‘How to Sell a Massacre’ an Al Jazeera Investigation into Australia’s One Nation Party and Gun Lobby

  • Australia’s One Nation Party Lobbying the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) for Millions of Dollars
  • One Nation’s Chief of Staff, James Ashby, hoped to secure $US20 million political donations to “own the lower house and the upper house”

DOHA, Qatar, March 25, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A three-year undercover operation by Al Jazeera shows officials from the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) advising delegates from an Australian political party on how to roll back strict gun control laws and how to deal with critics following a mass shooting.

Representatives from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation political party were seen seeking millions of dollars in donations from supporters of the U.S. gun lobby in Washington D.C. in order for more guns to flow into Australia. They were coached on how to react if softer gun laws ever led to a mass shooting there.

An NRA media liaison officer said the organization remains silent in the immediate aftermath of a multiple shooting, but then launches an attack on critics: “Offense, offense, offense, which is what the NRA does very well.”

Another media officer recommended smearing advocates of gun control for exploiting a mass shooting that led to the deaths of children:

“How dare you stand on the graves of those children to put forth your political agenda? Just shame them to the whole idea. It’s like if you, if your policy, isn’t good enough to stand on itself, how dare you use their deaths to push that forward.”

An Australian undercover reporter, Rodger Muller, posed as a pro-gun advocate and filmed with concealed cameras during meetings with the NRA. The evidence forms part of a two-hour documentary by Al Jazeera into the U.S. gun lobby entitled “How to Sell a Massacre”.

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit infiltrated the U.S. gun lobby to find out how it operates. The unit engaged an Australian undercover reporter, Rodger Muller, to pose as the president of a pro-gun organisation, Gun Rights Australia. 

‘Gun Rights Australia’ claimed to advocate for the repeal of strict gun control laws in Australia that had been introduced following a massacre in the town of Port Arthur in 1996. The Australian gun control legislation led to the destruction of more than 650,000 firearms and has been vigorously opposed by the NRA.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern announced the introduction of a similar ban on all military-style assault rifles last week, following the attack on mosques in Christchurch that left 50 dead.

In a series of meetings within the NRA, Muller covertly recorded conversations that revealed concern within the organization over the impact of Australia’s gun control laws on the U.S. at a time of increasing public outrage over mass killings.

Media liaison officer Catherine Mortensen described ghost writing stories for the American media: A lot of the times, we’ll write them for like a local sheriff in Wisconsin or whatever.
They’ll submit it with their name on it so that it looks organic. You know, that it’s coming from that community. But we will have a role behind the scenes.”

NRA staff members said their aim is to promote a simple message that focuses on the public’s fear of being attacked.

“We want to print up stories about people who were robbed, had their homes invaded, beaten or whatever it might be and that could have been helped had they had a gun,” says Lars Dalseide, from the public relations team.

According to Ms. Mortensen: “When you start talking about issues that become too complicated or make them think too hard, you’ve kind of lost it. You want something that they can get to, like the American flag. Oh, my gosh, we all get that one, that’s easy.”

One senior NRA lobbyist told Muller that staffers within the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, based in Washington D.C., were bracing for a violent assault from anti-gun protestors:

“We’ve got our armed security guard out front… we don’t have firearms in our office so we all have random weapons in case the guy gets past our security guard. I literally have a ladder to throw out my window. James at the end has a hatchet,” the lobbyist said.

Muller also recorded meetings within affiliated gun lobby groups in which members of the One Nation party said they were seeking up to $US20 million in political donations in the lead-up to Australia’s federal elections.

One Nation’s Chief of Staff, James Ashby, had told Muller that he wanted his meetings with gun lobby groups to be kept secret.

“We need to be mindful that anything in writing can always be tracked and traced and used against you,” Ashby said. “If this gets out, it will f**king rock the boat.”

Peter Charley, Reporter: +61 449 754 933

Al Jazeera Press Office: pressoffice@aljazeera.net | +974 5050 9111