Al Sharpton had some harsh words for the NRA, which, in his opinion, has failed to support the rights of black gun owners. The civil rights activist said the issue became disturbingly clear when the National Rifle Association was largely silent in the days following the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. According to reports, both men were carrying firearms in a non-threatening manner when they were shot and killed by police officers.
On July 5, the Baton Rouge Police Department was dispatched to a convenience store, where a man reportedly threatened someone with a gun. Upon arriving on-scene, the officers identified 37-year-old Alton Sterling as the suspect in question.
CNN reports video footage, which was recorded by several witnesses, proves Alton Sterling was being held on the ground by two officers when he was shot dead. Although he was in possession of a handgun, which was not registered, the weapon was in Sterling’s pocket when he was killed.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II were placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the controversial shooting. Local officials confirmed the investigation will be “led by federal authorities.”
On July 6, St. Anthony, Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez approached a vehicle driven by Philando Castile because he and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, reportedly resembled suspects in a recent robbery.
According to Reynolds, Castile pulled over when he saw the officer’s flashing lights. When Yanez approached the vehicle, Castile reportedly told him he had the required permit and was in possession of a weapon.
Diamond Reynolds said her boyfriend then reached for his wallet so he could give the officer his identification. However, he struggled with the wallet because it was wedged in his pocket.
Although it is unclear why, Officer Jeronimo Yanez then pulled out his service weapon and shot Philando Castile dead. As she believed the shooting was unwarranted, Reynolds began filming the scene with her cell phone.
As reported by ABC News, Yanez can be heard telling the woman to “keep her hands up.” He can also be heard saying “I told him to reach for it. I told him to get his hands out.”
In response, Reynolds told the officer, “you shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”
— TheBlaze (@theblaze) July 12, 2016
Officers Jeronimo Yanez, and Joseph Kauser, who was also on-scene when the shooting occurred, were both placed on administrative leave pending investigation.
Although the NRA is notorious for their response to incidents involving gun owners, they were unusually silent in the days following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Al Sharpton suggests the NRA simply was not interested because the men were black.
He discussed the apparent lack of response during an interview with Politico.
“Both of them were killed by police based on ‘they had a gun,’ Now I missed the NRA coming out and defending the gun rights they legally had. Where is the NRA? Where is [NRA president] Wayne LaPierre now… Maybe you mean the Second Amendment is for whites only.”
In response to criticism from Al Sharpton, and many others in the wake of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s shooting deaths, the NRA posted a message via Twitter. The message explained that the organization will refrain from commenting until the investigations are complete.
“As the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, the NRA proudly supports the right of law-abiding Americans to carry firearms for defense of themselves and others regardless of race, religion or sexual orientations… rest assured the NRA will have more to say once the facts are known.”
Although Al Sharpton criticized the NRA’s response to both shootings, he also offered some advice for law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.
— Fox News Video (@foxnewsvideo) July 11, 2016
Sharpton said accountability is the only thing that will reduce the number of suspects killed at the hand of law enforcement officials. In his opinion, law enforcement officials need more training to prevent unnecessary death. He also said those who become involved in unwarranted shootings need to understand they will be held accountable for their actions.