In a blog post yesterday, gun rights blogger and Virginia State Director of Gun Owners of America (GOA) John Crump claimed that I erred when I wrote Sept. 3 that Larry Pratt, the retired executive director of GAO, has pushed conspiracy theories for years, including that the 2012 Aurora theater shooting was a false flag operation by the federal government.
“Maulbetsch tried to paint Gun Owners of America as conspiracy theorists… Maulbetsch incorrectly claimed that executive director emeritus of GOA Larry Pratt said the Aurora theater murderer might have been a government agent,” wrote Crump.
“Larry Pratt never claimed that the Aurora murderer was a government agent,” asserted Crump, who notably does not disclose that he is also a state director for the group he is defending.
I did not, in fact, assert that he did. I wrote that the group has a history of promoting conspiracies.
Nevertheless, there’s no debate that Pratt has promoted this conspiracy theory–and many others.
In his critique of my article, focuses on my reference to a July 2012 Mother Jones article by Tim Murphy reporting on a news release sent by a public relations firm, presumably on Pratt’s behalf.
It raises the possibility of a conspiracy based on the timing of the Aurora theater massacre and then offers Pratt as available to discuss the shooter’s “impeccable timing.”
That Pratt hadn’t personally made the statement was Crump’s objection. He asserted that the press release pitching Pratt as guest was sent out independently and didn’t necessarily reflect Pratt’s thinking.
I should thank Crump, however, for challenging me to find another source.
Even if his far-fetched assertion were true, Murphy’s reporting was confirmed that same day by another reporter.
Over the course of our email conversation, I sent Crump another story, published by Dave Weigel (then with Slate) just hours after Murphy’s story broke. Weigel reached Pratt by phone and asked him about the conspiracy. Pratt’s answer is unequivocal:
“We’re still not clear who may or may not have been involved with the guy,” said Pratt. “He found a way back into the theater, and we don’t know how that happened. He may have jimmied the door himself; somebody may have worked with him. It’s reasonable to ask. Here we are, the same week they may be signing a UN gun control treaty. After the government got involved in Fast and Furious, the WAY they got involved, it’s not a preposterous question to ask – if this was some kind of operation. …If we know that the government is willing to have a river of blood run through Mexico, then, yeah I want to know more about this guy Holmes.”GOA executive director Larry Pratt, July 25, 2012.
I sent this link to Crump in the last of several emails we exchanged on Sept 17. His response was that he had already submitted his article for editing. I have since updated my original piece with a link to Weigel’s story.
His post attacking me was published five days later on Sept. 22, yet includes no mention of Pratt’s own words.
I didn’t spend much time in my previous story detailing other examples of Pratt’s conspiracist statements in large part because they have been so widely reported. In the spirit of thoroughness, however, I’ll list a few here.
Following President Obama’s reelection in 2012, Pratt falsely claimed that the federal government would use the Affordable Care Act as a pretext to take away Americans’ firearms.
In 2013, Pratt told a conspiracist radio host that then-President Obama was secretly setting up his own armed security force, in case “he can’t actually commandeer the military.”
In 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that GOA legislative counsel Mike Hammond told the far-right news outlet OANN “we suspect that the federal government is anticipating and preparing for confrontation with American citizens,” citing purchases of ammunition by the Dept. of Agriculture and Postal Service, both of which employ armed investigators.
Two weeks prior to Hammond’s statements, the libertarian and very pro-gun Reason Magazine debunked the same conspiracy theory he promoted on the air.