The National Rifle Association, criticized for its silence after a Twin Cities police officer was acquitted for killing permit-to-carry gun owner Philando Castile, has now responded to the verdict 3½ weeks later and said the death was a “tragedy that could have been avoided.”
Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the influential gun-rights lobbying group, appeared Sunday on CNN and was pressed by the host during the segment about her organization failing to follow through on a pledge to address Castile’s death in July 2016.
Two days after the shooting in Falcon Heights, a statement from the NRA said it would say more once the case is concluded. That conclusion came on June 16 with the not guilty verdicts won by St. Anthony Officer Jeronimo Yanez.
“I don’t agree with every single decision that comes out from courtrooms of America,” said Loesch, who appears in various ads for the NRA. “There are a lot of variables in this particular case, and there were a lot of things that I wish would have been done differently. Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over a [traffic] stop? I absolutely do not.
“I also think that this is why we have things like NRA carry guard [training program], not only to reach out to the citizens over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when they go through stops like this.”
Loesch, well known as a conservative radio talk show host and political analyst, emphasized that she was speaking for the NRA and declared that Castile’s death was “a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided.”
When Castile was pulled over, he told Yanez that he had a firearm. He also had a permit to carry his weapon at the time, but he did not disclose that fact to the officer.
Tamika Mallory, a civil rights activist and co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington held in January, debated Loesch on the CNN program. Mallory recently told the Huffington Post that the NRA stayed silent for so long after Yanez’s acquittal because “the NRA does not believe in protecting black and brown lives. They are not an organization that represents all people. Because if ... the NRA was an organization that represents all people, why would you not have a response to Philando Castile.”
Another voice among the NRA’s numerous post-verdict critics was Trevor Noah, host of TV’s “The Daily Show,” who also accused the organization of failing to speak up because Castile was black.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482