The NRA Shoots Itself in the Foot

The National Rifle Association finally weighed in on the gun debate today, in a news conference (albeit one in which they took no questions) setting out their feelings at this critical moment. And they gave the movement for greater restrictions on guns the biggest favor it could have hoped for. While the organization was once devoted to marksmanship and gun safety, in recent years it has increasingly become a shill for the gun manufacturers that fund it and the home of unhinged conspiracy theorists. As it showed today, the worst thing it can do for its cause is to step into the light.

You can read Wayne LaPierre's entire statement here, but here's a choice excerpt:

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?

The italics and exclamation points are in the original. LaPierre went on to say, "There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people." Gun manufacturers? Nope. Hollywood! He went on to blame the news media, and even added a little doomsday prepper rhetoric ("Add another hurricane, terrorist attack or some other natural or man-made disaster, and you've got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization"). And then came the proposal: What we need to do, LaPierre said, is immediately place armed police officers in every school in America.

So the NRA's plan is this: Make sure that as many people as possible buy as many guns as possible and are allowed to take them into as many places as possible. And then, as this army of "monsters and predators" descends upon our schools, have someone there to return fire. Sounds reasonable.

If the NRA had just kept its head low like it did after every other mass shooting we've had in recent years, it would have done itself a favor. But I think that in years to come we may look back on this press conference as one of the key moments in a change in how people and legislators think of the NRA. It was a big public reminder, to people who may not have been aware of it, that these people are crazy. Even many gun owners, and many of the NRA's own members, think the positions the organization takes are too extreme. When it's this public about its dream vision of the society it would like to see, where every public place, from streets to supermarkets to parks to restaurants to schools, is nothing more than a gun battle waiting to happen, people are going to recoil in disgust. And to repeat, that includes lots of people who own guns.

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