ and ‘Fruitcakes’ in Panicked Talks After Columbine Massacre, New Tapes Reveal https://t.co/U3WCSZRceY
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) November 9, 2021