Larry Pratt, the executive director emeritus of Gun Owners of America, was duped by actor Sacha Baron Cohen into supporting a fake Israeli program to arm kindergartners.
The fake program “Kinderguardians” also earned the support of current and former Republican politicians, in part because Cohen had previously secured the endorsement of two men who are leaders in the gun lobby, including Pratt. However, that’s hardly Larry Pratt’s first brush with controversy. Over the years, an old Rolling Stone article noted, Larry Pratt’s critics have called him “extreme, radical, pernicious, creepy, dogged, effective.”
According to Rolling Stone, Pratt “built the model for a gun-rights movement that has transformed the landscape of American gun politics.” The Southern Poverty Law Center says that Larry Pratt “stands at the intersection of guns and Jesus, lobbying for absolutely unrestricted distribution of firearms while advocating a theocratic society based upon Old Testament civil and religious laws.” The group alleges that he has appeared at a gathering with militia groups and white supremacists.
Who is Larry Pratt? Here’s what you need to know:
1. Larry Pratt Once Held Elective Office in Virginia & Ran an ‘English First’ Group
Larry Pratt has held positions in far right organizations, and he also once held political office. Pratt “has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates,” his bio says. “Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.”
On his Twitter page, Pratt lists himself as Executive Director Emeritus of @GunOwners in Springfield, Virginia. His most recent tweet in the wake of the show reads, “Help vulnerable Christian refugees in Thailand!” and links to a YouCaring page.
Gun Owners of America defines itself as “a non-profit lobbying organization formed in 1975 to preserve and defend the Second Amendment rights of gun owners. GOA sees firearms ownership as a freedom issue. GOA was founded in 1975 by Sen. H.L. (Bill) Richardson (now retired).” The group is said to consider the NRA too moderate.
First Amendment Studies also wrote that Pratt was once president of groups called English First and Border Control as well as serving as chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council Alumni Committee, as a delegate for Ronald Reagan at the 1980 Republican National Convention, and as president of the Committee to Protect the Family. His wife is named Priscilla, and he lives in Springfield, Virginia.
The Guardian described English First as an “anti-immigrant organization.” Rolling Stone called it a “racially charged war against bilingual education.” SPLC calls it a group “devoted to lobbying for English as the nation’s official language.”
In the Cohen show, Pratt stands out when he “eventually laughs heartily at Cohen’s stories of marital rape, an innocent Muslim shot while praying, and plenty more.”
2. Pratt Was Raised in New Jersey & Once Called for an AIDS Quarantine
Larry Pratt was raised in Camden, New Jersey by an electrical engineer father who sold televisions and a stay-at-home mother, according to The New York Times. His first experience with a gun came on a duck-hunting trip, and he first bought a gun during riots near Washington D.C. in the 1960s. He is married with four children, and a graduate of American University with a political science degree, The Times reported. He took over leadership of GOA in 1976.
Rolling Stone reported that Pratt bought his first gun during riots in the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, saying, “There were some racial difficulties. I heard on the radio that the police weren’t sure they could control the rioters coming north on 16th Street, so I went out and bought a shotgun.”
According to Rolling Stone, Pratt once called for quarantining AIDS patients. “Our judges coddle criminals instead of caring for the victims of crime,” he wrote in a fundraising letter, according to the magazine. “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.”
3. Pratt Is an Author Who Caused Controversy With a Press Release Advocating Guns After a School Shooting
Time Magazine reports that Pratt once called controversy when, in 1998, after a teenager in Oregon killed his parents and two students at school, Pratt sent out a press release that bore the headline, “Lesson of School Shootings: More Guns Needed at Schools.”
According to his bio on the Gun Owners of America webiste, Pratt “has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as CNN’s Piers Morgan, NBC’s Today Show, CBS’ Good Morning America, CNN’s Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox’s Hannity and Colmes and many others. He has debated Congressman James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.”
During a debate on gun control after the Sandy Hook school shooting, then CNN host Piers Morgan said to Pratt, “You’re an unbelievably stupid man, aren’t you?” Pratt had blamed gun-free zones in schools for the mass shooting.
He is the author of a book called Armed People Victorious, which he wrote in 1990 and he edited another book in 1995 called, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias. In 2001, he wrote the book On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty.
4. Pratt Has Spoken at Rallies Against Gun Confiscation & Resigned From Pat Buchanan’s Campaign
Pratt recently attended a rally to oppose a bill that would allow law enforcement to confiscate the guns of people who show warning signs of violence, according to an article on the Gun Owners of America website headlined, “Firearms fans vow to never give up their fight.”
The article says that Pratt joined a rally in Harrisburg called “Rally to Protect Your Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” Said Pratt, according to the article, “The only standard that would have to be used in this measure is whether or not the owner represents some danger. Well I would imagine everyone in this room could be seen by somebody, especially by liberals, as some danger. I would say that this is the place, the time to contact your legislators and tell them that the so called red flag law that is a gun confiscation law … it doesn’t belong here.”
A GOP staffer told Rolling Stone, “Larry’s a hardcore throwback and a bit of a weirdo — a black helicopter and Trilateral Commission kind of guy — but he has a certain brand and a name he’s been around forever.”
An Anti Defamation League article noted that Pratt “left presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan’s campaign …after being linked with white supremacist groups. His exit was ostensibly a ‘leave of absence’ and Pratt said he hoped to return. Patrick Buchanan supported Pratt, one of four co-chairmen of his campaign, while Bob Dole’s campaign headquarters said that Buchanan should have fired Pratt.”
The article claimed, “Pratt is the head of the Gun Owners of America, a group of about 150,000 radical second amendment activists who view the NRA as too moderate….Pratt emerged as one of the leading advocates of the militia movement in the early 1990s. He discussed forming militia groups in his 1990 book Armed People Victorious, and in 1992, following the Ruby Ridge incident, gave a speech advocating the forming of militia groups.” He spoke at a gathering that included white supremacist groups, according to ADL.
The Sunday Tribune reported of Pratt: “He admitted sharing a platform a with former Ku Klux Klan leader and an Aryan nation official. He has also been associated with the rightwing extremists of the US militia movement.”
According to SPLC, Pratt “spoke at the notorious 1992 ‘Gathering of Christian Men’ in Estes Park, Colo., where 160 neo-Nazis, Klan members, anti-Semitic Christian Identity adherents and others arguably laid the groundwork for the militia movement that would explode in 1994.”
SPLC alleges “it emerged that Pratt was a contributing editor to a periodical of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America, and that GOA had donated money to a white supremacist attorneys’ group,” adding, “Pratt’s worldview is heavily influenced by the tenets of Christian Reconstructionism, which is a particularly hard-line version of the larger movement of ‘dominionist’ Christians, who seek to impose Biblical law on civil society.”
5. After Columbine, Pratt Lamented That He Would Have to Put on His Suit & Tie & He Spoke About Arming Protestants in Northern Ireland
After Columbine, Larry Pratt told The New York Times, “This is bad, and there’s going to be a feeding frenzy on the gun issue, and I’ll probably have to wear a coat and tie to work for the next few days.”
The 1999 article said Pratt believes “there should be absolutely no regulations governing the sale or purchase of handguns – no waiting period, no background checks, no trigger locks. Automatic weapons should be as available as hunting rifles. People should be permitted to buy them in abundance.”
Pratt couches his support for guns in Biblical terms. According to Rolling Stone, he wrote an essay in 1999 called “What does the Bible Say About Gun Control?” In it, he wrote, “If Christ is not our King, we shall have a dictator to rule over us, just as Samuel warned.”
According to The Sunday Tribune, Pratt traveled to Northern Ireland and spoke of arming Protestants. The newspaper noted that Pratt has also argued that gun control led to the 9/11 terrorist attack.