Is the NRA a ‘human rights’ organization? Google seems to think so

Gun Rights

Google “National Rifle Association.”

Search returns describe the gun-rights behemoth in various ways.

“Gun rights advocacy group,” Wikipedia reads.

“An American nonprofit organization which advocates for gun rights,” writes the Library of Congress.

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“The largest and most powerful gun rights organization in the United States” that “lobbies against gun control legislation and financially backs lawmakers who have historically not supported increased regulations,” USA Today reports.

None of them refer to the NRA as a “human rights” organization.

Except Google itself.

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There, prominently placed in the upper right corner of the search page, is a “knowledge panel” — a Google-generated box containing descriptive and statistical information about the NRA.

“Human rights group” is listed immediately below the NRA’s name and next to the organization’s logo.

Is this a mistake?

Raw Story asked Google.

Google spokesperson Colette Garcia declined to answer specific questions, including why Google lists the NRA as a “human rights group” and whether Google, institutionally, considers the NRA to be a “human rights group.” She also did not say whether Google has a corporate position on whether gun rights, in general, are human rights.

Instead, she emailed links to two Google primers on “knowledge panels,” including a 2020 blog item that explains how Google’s “knowledge graph” — a system that “understands facts and information about entities from materials shared across the web, as well as from open source and licensed databases” — populates knowledge panels on notable groups such as the NRA.

Google’s blog item notes that “inaccuracies in the knowledge graph can occasionally happen” and invites feedback from users who may consider something amiss.

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“We analyze feedback like this to understand how any actual inaccuracies got past our systems, so that we can make improvements generally across the knowledge graph overall,” Google’s blog item reads. “We also remove inaccurate facts that come to our attention for violating our policies, especially prioritizing issues relating to public interest topics such as civic, medical, scientific, and historical issues or where there’s a risk of serious and immediate harm.”

Informed by Raw Story about Google’s knowledge panel for the NRA, representatives for two gun control organizations expressed dismay.

“In no world should the NRA be listed here as a human rights group. In fact, I’d argue they are in direct competition with the work actual human rights organizations are doing to protect the lives of our children and communities,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady, a nonprofit group that advocates against gun violence. “Given the NRA is directly responsible for so many unnecessary deaths, one option might be to list them as a ‘Mass Shooter Defense Fund’ or perhaps, ‘Pro-death advocates.’”Max Steele, a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, another anti-gun violence organization, accused the NRA of playing “a leading role in building an America where gun violence kills tens of thousands of people a year and is the number one cause of death for children and teens.

Calling the NRA a “human rights” group “is enough to make North Korean propagandists blush,” Steele added.

The NRA, which says it has about 5 million members, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The NRA self-identifies in variety of ways: “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization,” “foremost defender of Second Amendment rights,” “premier firearms education organization,” “major political force,” winner of “big battles for your gun rights.”

While the NRA occasionally has argued that “self-defense is a basic human right,” such as in a statement from 2008, it does not overtly advertise itself as a human rights group.

The NRA remains a force in American politics. In May, it endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election, and Trump personally accepted the nomination.

“Gun owners must vote,” Trump told NRA members at the organization’s annual convention in Dallas. “We want a landslide.”

But in recent years, the NRA’s political power has waned and federal lobbying expenditures have decreased as scandals rocked its leadership ranks and operations.

In February, a civil jury found the NRA and its longtime CEO, Wayne LaPierre, liable for gross financial mismanagement.

The NRA has also been accused of illegal political coordination and experienced high-profile infighting.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivak Murthy on Tuesday declared gun violence a public health emergency. He advocated for a suite of new gun laws and restrictions directly opposed to the NRA’s pro-gun agenda, including a ban on automatic rifles, universal background checks for people seeking to buy guns and tighter regulations for the gun manufacturing industry.

In the United States, deaths by firearms have risen sharply during the past decade, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data compiled by nonpartisan research organization USA Facts.

Children are among those most adversely affected, with gun deaths rising 50 percent between 2019 and 2021, the Pew Research Center reported.

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