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The Rice Rule

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Say this for the NRA, they never stop giving away the show:

The city of Dallas, Texas, has been rocked by news of an off-duty police officer shooting a black man in his own apartment. On September 6, the off-duty police officer Amber Guyger entered Botham Jean’s apartment and shot him dead. She has since claimed—after a number of shifting accounts—that she mistakenly thought she was entering her own apartment and believed it was being burglarized.

Most people reacted to the news of the shooting with outrage—regardless of the circumstances, shooting an innocent man dead in his own home is a horrible tragedy. Conservatives such as National Review’s David French have argued that Guyger “committed a crime by forcing open Jean’s door, deliberately took aim, and killed him.” Commentary’s Sohrab Ahmari observed, “Even within the four walls of his castle, his home, Jean was not safe from undue police violence.”

The National Rifle Association’s spokesperson sees the incident a bit differently. Dana Loesch argued that Jean would still be alive had he been armed and shot Guyger instead. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified,” Loesch acknowledged, but asserted that “this could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment.” At a time when many conservative writers were expressing empathy for Jean and hoping that justice would be served, Loesch’s disciplined adherence to the NRA’s bottom line stands out.

Loesch’s reaction is an example of what one might call the “Rice rule,” after Tamir Rice, the 12-year old killed by a white police officer while playing in a park with a toy gun: There are no circumstances in which the responsibility for a police shooting of an unarmed black person cannot be placed on the victim.

At the same time, scolding dead people for being unarmed is standard procedure for the NRA, which attacked Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine parishioners were massacred by the white supremacist Dylann Roof, for supporting gun control. The group similarly suggested that shootings at Planned Parenthood; at Umpqua Community College in Oregon; in Fresno, California; and at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were so deadly because the victims weren’t armed. The NRA even faulted James Shaw Jr., who prevented a mass shooting at a Waffle House by tackling the shooter, for not being armed while he did it. Ted Nugent, the closest thing the NRA has to a celebrity spokesperson, once called mass-shooting victims “losers” who “get cut down by murderous maniacs like blind sheep to slaughter.”

But the NRA’s conspicuous lack of outrage after the shootings of Philando Castile, Jason Washington, and Alton Sterling, all black men killed by police while in possession of a firearm, suggests an impossible double standard. When armed black men are shot by the police, the NRA says nothing about the rights of gun owners; when unarmed black men are shot, its spokesperson says they should have been armed. To this day, Loesch defends Castile’s shooting as justified—despite the fact that Castile informed the officer he was carrying a firearm. In Washington’s case, Loesch said she was “never going to keyboard quarterback what police are doing.”

Hmm, I wonder why the NRA worked with a hostile foreign power to help elect a white supremacist authoritarian.

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