Yesterday, we reported that NRA lapdog Mitch McConnell suddenly (and conveniently) had an attack of conscience over an 80-year-old statue of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. McConnell is calling for its removal from Kentucky’s state capitol building. Why is McConnell doing it? Because it’s exactly what the NRA must have right now to prevent gun control measures; and McConnell is not the only one singing the NRA’s song.

In neighboring Tennessee, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper, a Democrat representing the Nashville area, is calling for the removal of another prominent figure of the Confederacy, Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest. General Forrest’s bust stands on the top floor of the state capitol building.

A slave trader as well as a plantation owner, Forrest is infamous for his association with the Ku Klux Klan during the Reconstruction Years following the American Civil War. According to many historical accounts, Forrest was the Klan’s first “Grand Wizard.” In 1868, he described it to an Ohio newspaper reporter as “a protective political military organization,” according to Matt Gardell in his 2003 book, Gods of the Blood: the Pagan Revival and White Separatism.

Like Kentucky, Tennessee is a stronghold of gun owners’ rights supporters – and Jim Cooper is among them.  In 2003, he voted in favor of a bill prohibiting plaintiffs from bringing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Two years later, he again voted “yes” on a similar bill to shield gun makers from liability. He has long been an NRA supporter, which financed one of his early campaigns to the tune of $10,000 – almost the legal limit back during the pre-Citizens United Era.

Considering his connections with the NRA, it’s no small wonder that Cooper has grabbed onto this latest opportunity to use a recent tragedy in order to shore up his own political career and influence with the NRA.

As we at Ring of Fire were the first to raise this issue, doesn’t it seem quite clear that the NRA is the force behind placing all focus on the South Carolina tragedy on the Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols, rather than focusing on Gun Control – the real issue.

We must not lose focus.


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.