It seems that at least one official at the National Rifle Association has had trouble squaring the reality of mass shootings in the U.S. with his beliefs about guns. But instead of leaving the organization or pushing for gun reform, NRA officer Mark Richardson went the other way, reaching out to a conspiracy theorist who believes that the Sandy Hook massacre was a false flag, according to HuffPost.
Richardson emailed Wolfgang Halbig, one of the most notorious Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists, just hours after the Parkland, FL mass shooting that left 17 dead in 2018. Halbig is well-known for harassing parents of children who died in the 2012 Newtown, CT shooting, which killed 20 children and six adults.
“Just like [Sandy Hook], there is so much more to this story,” Richardson wrote in an email to Halbig on Feb. 15, 2018, just one day after the Parkland shooting. “[The Parkland shooter] was not alone.”
Richardson, an NRA training instructor and program coordinator, wrote the email from his official account. He told HuffPost that by contacting Halbig, he was merely asking a “legitimate question.”
“Since an individual who was prohibited from the school was aloud [sic] to pass through the front doors with a backpack containing a long gun, it is a legitimate question to ask if he had assistance concerning access to the school,” Richardson told HuffPost.
“No one else seems to be interested enough to even ask the question?” he added.
Richardson’s email was discovered thanks to a lawsuit filed by Sandy Hook mother Scarlett Lewis against conspiracy theorist and InfoWars founder Alex Jones. Jones has been instrumental in spreading the theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax, and has hosted Halbig on his program multiple times.
A recent episode of This American Life that explored the Sandy Hook conspiracies and how they’ve impacted parents who lost children in the attack described Halbig’s relentless targeting of Sandy Hook parent Lenny Pozner. Halbig apparently once ordered a background check on Pozner that he then published, which included Pozner’s Social Security number and a list of nearly every address he’s ever lived at, among other personal details.
Jones is currently the target of several other lawsuits, including one brought by nine Sandy Hook parents, and another that accuses him of falsely identifying a suspected shooter in the Parkland attack.
One of the Sandy Hook parents currently suing Jones, Jeremy Richman, died on Monday in an apparent suicide at his office in Newtown, CT. Two Parkland survivors have also died by suspected suicide in the last week.
Brooke Binkowski, an assistant on Lewis’ case, found Richardson’s email as she was combing through hundreds of emails from Halbig’s inbox.
“I had just spent the past six hours reading thousands of deeply disturbing emails Mr. Halbig sent to government agencies, political groups, and media organizations soliciting support for his dangerous fixation on Sandy Hook,” Binkowski told HuffPost in a statement. “I was shocked when that support came from an NRA official in 2018.”
Halbig was apparently excited to receive the email from Richardson.
“After 4 years of emailing the NRA I finally got a response in light of the Broward County School Shooting,” he wrote, going on to question Richardson’s motives.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said that the Sandy Hook shooting took place in 2014. The shooting in fact happened in 2012. We regret the error.