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Charleston church shooting: NRA official blames slain minister for deaths

A Houston attorney on the National Rifle Association's board of directors is blaming the deadly Charleston church shooting on slain pastor Clementa Pinckney, who had opposed concealed-carry legislation in his role as a state senator.

Clementa Pinckney voted against concealed-carry law as senator, Charles Cotton says

Potential buyers heft shotguns at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Houston in May 2013. The lobbying group, which once helped draft common-sense gun laws, now rejects virtually any restrictions. (Reuters)

A Houston attorney on the National Rifle Association's board of directors is blaming the deadly Charleston church shooting on one of the victims, saying the slain pastor had opposed concealed-carry legislation as a state senator that could have saved him and his fellow worshippers.

Houston attorney Charles Cotton, who's on the board of the National Rifle Association, says Clementa Pinckney's refusal to back concealed-carry legislation led to the massacre at his church in Charleston, S.C. (Texas Bar Association)
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Charles Cotton confirmed that he posted a comment on an online discussion board about concealed handguns in which he wrote that "innocent people died because of [Clementa Pinckney's] position on a political issue."

The post appeared Thursday but has since been taken down.

Nine people were killed Wednesday night after a gunman opened fire during a Bible study at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where Pinckney was pastor.

Cotton told the AP he was expressing a personal opinion not reflective of the NRA. He also said he was "stumped" that his comments were still visible because he had deleted them after later deciding they were inappropriate.

Cotton said that Pinckney had voted against a concealed carry measure as a South Carolina senator, but a search of legislative archives could not immediately find any such measure.

Carries gun to church

And he noted that the South Carolina law that bans guns in places of worship unless specifically allowed was the exact opposite of Texas law, which allows guns unless they are specifically prohibited. Cotton, a former police officer in Friendswood, south of Houston, said he carries a gun into church.

"That's the thing that's frustrating to me: Laws that disarm intended victims," Cotton told the AP. "How many more is it going to take when people realize there is no such thing as a gun-free zone?"

His comments seemed to echo those made by NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre after the massacre at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school in December 2012 that claimed 26 lives: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

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