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“The Mark Of A Weak Organization”: The NRA And America’s Long History Of Absolutist Extremism

Watching Wayne LaPierre’s press conference today (transcript here) I found myself searching for various synonyms of “insane” to describe it. Unglued, unhinged, taken leave of his senses, etc. It reads like the nutty handwritten letters to the editor magazines get, complete with lots of italicizations and exclamation points.

But the truth is this is not true madness. It’s something as old as the country, which bears some eerie similarity to the extremism of the slavery movement, as a lovely piece Ta-Nehisi Coates put up today argued. Here’s a taste:

In the 1850s, slaveholders got their way in Congress (including a hardened Fugitive Slave Act), in the Supreme Court (the Dred Scott decision), and in the White House (occupied by a succession of doughfaces). But proslavery hardliners weren’t satisfied. They sought the resumption of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which the Constitution had banned as of 1808. They branded moderates like Abraham Lincoln–who pledged to leave slavery alone in the South–as members of a “Black Republican” conspiracy to overthrow slavery. And they banished former allies such as Stephen Douglas, who lost his A-Rating for straying from the ultra-orthodox line that there must not be any restriction on slavery.

Rather than accede to Douglas’s nomination as Democratic candidate in the 1860 presidential election, which he might well have won, Southerners split the party and nominated one of their own, dividing the Democratic vote and paving Lincoln’s path to the White House. At which point, the Fire-Eaters led Southern states out of the Union rather than accept a democratically-elected president they opposed.

The NRA shows signs of similar derangement and over-reach. During the election, it demonized a president who had done nothing on gun control, claiming a “massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.” It has alienated staunch allies like Democrat John Dingell who resisted the NRA’s mad-dog campaign to hold Eric Holder in contempt over “Fast and Furious.” Other supporters who have deviated an inch from the NRA line have been targeted for electoral defeat.

This could be a positive development in the medium term, I suspect. The NRA still has a lot of clout, and they’re not clinically insane, but they’ve clearly lost the ability to know what they sound like to non-gun nuts, or a view of sensible tactics. That kind of overreach is the mark of a weak organization—one particularly vulnerable to being baited by the other side into overreach. I predict much trolling of the NRA in the coming weeks.


By: Ryan Cooper, The American Prospect, December 21, 2012

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The NRA Shoots Itself In The Foot”: A Shill For Gun Manufacturers And The Home Of Unhinged Conspiracy Theorists

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.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, December 21, 2012

December 22, 2012 Posted by | Guns, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Crazed Romance With Guns”: The Answer To Gun Carnage Is Not Arming Teachers

Have you ever seen the holiday film classic “A Christmas Story”? Set in 1940s Indiana, it’s the charming tale of young Ralphie, whose only wish for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun. Poor Ralphie is constantly rebuffed by the adults in his life, who warn him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

During this shattered holiday season, with so many Connecticut families experiencing unimaginable loss, the movie is a reminder that guns have always been popular in the American imagination. It also gently reminded me, however, that previous generations were much more circumspect and cautious in their attitudes toward firearms.

I am delighted that President Obama, shocked to his senses by the carnage in Connecticut, has finally found the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and take steps toward more regulation of firearms. But I fear that won’t be enough.

Don’t get me wrong: I support a ban on assault-type weapons, a ban on high-capacity magazines, and waiting periods for gun purchases. All of those are common-sense measures that should already be the law of the land.

But I don’t think those steps will be enough to change a culture steeped in gun lore and conditioned to believe that firearms hold some magical powers to keep the streets safe. Somehow, our crazed romance with guns — a dangerous and dysfunctional relationship — must end.

It hasn’t always been this way. My late father came of age in the 1930s and ’40s in deepest, reddest Alabama. He was an avid outdoorsman who loved fishing and hunting. Nothing made my father happier than awakening in the wee hours on a crisp morning in November to go out into the cold and stalk deer. Go figure.

I think he would have been amused — or perhaps puzzled — by the ad campaign that Bushmaster adopted to sell its AR-15 assault-type rifle, which was used by the Connecticut shooter. The campaign bestowed “manhood” on Bushmaster buyers. I don’t think my dad — who worked hard, supported his family and tried to teach his children right from wrong — ever thought his manhood was in question.

A veteran of combat in Korea, he was as strict about gun safety as the National Rifle Association is imprudent. He and his hunting buddies refused to hunt with rifles because the projectiles are too powerful and travel too far; they used shotguns instead. They banned hunters whom they deemed careless. Dick Cheney would not have been welcome.

As a young college graduate headed for the big city, I contemplated buying a firearm. My father wouldn’t hear of it, noting that I’d be more likely to be a victim of my own handgun than to ward off danger with it. He suggested that I stay out of dangerous places instead.

My dad was also a junior-high-school principal, and I think he would be horrified — simply horrified — by the irrational suggestion from some political leaders that the answer to school shootings is to arm teachers. He knew perfectly well that arming teachers would be a way to get more children killed.

As the term “friendly fire” connotes, soldiers and police officers, who undergo intense weapons training, frequently miss their targets or hit others by mistake. Last August, as just one example, New York City police officers killed a gunman outside the Empire State Building. Nine bystanders also ended up wounded, all by police gunfire or ricochets.

When did so many of our political leaders — governors, members of Congress, state legislators — lose their senses about guns? How did we come to have a culture in which public figures believe it is rational to advocate arming teachers to prevent school massacres?

Even as some of the loudest gun advocates have become more hysterical in their absolutism, the number of households with guns has actually decreased over the last few decades, according to polls and federal data. Unfortunately, the number of guns owned by a smaller portion of households has increased.

Meanwhile, reasonable, old-school outdoorsmen like my dad aren’t speaking up. They need to stand up and be counted.


By: Cynthia Tucker, The National Memo, December 22, 2012


December 22, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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