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National Rifle Association Accusations Of Race And Sex Discrimination At Bureau Of Alcohol, Tobacco, And Firearms "Lesson In Hypocrisy"

Charges this week by the National Rifle Association (NRA) voiced on national television and in full-page ads placed in major newspapers of race and sex discrimination at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) are a "lesson in hypocrisy" according to a new report released by the Violence Policy Center (VPC). The VPC report states that "while the NRA charges federal agencies with racism and sexism, the organization tolerates the very same behavior within the ranks of its own leadership, as revealed by the writings of NRA board member Jeff Cooper. In addition, the past two heads of the organization were forced out by scandals involving female staffers which included charges of sex discrimination." The NRA charges were contained in a letter authored by NRA President Tom Washington to former President George Bush after Bush resigned from the organization on May 3rd, 1995.

Jeff Cooper

Jeff Cooper has served on the National Rifle Association's board of directors since 1984. Nominated to the board by the NRA's own nominating committee, he enjoys the official endorsement of the organization. In October 1993 Cooper was the subject of a laudatory profile in the NRA's flagship publication, the American Rifleman. Jeff Cooper authors the monthly column "Cooper's Corner" for Guns & Ammo magazine and also writes the newsletter "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries," formerly known as "Gunsite Gossip."

In his writings, Cooper offers his views on a variety of topics, including race, class, and gender. He has referred to the Japanese as "Nips," and black South Africans from the Gauteng province as Orang-gautengs. Selections from his writings include:

  • Our men in the Los Angeles area tell us that the radical rise in the murder rate in the L.A. basin should be viewed with due reference to the Good Riddance factor....A certain amount of subjective guesswork is involved, of course, but the consensus is that no more than five to ten people in a hundred who die by gunfire in Los Angeles are any loss to society. These people fight small wars amongst themselves. It would seem a valid social service to keep them well-supplied with ammunition.

  • This from family member Paul Kirchner: "Los Angeles and Ho Chi Min City have declared themselves sister cities. It makes sense they are both Third World metropolises formerly occupied by Americans."

  • The decay of the late, great country of South Africa is beginning to become apparent. The name of the Transvaal has been officially changed to 'Gauteng.' (One of our friends has suggested that in view of this its inhabitants in the future should be referred to as Orang-gautengs.) The furtive attempt to eliminate the Afrikaaner language continues. Recently some four thousand Bantu children showed up at a school capable of handling about four hundred in search of 'an education.' I doubt very much if they had any idea what an education is, though they probably considered that it consists of a Mercedes Benz. And now there is a move afoot to wreck the Kruger National Park, one of the wonders of the world, on the notion that a good bit of its land was 'taken from the blacks.' This idea is somewhat akin to giving Yellowstone Park back to the Blackfeet.

  • This 'sexual harassment' bit may possibly have confounded itself with the [Clarence Thomas] Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The Countess puts it thus: 'Women have been successfully handling male sexual aggression since before the flood, without government help. This is a personal matter, not a political one.' Along that line, Barrett Tillman tells of a farmer in Oregon who maintains stoutly that if he had quit harassing that girl, she might never have married him. Furthermore, we find ourselves most harassed by people who get the accent on the wrong syllable. The word is harass, not harass.

  • Our politicians continue to promise more uniformed reinforcement. What we get in Tampa are the loveliest young women one would ever hope to see across the dinner table. They are not what one would hope to see when calling for help dealing with a 6' 3", 250-pound prison-physique on the rampage. These gendarmettes are gorgeous, but mostly useless. Then again, many cops are useless, and not so pleasant to look at.

The Violence Policy Center downloaded the complete set of "Jeff Cooper's Commentaries" from the NRA's official bulletin board, GUN-TALK. The files containing the documents remained on GUN-TALK even after the NRA purged it for controversial material after the VPC revealed on April 21, 1995 that the GUN-TALK member conference routinely contained threats of violence against federal law enforcement personnel and that a separate computer bulletin board run by NRA Institute for Legislative Action head Tanya Metaksa had posted a bomb recipe.

In addition to Cooper's views, the immediate past two leaders of the NRA have been forced out amidst controversies involving female staffers and charges of sex discrimination.

G. Ray Arnett

When G. Ray Arnett was ousted from the NRA leadership in May 1986, among the reasons cited were: "Mr. Arnett has made personnel decisions on the basis of his personal interest rather than the interests of the Association." These charges stemmed from Arnett's relationship with NRA staffer Tracey Attlee. Attlee was a frequent Arnett travel and shooting companion. In 1986 Arnett promoted Attlee from the public education division to international shooting with an unauthorized salary increase of more than $13,000. This, coupled with Arnett's dismissal of the remaining public education staff, resulted in the NRA board's removal of both Arnett and Attlee.

Warren Cassidy

Warren Cassidy succeeded Arnett as NRA executive vice president in 1986, and served in the position until 1991. In 1988, NRA staffer Marsha Beasley became head of the NRA's education and training division. When Beasley met with Cassidy to discuss the position, Cassidy told her that he was scared to death of putting such a "young girl" in such an important position, comparing the 31-year-old Beasley to his 19-year-old daughter. By December of that year Cassidy had fired Beasley for approving the use of an article in an NRA publication by Tracey Attlee, who had become persona non grata in the wake of the Arnett debacle. Beasley sued Cassidy and the NRA for sex discrimination.

In her suit, Beasley cited examples confirming that the NRA, in the words of one of her male co-workers, was still truly a "man's organization." Before the case could come to trial, in November 1990 the NRA reached an out-of-court settlement rumored to total more than half a million dollars. The reasons for settling stemmed less from Beasley's charges of sex discrimination than her allegation that in the office Cassidy "gave extraordinary access...to women who would deal with him on other than a professional basis." In pretrial depositions, Cassidy was reportedly forced to give detailed accounts of his sexual liaisons with female staff members. Yet only six months earlier, Cassidy had castigated "all NRA critics, especially you cartoonists, who exhaust yourselves portraying us as the epitome of macho chauvinists!"

Josh Sugarmann, VPC executive director and author of the 1991 book NRA: Money, Firepower & Fear states, "The NRA attacks ATF and other federal law enforcement agencies with allegation and innuendo, while at the same time it tolerates explicit racism and sexism from one of its own board members. Before the NRA can have any credibility on these issues, it needs to clean its own house. The first step in this process should be the removal of Mr. Cooper from the NRA's board when the organization holds its annual meeting in Phoenix, Arizona this weekend."




The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.


   For Release:
   Wednesday, May 17, 1995

   Contacts:
   Kristen Rand
   Violence Policy Center

   Josh Sugarmann
   Violence Policy Center