(HOUSTON) — The hard-charging publicity arm of the National Rifle Association is engaged in an increasingly vicious Twitter battle with Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, as the firearms organization struggles to contain fallout from yet another mass shooting.
The result has been a multi-day social media battle between Houston’s top law enforcement official and a prominent and outspoken NRA personality. On Tuesday, the dispute escalated to include threats of legal filings, references to Nazi Germany and suggestions of inappropriate surveillance.
After last Friday’s mass shooting at Santa He High School in Texas, which left ten people dead 13 wounded, Acevedo posted a desperate and emotional plea on his Facebook page to do something about gun violence.
“I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue,” Acevedo wrote. “Please do not post anything about guns [not being] the problem and [that] there’s little we can do.”
“This isn’t a time for prayers, and study and inaction,” he continued. “It’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction.”
He followed up the comments on CBS News’ Face the Nation, calling on the public to vote out lawmakers “that are doing nothing” on gun violence.
NRATV, a combative video production and social media operation that frequently targets perceived opponents of the gun organization, soon released multiple videos of NRATV hosts and guests criticizing Acevedo over his statements on gun violence and his so-called “sanctuary city” stance.
“I call him a political hack, in many respects, because he does the bidding of left-wing city officers that hire him,” NRATV host Grant Stinchfield said in a clip the organization tweeted Monday. One Texas law enforcement officials, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn, agreed in the clip, saying most law enforcement officers in Texas are “Second Amendment people.”
“Art Acevedo is a police chief who thinks it’s completely appropriate to ignore the law of the land when it concerns legal immigration,” NRA spokesperson Dana Leosch said in a separate clip, “but thinks that he has the right to apparently go into every home in Texas and inspect how everybody’s storing their #firearms.”
Acevedo responded in a string of tweets late Monday night.
“NRATV is against what most major cities…police chiefs have to say about these issues,” he wrote.
“NRATV is losing the moral high ground on what was once their core values, so let’s try to talk about anything and everything under the Sun to deflect from issue at hand,” he replied to a tweet from Loesch. “We know we are on the right track when that happens.”
When a third NRATV clip accused Acevedo of ignoring gang violence in Houston to go after gun owners, the police chief replied, “Blah blah blah,” and linked to an article about his department’s arrest of hundreds of gang members.
Acevedo “was incredibly unhappy that I and others called him out,” Loesch said in a clip released on Twitter on Tuesday, accusing Acevedo of espousing a “gun-grabbing ideology.”
Acevedo responded with screenshots of him turning down Loesch’s interview request, and warned further discussion would take place in a legal setting.
“We will be watching and will do our talking in a court of law if the need arises,” he wrote.
Loesch retweeted a tweet from a conservative commentator comparing Acevedo to the Gestapo, and was still tweeting at the police chief into Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s surreal to see a chief reacting to free speech this way,” she wrote, eventually questioning whether she was already under surveillance.
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