Charles L. Cotton is a National Rifle Association board member who also runs TexasCHLForum.com, an online discussion forum about guns and guns rights in Texas and beyond. In a discussion thread yesterday which has since been deleted, a commenter noted that one of the 9 people slain at a Charleston church, Clementa C. Pinckney, was a pastor and a state legislator in South Carolina. Cotton responded:
And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.
The page carrying Cotton's comments seems to have disappeared from the site, but a screen shot is below:
In a phone interview from Texas, Cotton emphasized that his comments were made not in his capacity as an NRA board member, but as a private citizen who runs a gun discussion forum. "It was a discussion we were having about so called gun-free zones," he said when asked about his remarks. "It's my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones."
If private citizens were allowed to carry guns everywhere, Cotton says, there will be fewer mass shootings because potential shooters would not be able to target gun-free areas. And if they did, "if armed citizens are in there, they have a chance to defend themselves and other citizens."
Reached by phone, an NRA spokesman said that "individual board members do not speak for the NRA and do not have the authority to speak for the NRA."
From a gun rights perspective, these are common arguments: the NRA has long maintained that the solution to gun crime is more guns, not less. In response to the mass killing of school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued that "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun." He went on to propose putting an armed police officer in every school in America.
But research generally has taken issue with these arguments. More guns means more crime, according to a massive multi-year study released last fall. And this is especially true when it comes to homicide, according to the Harvard School of Public Health: "a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."
A recent report from the Violence Policy Center, a gun control advocacy group, analyzing FBI data found that "guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes." In 2012, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides, compared to only 259 justifiable gun homicides, according to the report.
And last year, an FBI report on mass shootings found that unarmed citizens were three times more likely to successfully stop an active shooter than armed private citizens. Armed civilians stopped only 4 percent of the mass shooting incidents in the FBI's study.
This post has been updated with a statement from an NRA spokesman and a screen shot of the site. The headline has also been changed.