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Family Research Council says civil rights group shares blame for shooting

The gunman was subdued after shooting a security guard in the arm in the offices of the conservative lobbying group. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET: WASHINGTON -- The president of the Family Research Council, whose employee was shot in the group's Washington, D.C., office, said on Thursday that a civil rights group bears some responsibility for the shooting. The rights group called the claim outrageous.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, age 28, of Herndon, Va., was charged in the Wednesday shooting.

"Floyd Corkins was responsible for firing the shot yesterday that wounded one of our colleagues and our friend," Tony Perkins said. "But Corkins was given a license to shoot an unarmed man by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center that have been reckless in labeling organizations hate groups because they disagree with them on public policy."


Perkins said the shooting victim, Leo Johnson, is not simply a security guard but is, in fact, the group's building manager, does not wear a uniform and does not carry a gun.

Told in the hospital Wednesday night that he was considered a hero, Johnson responded to Perkins, "This hero business is hard work."

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been strongly critical of the Family Research Council, and the two groups have been waging a public debate against each other for the past several years.

The SPLC's senior fellow Mark Potok called the comments by Perkins "outrageous":

"The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people -- not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.

"We criticize the FRC for claiming, in Perkins' words, that pedophilia is "a homosexual problem" -- an utter falsehood, as every relevant scientific authority has stated. An FRC official has said he wanted to 'export homosexuals from the United States.' The same official advocated the criminalizing of homosexuality.

"Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC's criticisms of the FRC and the FRC's criticisms of LGBT people. The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse -- claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people."

Court documents accuse Corkins of walking into the council’s headquarters and telling a security guard words to the effect of "I don't like your politics."  The documents said Corkins drew his gun and shot the guard in the arm before the guard subdued him. Another guard called police, they said.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Local and federal investigators gather evidence after a security guard was shot in the arm at the headquarters of the Family Research Council on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

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Authorities said Corkins was carrying a handgun, two additional loaded ammunition clips, and a box of 50 more rounds.

Also in his backpack, they said, were 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches.

Investigators said his parents told the FBI that their son "has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner."

Earlier: Security guard shot at conservative group's DC office

The Family Research Council strongly opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. Corkins had worked as a volunteer at a Washington center for homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people.

Perkins sent an e-mail to members last month in support of comments by the restaurant chain's president, Dan Cathy, who criticized same-sex marriage.

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Corkins appeared briefly in federal court earlier Thursday. He was ordered held without bond, and a public defender was appointed to represent him.

Corkins is in FBI custody as part of a probe into whether the shooting could be considered a hate crime, the FBI has said.

Pete Williams is NBC News' chief justice correspondent.

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