According to the New York Times, the new issue of the National Rifle Association’s magazine The American Sportsman has drawn scrutiny for featuring a photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona with a bold headline alongside them that reads “Target Practice.” Giffords was shot in the head in an assassination attempt during a meeting with her then-constituents in 2011 and subsequently retired from Congress at least in part due to impaired brain functionality.
The photo was taken at a January event announcing a proposal for legislation to expand background checks for people purchasing firearms.
The piece was penned by Chris W. Cox, who is listed as the executive director of the N.R.A.’s lobbying efforts, and described Rep. Pelosi as an “arch anti-gunner.” He also called the proposed legislation a deceptive “broadside against gun ownership in America.”
The photo and headline placement set off a Twitter firestorm over the weekend when HuffPost politics reporter Jennifer Bendery posted a photo of it.
Someone sent me this image of the latest copy of NRA's magazine, featuring a story with the words "Target Practice" next to a photo of Nancy Pelosi with Gabby Giffords. Maybe don't do this @NRA. pic.twitter.com/u9fQhxwEyk— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) February 22, 2019
Democrat and outspoken supporter of stricter gun regulations Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut took to Twitter to respond, claiming that the juxtaposition of the image with the anti-gun, Democrat women with the headline was no accident.
“Newsflash: they know what they’re doing here,” Sen. Murphy tweeted.
And a father of one of the victims of the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, Fred Guttenberg, likened the N.R.A. to a terrorist organization.
This article and incitement of violence against our current house speaker @SpeakerPelosi andformer Congresswoman and gun violence survivor @GabbyGiffords is a terror tactic from a terror group. The is the NRA today. https://t.co/0FwijWbcSr— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 23, 2019
Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell of California also joined the fray, accusing the organization of deliberately inciting violence and suggested legal action against them, as well as for voters to vote the N.R.A.’s favored politicians out of office.
“This is a call for violence by the @NRA against @GabbyGiffords, who was nearly killed by gunfire and @SpeakerPelosi, the most powerful legislator in America. The NRA should face legal consequences. But let’s put them out of business with boycotts and ballot boxes,” Rep. Swalwell wrote.
In response to Swalwell’s tweet, Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas claimed that the strong reaction to the photo and headline are misplaced and even suggested it was a calculated response meant to stir up the left.
“How can you claim this? Are you deliberately lying or did you just not read it?” Rep. Crenshaw wrote. “The article is about legislation targeting gun owners, not the N.R.A. targeting Democrats. If your goal is to ensure that ‘outrage culture’ is alive and well, continuing to divide us, congrats.”
The troubling photo and headline come at a time when threats of violence against elected officials seem to be growing more common. Trump adviser Roger Stone posted a photo of the federal judge hearing his criminal case with crosshairs near her, and Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson was arrested with a massive cache of weapons and had a list of politicians and media figures he seemed intent on targeting, a list that included Rep. Pelosi’s name.