The National Rifle Association on Friday honored Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai for the "courage" he displayed in repealing the net neutrality rules.
The award was presented by the NRA immediately before Pai was scheduled o give a speech at the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference.
At the event, American Conservative Union executive director Dan Schneider, praised Pai for the agency's decision to repeal the Obama-era open Internet rules. Among other restrictions, the rules prohibited broadband providers from censoring content by blocking or throttling material.
"The Obama administration had some curveballs, and they implemented these regulations to take over the internet," Schneider said, referring to the rules. "As soon as President Trump came into office, President Trump asked Ajit Pai to liberate the internet and give it back to you."
Schneider added that Pai has received death threats and that his "property has been invaded by the George Soros crowd." Last year, Pai said his family was harassed at home by "Internet regulation activists."
When NRA board of directors member Carolyn Meadows took the podium to honor Pai, she told him the "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award" is only given "when someone had stood up under pressure with grace and dignity and principled discipline."
Prior recipients have included Vice-President Mike Pence and radio host Rush Limbaugh. Meadows said that she couldn't bring the award itself -- a handmade rifle -- onstage, but added that the NRA will give the handmade gun to Pai in the future.
The FCC published the full text of the net neutrality repeal Thursday. The order won't take effect for at least two months.
Pai argued that the net neutrality rules were too "heavy handed." But net neutrality proponents -- including consumer advocacy groups and tech companies -- counter that the rules are necessary to prevent broadband providers from engaging in censorship, and from harming competitors.
A coalition of 23 attorneys general are challenging the repeal in court, as are Mozilla, Vimeo and consumer advocacy groups. Senator Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) said Thursday he is pressing forward with a resolution to scrap the FCC's recent move. So far, that effort has garnered the support of 50 senators.
A survey conducted by the University of Maryland late last year revealed that 83% of Americans -- including 75% of Republicans -- disapproved of the planned repeal.