Conservatives and gun-rights advocates are condemning a New York congresswoman after she said a top spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association is “a domestic security threat.”
U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) lobbed the accusation at the NRA and Dana Loesch, an NRA spokesperson and radio personality, in a tweet Thursday. She said the NRA and Loesch “are quickly becoming domestic security threats under President Trump. We can’t ignore that.”
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) August 11, 2017
Loesch and her supporters accused Rice of abusing her office, saying she threatened a private citizen’s right to free speech. Many responded angrily on Twitter.
“I’m one of the 5 million proud members of the @NRA. They help protect our constitutional rights. YOU are the threat!” wrote David Wohl, a conservative commentator.
— David Wohl (@DavidWohl) August 11, 2017
Rice, who represents suburban Nassau County, was apparently responding to comments Loesch made about the death of Philando Castile, a black gun owner who was shot and killed by police in Minnesota last year during a traffic stop. Some gun owners criticized the NRA for remaining mostly silent about Castile’s death; some hoped there would be outrage because Castile was licensed to carry a firearm and told the officer that he had a license and was armed at the time of the traffic stop. Within seconds of alerting the officer, Castile was fatally shot.
The officer — who said he smelled marijuana in the car and believed Castile was reaching for his weapon — was acquitted in June but lost his job with the police department. Castile’s girlfriend, who broadcast the aftermath of the shooting on Facebook Live, said Castile was not going for his weapon and did not present a threat to the police officer.
In an online discussion regarding the NRA’s stance on the case early Thursday morning, Loesch implied that Castile’s drug use negated his license to carry, writing he was “in possession of a controlled substance and firearm simultaneously, which is illegal.”
Several hours later, Rice jumped into the discussion.
“So if a white guy was shot dead during a routine stop w/a legal gun & a joint in his car, #NRA would stay silent?,” Rice asked in a tweet. “You’re the ones lying.”
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) August 11, 2017
Rice, who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, then followed that comment with her tweet labeling Loesch as a security threat.
In an interview, Loesch called Rice’s comments shocking, especially given her membership on the Homeland Security Committee. She called on Rice to apologize to the millions of law-abiding gun owners across the country.
“I am not sure what the protocol is after someone is deemed a domestic threat,” Loesch said. “What is she going to do, arrest us? … You can disagree with people on firearms law and everything else, but to accuse someone of being a domestic threat, particularly when she is a sitting Congress member, that is something else entirely.”
Loesch said that until Rice apologizes, “I don’t know that she can be trusted with the security of Americans.”
If @RepKathleenRice thinks I and millions of NRA members are “domestic threats,” then have us arrested. Start with me.
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) August 11, 2017
Coleman Lamb, a spokesman for Rice, said in a statement that the NRA’s message has veered away from protecting Second Amendment rights and is instead stoking unrest.
“Their leaders and spokespeople are depicting the United States as a country on the brink of civil war, and actively encouraging violence against political activists and the free press,” Lamb said. “That’s extremely troubling to Representative Rice, as it should be to all law-abiding gun-owners and NRA members. We’re not afraid to call this behavior from NRA’s leadership exactly what it is.”
Conservatives and gun-rights supporters, however, accused Rice of labeling the NRA’s entire membership a general threat to the country.
Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative website The Resurgent, tweeted that he donated $100 to the NRA in Loesch’s name and wrote that “targeting private citizens is wrong.” Other Twitter users said Rice was the threat, not Loesch, and that Rice was being “reckless.”
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 11, 2017
Before joining Congress in 2015, Rice was a district attorney in Nassau County; she also worked as a prosecutor in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. In Congress, Rice has strongly spoken out in favor of gun control, including joining two dozen of her Democratic colleagues for a sit-in after the June 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting.
But some of Rice’s sharpest comments come on Twitter. Last week, Rice called the NRA “lunatics” and “a disgrace to the Constitution they claim to defend.”
— Kathleen Rice (@RepKathleenRice) August 4, 2017
Rice was then also responding to Loesch, who had just appeared in an NRA video attacking “fake news” and making allegations of mainstream media bias.
Loesch, a conservative commentator and syndicated radio host, was promoted to a top national spokesperson position with the NRA earlier this year. She previously served as the organization’s special adviser on women’s policy issues.