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FCC chairman to NRA: Thanks, but no thanks for the gun award

Ajit Pai, on advice of agency ethics lawyers, declines to accept a rifle from the NRA for his work in overturning Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

Conservatives Rally Together At Annual CPAC Gathering

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was given the "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" by the National Rifle Association during the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. He has since declined the honor. 

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai declined to accept the National Rifle Association's gun award on the advice of ethics lawyers, officials at the agency confirmed.

The NRA gave Pai the "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" last week at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC is the country's largest annual gathering of conservative activists.

On Thursday, the Republican FCC chairman sent letters to the NRA and to the American Conservative Union, which hosts the CPAC conference, declining the award on the advice of FCC ethics lawyers and noting he was "surprised" that he had been chosen to receive it, according to a report by Politico.

The award was a handmade Kentucky long rifle, which the NRA said would stay at the group's museum in Fairfax, Virginia, until he was able to accept it. Pai said in his letter that after consulting with the FCC's career ethics attorneys, he wouldn't be able to accept the award even after he leaves the agency, according to Politico.

The gun lobby reportedly chose Pai for the award because of his work in repealing Obama-era net neutrality rules. Pai, who was elevated to his position as chairman of the agency by President Donald Trump, led the charge to remove the regulation in a 3-2 vote that was split along party lines. He has faced criticism from net neutrality advocates and has reportedly received death threats over the politically charged and controversial issue.

Last week, the FCC published the final notice of the repeal in the Federal Register, which starts a 60-day clock until the rules are removed. While the repeal was voted on in December, the rules will actually expire on or around April 23. A coalition of 23 state attorneys general have already refiled a lawsuit challenging the FCC's rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations.

Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the internet be treated equally. In 2015, under President Barack Obama, a Democrat-led FCC passed rules that barred broadband companies from slowing or blocking access to certain websites or services. It also prohibited internet service providers from charging companies a fee to access customers more quickly.

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