Mayor: NRA, Civil War Museum exhibit represent ‘tone deaf’ ideology

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Mayor Eric Papenfuse fired back Tuesday against a National Civil War Museum exhibit he calls “tone deaf.”

ABC27 News first reported Monday the city’s top leader opposed the exhibit funded by the National Rifle Association Foundation.

The museum is where it starts, but not where it ends.

“We seem to be building up this fetishization, I would call it, of guns,” Papenfuse said Tuesday afternoon.

The Harrisburg Democrat has been at odds with the NRA since last year when the group challenged new gun laws in the city. Now, they’re funding an exhibit at a museum he wants to close down.

“It’s worse than that,” he said. The exhibit contains a pistol used by Confederate guerilla leader William Clarke Quantrill, best known for raiding Lawrence, Kansas and killing more than 180 civilian men and boys, some of them in front of their parents. He’s also known for capturing runaway slaves and returning them to slavery.

The revolver on display is “not just any artifact,” Papenfuse said. “It is something that represents the absolute worst of society.”

Museum CEO Wayne Motts said Monday he sees it differently.

“This is American history,” he said, “and that’s what we do. We’re going to show both sides of it.”

The exhibit, he said, keeps in line with their objective to provide Harrisburg an educational view of the war.

“The museum is continuing with what it does, which is its mission to present topics related to the American Civil War, and we’re going to continue to do that here,” Motts said.

The NRA said the museum approached the group about the idea, and it funded the project to promote firearm education and safety.

“They are supporting an exhibit which I think is repugnant to the basic values that city residents share,” Papenfuse said.

The “fetishization of guns,” as he calls it, can also be seen at the Great American Outdoor Show, he said; he wants to get rid of assault-style rifles at the show.

A ban like that happened three years ago in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and the backlash and subsequent boycott prompted the organizers at the time to cancel the exhibition.

Now that a gun rights group runs it, Papenfuse said, it represents a tone-deaf ideology.

“I think the outdoor show as a show can continue in Harrisburg,” he said. “I think the problem is with the NRA.”

The NRA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As for the exhibit, Papenfuse said his office did not organize any kind of protest at the museum for Wednesday (when show visitors can get a free ride to the exhibit from Capital Area Transit), but if one materialized, he planned to be there to support it.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC 27 News App and the ABC 27 Weather App for your phone or tablet.

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