The many faces of NRA foes: athletes, rabbis, Quakers, actors and a game-show host
In this Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011 photo, retired game show host Bob Barker holds his 8-year-old rabbit Mr. Rabbit at his home in Los Angeles. Barker would like his rabbit to spend more time in its litter box. And Mr. Rabbit's resolution for Barker? What else? "To continue urging folks to have their pets spayed and neutered, including rabbits." (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
The National Rifle Association classifies Bob Barker as anti-gun, even though the retired game-show host sleeps with a .38-caliber pistol next to his bed, shoots skeet and donated to the group’s choice for president, Republican Mitt Romney.
Barker is among 494 people, organizations and companies on an NRA list of those holding positions it finds hostile. The roster, posted on the website of the largest U.S. pro-gun group, includes poet Maya Angelou, the United Methodist Church and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I am certainly not opposed to guns,” said Barker, 89, who hosted CBS’s The Price is Right for 35 years until 2007. Barker said he probably upset the NRA by his vocal support of animal welfare, such as seeking to stop hunters from firing on pigeons launched from spring-loaded boxes.
“They may assume that anyone who is opposed to hunting is opposed to guns, and that’s certainly not the case with me,” Barker said.
The list shows how the NRA has positioned itself in opposition to wide segments of American society, including religious groups, nurses, corporations, and even people such as Barker. The organization’s positions have attracted fresh attention as lawmakers consider limiting gun sales after the Dec. 14 shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. President Obama seeks restrictions on the capacity of ammunition magazines and a ban on semiautomatic, military-style rifles often called assault weapons.
At the center of the debate is the NRA, based in suburban Fairfax, Va., which says it has more than 4 million members and describes itself as the “foremost defender of Second Amendment rights.” Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Congress should pay for armed guards in public schools and review “the full range of mental-health issues.”
The list includes a note saying it was posted on Sept. 17, 2012, though it’s unclear when it was originally created. The page has a headline reading “National Organizations with Anti-Gun Policies.” Lower, it lists “Anti-Gun Individuals & Celebrities” and “Anti-Gun Corporations/Corporate Heads.”
Spokesman Andrew Arulanandam didn’t return phone calls or emails seeking comment about the list and its intended use.
The document has been around for decades and was designed for gun owners to organize boycotts and facilitate their complaints, said Joe Tartaro, president of Bellevue, Wash.-based Second Amendment Foundation, a pro-gun educational group.
“They’re hoping that the customers of those companies will write and express their displeasure,” Tartaro said.
Those named include the National Association of School Psychologists, which opposes armed guards in schools.
“The NRA survives by using scare tactics and creating bad guys and good guys in the public’s minds, telling their members that anyone who disagrees with their policies is an enemy,” said Katherine Cowan, spokeswoman for the association, based in Bethesda, Md.
The list includes the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers, whose website includes a letter to Obama supporting a ban on high-capacity magazines.
“I’d be glad to sit down with the NRA and find out why we’re on the list, because right now I don’t know,” said Augustine Pescatore, president of the Davie, Fla.-based group. “I’m not so sure they understand school safety.”
Groups that have advocated gun control also are listed, including the Washington-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which has funded research on shootings.
“The NRA sees the world in black-and-white terms,” said Ladd Everitt, spokesman for the gun-violence coalition. “If you don’t embrace everything they stand for, you’re an enemy.”
Many on the list said they didn’t know why they were there. Among them: the National Network for Youth, a Washington-based nonprofit that works for homeless children whose policy director, Darla Bardine, said she couldn’t understand its inclusion.
The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing, which represents outpatient nurses, hasn’t endorsed statements on gun control, said Janet Perrella-D’Alesandro, a spokeswoman for the Pitman, N.J.-based group.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an Atlanta-based civil rights organization whose first president was Martin Luther King Jr., was included. King’s shooting death in 1968 contributed to approval of the federal Gun Control Act, which creates rules for the firearms industry and owners.
“We’re anti-violence and anti-mayhem,” said Maynard Eaton, a spokesman.
Also listed are San Francisco-based clothing manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co. and Baton Rouge, La.-based Lamar Advertising, which says it’s the country’s largest outdoor advertiser. Representatives either did not return messages or declined to comment.
Celebrities include Danny DeVito and comedian Louie Anderson, neither of whom returned emails asking for comment. DeVito had posted several pro-gun-control messages on his Twitter account after the Newtown shootings.
Angelou didn’t respond to an email request for comment made through an assistant. A Kansas City Chiefs spokesman declined to comment.
Nine Jewish groups and three rabbis are on the list, including David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which was one of several religious groups that asked members to call federal lawmakers and urge support of gun-control legislation.
“It’s a badge of honor,” Saperstein said. “I couldn’t think of a more encouraging affirmation.”
Other religious groups include the United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, the Mennonite Central Committee, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an arm of the Quakers that says it’s the nation’s largest team of peace lobbyists.
“We’re delighted to be included in a group of people who think there ought to be common-sense laws to control gun violence,” said Jim Cason, spokesman for the Friends Committee.
Not on the list: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg or his pro-gun-control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Bloomberg is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.
Much of the list appears outdated. Take Stanley Durwood, whom the NRA lists as co-chairman of movie theater chain American Multi-Cinema, who died in 1999. Hallmark Cards Chief Executive Officer Irvine Hockaday retired more than a decade ago.
Several groups no longer exist, including the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, which has merged with textile and restaurant workers, and the U.S. Catholic Conference, now known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Sara Lee Corporation split last year into two companies, Hillshire Brands and D.E. Master Blenders 1753.
Barker, the former game-show host who lives in Hollywood, Calif., donated $250,000 to two pro-Romney political committees, Federal Election Commission records show. Of that, $5,000 went to the Romney campaign.
Barker also has given $1 million to Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, a Geneva, Ill.-based organization working to end pigeon shooting in Pennsylvania, President Steve Hindi said.
The NRA has opposed efforts to ban the events, which Hindi described as needlessly cruel. The animal group isn’t on the list.