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NRA Criticized For Not Saying More About Philando Castile's Death


We have a defense of the National Rifle Association. The NRA is criticized when it speaks out against gun control. Last week, it was also criticized for a muted response to Philando Castile. He was a black man, a licensed gun owner, shot by a police officer in Minnesota.

COLION NOIR: The criticisms began literally within less than 24 hours, lobbing accusations that, you know, the NRA doesn't care about black people.

INSKEEP: That's Colion Noir, a commentator on the NRA News web channel. His given name is Collins Idehen. He's an attorney in Dallas. And he says he's been talking a lot about the shootings last week.

NOIR: As a young black man who's 32 years old, has a concealed carry license, has been pulled over several times, it was something that I immediately could relate to. I'm not naive as to deny what some people's experience in this country is considering their race. So for me, it hit home because I was like that could have easily been me.

INSKEEP: What precautions do you take to make sure you don't end up in an awkward situation?

NOIR: I don't do anything now that I wouldn't have done before when I didn't carry a firearm. I have to be more cognizant of my surroundings. If I'm out somewhere - let's say I'm in a place where there may be a fight going on. And I'm going to have nothing to do with the fight. I need to remove myself from that place immediately. So it's a kind of heightened state of awareness that tends to happen when you start to carry a firearm. And it's a responsibility that I take a lot of pride in.

INSKEEP: I'm sure you've heard that the attorney for the officer involved in the Minnesota case - he has argued that this has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the presence of a gun. It does occur to me, listening to you - if you're carrying a gun, does that actually increase the chances that you could end up being shot yourself?

NOIR: I can't speak to that because every situation and circumstance is different. I was pulled over two weeks ago, almost under the exact same conditions, except I was speeding. I immediately handed over my concealed carry license and my ID along with my registration. And he asked me - where's the firearm? I told him one in the trunk, one on my side and one in my bag. And he was like - OK, good to know. And that was that.

So we've got to understand that a lot of these situations are very individualized. Sometimes, the X-factor may be - the cop may be just a bad cop. No matter what you do, you're going to be in a bad situation. Or you have a cop who's a good cop or impartial cop. Whatever the case may be, you may have a subject who got pulled over who's acting abrasive, who's putting himself in the position to escalate the tensions in a situation.

INSKEEP: What did you think when you learned about the shootings on Thursday night in Dallas?

NOIR: It crushed me the same way it crushed me when I saw the video of Philando because one of my best friends is a cop. And he looks just like me. He's my age. So I have an ability to kind of empathize both ways with respect to officers and people of the community.

INSKEEP: It raises an interesting argument about gun laws because one NRA defense of gun ownership, as you know, is that when there is a shooter - when there's a crowd of people, NRA supporters have argued many times if people in that crowd had guns, they would save lives. Here is an instance where every single officer had a gun, and a number of people, even demonstrators in the crowd, had guns. And it made no difference. What does that do to the NRA's classic argument?

NOIR: It does nothing. It does nothing. We had individuals who were in the crowd openly carrying firearms. Right? If those individuals had taken off their gun the moment the shooting started and started firing off randomly - because nobody knew where the shots were coming from - then what would be the talking points?

INSKEEP: Oh, I would agree with you. Firing randomly into a crowd is a terrible idea.

NOIR: Absolutely. So those individuals did the responsible thing and put themselves in a position where they could find cover and not be shot. And then the officers who did have guns then went forward and tried to figure out a way to resolve the issue. The idea of a gun being present doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be fired in order to do its job. We have five cops who were killed. How many cops would have been killed if none of those officers had guns?

INSKEEP: So you find vindication for your point of view even though they weren't able to stop this killer before five people were killed?

NOIR: But they stopped him. He had to fall back into a position because cops were returning fire. So imagine how many people would have died.

INSKEEP: What did you think when the mayor of your city indicated that the police job might have been complicated by the fact that there were people who were law-abiding citizens openly carrying weapons in the crowd? And so the police, in that frantic situation, couldn't tell who was a danger and who was not.

NOIR: I mean, that's part of reality. I mean, there are a number of situations where things are always complicated by a myriad of circumstances. So I understand the idea that it made it harder to identify who the actual shooter was. Yes, I agree with that. I'm no fool. But to what extent? Should we then ban people's right to own a firearm because of it?

INSKEEP: Well, Colion Noir, thank you very much for taking the time.

NOIR: Absolutely. Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's with the NRA News web channel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.