Just a few points from the article.
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."
The Columbine shooting in Littleton, Colo., was at the time the deadliest school shooting since the late 1960s, threatening to provide a tragic backdrop to the NRA's previously scheduled annual convention in Denver. Billboards advertising a "World Class Guns & Gear Expo" already peppered the city. Meanwhile, hate mail began arriving at the NRA's offices.
One day after the shootings, the NRA's top executives, officials, lobbyists and public relations strategists all scrambled on to a conference call to deal with the crisis. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre is on the line, as is longtime NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer and advertising strategist Angus McQueen, among others. The dilemma they face is apparent in their conversations.
"At that same period where they're going to be burying these children, we're going to be having media ... trying to run through the exhibit hall, looking at kids fondling firearms, which is going to be a horrible, horrible, horrible juxtaposition," says NRA lobbyist Jim Baker on the conference call.
"I got to tell you, we got to think this thing through, because if we tuck tail and run, we're going to be accepting responsibility for what happened out there," says NRA official Jim Land.