Following the April 1999, Columbine High School massacre, officials of the National Rifle Association held a conference call to decide if they should hold their upcoming annual convention. The previously scheduled convention was set for Denver that year, not far from the site of the shooting at Columbine.
While some leaders of the organization considered cancelling the convention or whether to set up a $1 million victim fund, others derided members who might show up at the meetings, calling them “fruitcakes” and “hillbillies.”
Recordings of conversations between NRA leaders were obtained from a person who said they participated in the discussion over the group’s next steps following the school shooting that left 13 dead, NPR reported.
Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, and NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer can be heard in the conference call discussing whether the convention should be held. LaPierre is heard saying some NRA members may embarrass the organization:
“You know, the other problem is holding a member meeting without an exhibit hall. The people you are most likely to get in that member meeting without an exhibit hall are the nuts,” LaPierre says in the recording, according to NPR.
Tony Makris, a communications consultant for the NRA, agreed, “Made that point earlier. I agree. The fruitcakes are going to show up,” NPR reported.
According to NPR, the tapes “were recorded secretly by a participant and shared on the condition that the participant’s name not be divulged. NPR has taken steps to verify the tapes’ authenticity, including by confirming the identities of those speaking on the tapes with two sources and comparing the voices on the calls with publicly available audio,” the news outlet reported.
In response, an NRA spokesperson told NPR: “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.”
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