“Everything we do here has a downside,” NRA official Kayne Robinson says on the tapes. “Don’t anybody kid yourself about this great macho thing of going down there and showing our chest and showing how damn tough we are. … We are in deep s*** on this deal. … And so anything we do here is going to be a matter of trying to decide the best of a whole bunch of very, very bad choices.”
The tapes of the NRA discussions were recorded secretly by a participant and shared on the condition that the participant’s name not be divulged. NPR has taken steps to verify the tapes’ authenticity, including by confirming the identities of those speaking on the tapes with two sources and comparing the voices on the calls with publicly available audio.
In addition to mapping out their national strategy, NRA leaders can also be heard describing the organization’s more activist members in surprisingly harsh terms, deriding them as “hillbillies” and “fruitcakes” who might go off script after Columbine and embarrass them.
And they dismiss conservative politicians and gun industry representatives as largely inconsequential players, saying they will do whatever the NRA proposes. Members of Congress, one participant says, have asked the NRA to “secretly provide them with talking points.”