The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

NRA host calls for legislation to limit reporting on mass shooters. Then he says he doesn’t mean it.

In a new NRA ad, gun rights activist Colion Noir calls on Congress to pass legislation to put limitations on the media's ability to report on school shootings. (Video: National Rifle Association of America)

In the days after a shooter killed 10 people at a Texas high school, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch joined a chorus of conservatives in spotlighting a subject to blame that didn’t involve guns.

“The media has got to stop creating more of these monsters by oversaturation,” Loesch said on the NRA’s television station, echoing remarks she made after the Parkland shooting. “I’m not saying don’t responsibly report on things as they happen. Look, I understand it. But constantly showing the image of the murderer, constantly saying their name, is completely unnecessary.”

And on Thursday, Collins Idehen Jr., a host on NRA TV who goes by the pseudonym Colion Noir, took the organization’s media attacks even further.

Noir spent the first half of a four-minute NRA video, part of a series that appeared to be sponsored by the gunmaker Kimber, lambasting the media for coverage that he said inspired other shooters through reporting about mass shooters’ backgrounds and motivations, and included their names in coverage.

“These kids aren’t being inspired by an innate hunk of plastic and metal laying on a table, they’re inspired by the infamous glory of past shooters who they relate to,” he said. “And no entity on the planet does a better job, whether directly or indirectly, of glorying these killers, and thereby providing the inspiration for the next one, than our mainstream media.”

Noir proposed a solution that would surely violate the First Amendment.

“It’s time to put an end to this glorification of carnage in pursuit of ratings, because it’s killing our kids,” he said. “It’s time for Congress to step up and pass legislation putting common-sense limitations on our mainstream media’s ability to report on these school shootings.”

He added: “Pass a law preventing the media from reporting killer’s name or showing his face.”

Things blamed for the deadly Texas school shooting: Ritalin. Abortion. The media. Schools. And doors.

Noir clarified at the end of the video that his proposal was not something he believed in, but one that he was using provocatively to make a point about those who argue in favor of gun control.

“You know that feeling of anxiety that shot through your body when I said the government should  pass laws to limit the media’s ability to exercise their First Amendment rights? That’s the same feeling gun owners get when they hear people say the same thing about the Second Amendment,” he said. “However I vehemently disagree with the government infringing on the media’s First Amendment’s rights, the same way I don’t think the government should infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”

The video is part of a broader effort on behalf of the NRA to demonize the press, an effort which, though it dates back years — The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers traced the roots of the current campaign to 2007, when the NRA began to complain about media coverage of mass shooters after the Virginia Tech shooting — has ratcheted up as late, including a new ad campaign. In March, Noir turned heads when he taunted the teen activists who began advocating for gun control after the Parkland shooting, saying that “No one would know your names” if their classmates were still alive.

How the NRA came to demonize the media

If the video was part of a plan to rile up some of the NRA’s detractors, it succeeded wildly. Plenty of people shared it on social media, reacting to the quote shared with the video and not the second half, where Noir claims he doesn’t actually believe in the proposal.

But equating the First and Second Amendments, which have different legal histories and significance, has been a talking point for some gun proponents — emerging as the focus of pro-gun memes and even as potential legislation. A Republican state representative from Indiana drafted a nearly satirical bill in 2017 which would have required licenses for journalists akin to those that pertain to handgun owners, though he never ended up introducing it.

“If the media thinks we should license one constitutional right, then the same standards should be applied to them,” he told The Post at the time.

But guns and speech are not treated the same under the law.

“Speaking usually doesn’t kill the hearer,” NYU law professor and constitutional expert Burt Neuborne told The Post last year. “Firing a gun poses a physical risk.”

Republican lawmakers in more than a dozen states introduced legislation to curb protests in the immediate months after Trump’s election, in what critics said amounted to an attack on civil liberties. One bill proposed shielding drivers who hit protesters in the street from liability. Another sought to seize the assets of those who took part in protests that turned violent.

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