Larry Pratt: Worse Than You Think

Larry Pratt, the leader of Gun Owners of America, is one of the most extreme voices on the right, so extreme that he thinks the NRA are a bunch of weak-kneed liberals. But a new profile of him in Rolling Stone shows that he’s even worse than I thought in a number of ways.

In 1986, during the depths of the AIDS crisis, Pratt bought ads around the country highlighting a D.C. law forbidding health insurance companies from denying coverage and raising rates for people who test positive for HIV. “We don’t think AIDS should have civil rights,” Pratt told the Los Angeles Times. “The law is a dangerous and outrageous precedent for other wacko legislators to follow. [Those who support it should be] held accountable for voting to support homosexual privileges.”

The following year, Pratt called for the quarantine of people suffering from AIDS. “Our judges coddle criminals instead of caring for the victims of crime,” he wrote in a Family Foundation fundraising letter. “They’ve chased God out of our schools, defended abortions…and now they are trying to infect us and kill us with strange and horrible diseases.”…

The bloodshed and the armed standoff [at Ruby Ridge] that followed catalyzed groups across the far right into action. This activity would soon produce a national militia movement for which Ruby Ridge functioned as a modern-day Alamo. The most important event in this development was a three-day meeting convened in October 1992 by Christian Identity leader Pete Peters. Christian Identity maintains that Aryans are the true Jews, that blacks are a pre-Adamic subhuman species, and that a race war is coming, after which whites will establish a “Christian government.” These were the baseline ideas uniting the 150 far-right leaders who answered Peters’ call to action at a YMCA hall in Estes Park, Colorado. Among those present was Larry Pratt. According to media reports, Pratt railed against the 14th Amendment and delivered one of his favorite lines: “The Second Amendment ain’t about duck hunting.”

According to Leonard Zeskind’s report from the conference, published in a November 1995 Rolling Stone story, Pratt’s fellow speakers consisted mostly of extremists with little mainstream profile or Washington connections, people like Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and Texas Klansman Louis Beam. Pratt represented a link between these worlds and the rightward edge of the conservative establishment…

In militia circles, the [Waco] siege confirmed the worst suspicions about the federal government. The links between the militia scene and the gun groups had deepened to the point where NRA fundraising letters echoed the language of extremist publications on the radical right. In one 1995 letter, NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre described ATF officers as “jack-booted thugs” in “Nazi bucket helmets.” But the NRA stopped short of supporting the Christian Identity lawyer Kirk Lyons, who was representing multiple victims of Waco. Pratt and the GOA had no such compunction and donated tens of thousands of dollars to Lyons’s white supremacist organization CAUSE (short for the Aryan bastions of Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa and Europe), “Not $50,000 — but a lot of money for us,” Pratt told Rolling Stone in 1995.

For many, the gun scene’s rhetoric of an “evil” and “fascist” government was immediately rendered in more sinister shades when Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb under Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah federal building on April 19, 1995, the second anniversary of the Waco siege. Former president George W. Bush spoke for many when he cancelled his NRA membership in the bombing’s wake, citing LaPierre’s incendiary rhetoric.

On the afternoon of the City bombing, Pratt was in Washington, D.C., demonstrating in front of FBI headquarters for its role in the Waco tragedy. Three days later, Pratt spoke before a gathering of 600 Christian Identity adherents and assorted radicals convened by Pete Peters at the Lodge of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. Pratt addressed the “Biblical Mandate to Arm” and seemed to justify McVeigh’s act of terror, at the time the bloodiest in American history. According to an account by Michael Reynolds in Playboy, Pratt told the gathered, “The government behaves as a beast. It did in Waco, and we have somebody, whoever it might have been, whatever group it might have been, assuming they can’t rely on the Lord to take vengeance.”

Anti-gay bigotry of the worst kind, support for white supremacists and domestic terrorists. Doesn’t get much more deranged than that.

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  • sqlrob

    Doesn’t get much more deranged than that.

    Quiet Ed, they may take that as a challenge and try to rise up to it.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Doesn’t get much more deranged than that.

    Ed, you’re doing it again. What is with this compulsion to invent an insanity defense instead of calling it what it is: evil?

  • generalfactotum

    Whenever he is featured on VCY’s “Crosstalk”, I always have to suppress the urge to call in and request that he sing “Pants On The Ground”. “Oh, you’re the Pratt, not the Platt? Carry on.”

  • Modusoperandi


  • timgueguen

    Good ole Pastor PeePee. You can still hear that asshole on some US radio outlets, even though he died in 2011. Supposedly Peters’ church in LaPorte, Colorado has less than 100 members. Yet somehow it’s been able to support Peters buying airtime for a couple of decades. I wonder who the real backers are.

  • eric

    CAUSE (short for the Aryan bastions of Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa and Europe)

    Because India has no Aryans, evidently. Oh, that’s right, they don’t give two craps about actual history, they use “Aryan” to mean “pale.”

  • Set Kouwenhoven

    I think Larry and Vic Eliason from Crosstalk are old buddies. Vic always refers to him as “Lare,” and enjoys reminiscing about their salad days.

    Which is strange. Because VCY America—the guys who produce Crosstalk—is unapologetically Zionist in its theology, regularly inviting West Bank-inhabiters such as David Rubin on to talk about the great things that the Israel ultra-right are doing.

  • democommie

    “Larry Pratt: Worse Than You Think ”

    You’ve never been inside my head, Ed. I assure you, I can think the worstest about Mr. Pratt.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Shrub did something right?!?

    I have to go lie down now…

  • busterggi


  • Trebuchet

    Shrub did something right?!?

    I have to go lie down now…

    You can get up. It was his father, George H.W. Bush.

  • Michael Heath

    Larry Pratt [in the mid-1990s]:

    “The Second Amendment ain’t about duck hunting.”

    That’s a fair criticism. President Bill Clinton constantly argued that his gun control policy arguments were never intended to deprive people of their hunting rights; full stop. But that’s a classic strawman argument, worthy of the condemnation we observe Larry Pratt delivering.

    If Clinton had any courage on this issue he would have instead argued what the original meaning of the 2nd amendment was; contra Pratt’s argument.

  • Michael Heath

    Larry Pratt states:

    We don’t think AIDS should have civil rights.

    This is the most inhuman statement I’ve encountered in a good long while.

  • jws1

    Mr. Heath: Please explain this original meaning in your judgment. It’s a legit question, I’m not being snarky.

  • Michael Heath

    jws1 writes:

    Please explain this original meaning in your judgment.

    What did the 2nd Amendment originally mean?

    Justice Stevens’ dissent in D.C. v. Heller is the best analysis I’ve encountered regarding the 2nd Amendment’s original meaning. Stevens’ research found that if the framers intended to numerate an individual right to own and bear arms, they would have explicitly done that. But they didn’t – not even remotely. There is no evidence of intention where the original meaning clearly and unequivocally refers to state militias rather than individuals.

    There were some arguments advocating for an individual right to bear arms that were promoted during the development of the Bill of Rights. J. Scalia’s non sequitur-laden opinion relies on those to fallaciously argue the 2nd Amendment intended to protect such a right. In spite of its not actually numerating that right. Nor was Scalia able to tie these arguments to the framers and the 1st Congress that developed and passed the amendment in Congress; he asserted it was so – kind of like the god of the Bible.

    Instead we find the framers of the amendment conveying that the topic at hand during development and passage of the 2nd Amendment was to delegate authority to the states to raise militias with arms.

    This is a key point because even most of the conservatives on the present court concede that the security rights of the many (“state interest”) trumps an unenumerated right to own and bear arms. That’s important given there’s no delegated authority by the people to the federal government to prohibit weaponry. So the only argument to protect the rights of gun owners at the expense of innocent bystanders victimized by gun violence is to argue the 2nd Amendment conveys a numerated right. This is consistent with how religious exercise is protected against unenumerated rights I find far more worthy of protection. But the former is is protected given how conservatives continue to deny the existence of the 9th Amendment and the original meaning of the 10th Amendment.

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  • jws1