The discourse surrounding the students who survived a mass shooting at a Florida high school in February and their activism on gun policy has turned radioactive in recent weeks. On social media, gun-control critics have pilloried student leaders Emma González and David Hogg, posting doctored images of González shredding the Constitution and memes showing Hogg in a Nazi uniform.

The teen-led movement has reignited the nation’s gun debate, drawing stark partisan lines, as well as cries of manipulation from the right, who say Democrats have used the students as both shield and sword to advance tighter restrictions on firearms.

Enter the Motor City Madman, musician Ted Nugent, perhaps the National Rifle Association’s most outspoken board member.

In a Friday interview mostly focused on González’s and Hogg’s criticism of the NRA, Nugent and radio host Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo discussed how the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have navigated media appearances and their belief that the teenagers have been manipulated by left-wing ideologues.

“These poor children, I’m afraid to say, but the evidence is irrefutable. They have no soul,” Nugent told Pagliarulo on the radio show on WOAI in San Antonio, which is syndicated nationwide.

On Valentine’s Day, a gunman killed 17 students and educators at the Florida high school in one of the nation’s deadliest school massacres. Nikolas Cruz, 19, has been charged in the shooting.

Nugent and Pagliarulo dissected González’s and Hogg’s interviews with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota five days after the shooting. “If they accept this blood money, they are against the children,” González said, speaking about politicians who accept donations from the NRA. “You’re either funding the killers, or you’re standing with the children.”

Nugent noted that no known NRA members have been involved in mass shootings, and he decried Camerota for not challenging González’s link between mass shootings and the NRA.

Emma González is a survivor of the Parkland shooting and a leader of the movement against gun violence. She has also become a target in far-right circles. (Elyse Samuels/The Washington Post)

“The lies from these poor, mushy-brained children who have been fed lies and parrot lies,” Nugent said. “I really feel sorry for them. It’s not only ignorant, dangerous and stupid — it’s soulless. To attack the good, law-abiding families of America when well-known, predictable murderers commit these horrors is deep in the category of soulless.”

Defending the NRA, Nugent noted that the gun-rights group has provided firearms safety training and that it is sustained not by gun manufacturers but by “families, good families” in the organization.

Nugent, like many on the right, has been flustered by recent portrayals of firearms in the media and by the students, and has been incensed when the semiautomatic AR-15 — what the NRA has called America’s favorite rifle — is described as a “weapon of war.” Semiautomatic rifles are not carried into combat, Nugent said on the program.

AR-15 semiautomatic rifles are the civilian equivalent of the M4 and M16 rifles — select fire weapons (semiautomatic or a three-round burst) that use similar ammunition. Though some M4 models are fully automatic that fire until the standard 30-round magazine is depleted, conventional military marksmanship focuses on controlled fire that discharges one round with each trigger pull. A Marine Corps training manual suggests 12 to 15 rounds a minute as the acceptable rate of fire for M16s and M4s to balance accuracy and ammunition conservation, and the burst option is generally discouraged in many scenarios.

In that way, military rifles commonly used in practice are functionally similar to how mass shooters used AR-15 pattern rifles in killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and the Parkland high school — an acknowledgment that few gun-rights advocates, including Nugent, seem to have made.

Nugent’s spokeswoman and the NRA did not return requests for comment.

Pagliarulo said Nugent’s claims on his program were “verifiably true.” When asked by The Washington Post to clarify what he meant by that, he said in an email exchange: “Ted called them liars. That’s verifiably true. Unless, of course, you believe NRA members are ‘child murderers,’ or you’re either ‘with us or with the killers.’ ”

Pagliarulo referred back to his interview with Nugent for additional clarity, which he published Saturday on Facebook.

About a year ago Nugent called for civility in the pressure cooker of partisan politics and gun violence, following an attack at a congressional baseball practice on a ballfield in Northern Virginia last May that left Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) seriously injured by rifle fire. Nugent vowed to be “more selective with my rants and in my words.”

Those rants have been notable. In 2007, Nugent drew criticism when he advised presidential candidate Barack Obama to “suck on my machine gun.” In 2012, at an NRA convention, Nugent said if Obama were reelected as president, “I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”

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