Charles Cotton, a National Rifle Association board member, on Friday offended people mourning Clementa Pinckney, the Charleston, South Carolina, pastor who died this week in a shooting that also killed eight other members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Cotton said Pinckney, who was also a state senator, caused his own death because of his stances on state gun laws, the website Think Progress reported.
As a state senator, Pinckney advocated for tougher gun regulations in South Carolina and opposed a law that would have allowed people to carry guns into churches. Cotton, a Texas-based gun collector who has served on the NRA's board for 13 years, used a TexasCHLForum.com message board to reference “eight of [Pinckney's] church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead."
Pinckney, 41, died after Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused shooter, opened fire during a Bible study meeting Wednesday night. Pinckney was 23 when he was elected to South Carolina's Legislature, making him the youngest black man to accomplish that feat, according to a biography on the Emanuel AME website.
— Gloria Gevirtz✡ (@GGevirtz) June 19, 2015
Pinckney voted against the concealed carry law, Cotton wrote, and "innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.” The entry seemed to have been deleted from the forum after Cotton reportedly posted the comments Thursday. To see a screenshot of the post, click here.
Contacted by the Washington Post Friday, Cotton explained his comments: "It was a discussion we were having about so-called gun-free zones. It's my opinion that there should not be any gun-free zones in schools or churches or anywhere else. If we look at mass shootings that occur, most happen in gun-free zones."
An NRA spokesman told the Post that Cotton and other board members "do not speak for the NRA and do not have the authority to speak for the NRA."