The NRA’s Friday press conference revealed the powerful organization to be utterly tone deaf when it comes to how to reduce violence and protect children. Do we need any more evidence of that than NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre’s comment that “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”
The jaw-dropping performance won LaPierre headlines in the New York Post like “Gun Nut” and in the Daily News of “Craziest Man on Earth.” The NY Times editorial board spoke of his “mendacious, delusional, almost deranged rant.” He didn’t soften his approach one iota on the Sunday morning news shows. Meet the Press’ David Gregory, for whom I usually have little use, did an outstanding job challenging LaPierre’s contradictions and obduracy, his unwillingness to consider changing even a single gun law.
Responding to the problem doesn’t require demonizing all gun owners. There are lots of mentally stable, law-abiding hunters, sportsmen and others with legitimate security needs. Wouldn’t it be nice if those owners were to join the call for practical gun safety measures?
One approach should focus on the gun show market, which doesn’t require background checks. Fully 40 percent of gun sales happen in that secondary market. And, according to Newark Mayor Cory Booker, some 74 percent of Americans polled, think you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun without such a check.
Effective background checks require adequate data bases. For example, it might not be enough to ban guns only to those who are adjudicated mentally ill. There are many other deranged individuals out there who have never been in the court system, or have been in court but, for a variety of reasons, were never formally adjudicated as mentally ill. How to gather the data without stigmatizing every person with mental illness will be a challenge.
LaPierre’s proposal for armed guards in every school should be discussed at the local level. But there was an armed guard at Columbine who exchanged fire with the shooters, and remember that result. Some districts may want armed security officers while others would oppose turning presumably safe havens into armed camps.
His assertions that we need to look at video games, movies and the national culture of violence merit calm and thoughtful consideration as part of a comprehensive response. But his paranoid delusions that those seeking any additional gun safety measures are an “anti-Second Amendment industry” would be laughable were the situation not so serious.
There are about 9000 gun murders a year in the United States, 561 children under age 12 over five years. There are some 39 gun murders a year in Great Britain. Adjusted for population differences, that would be the equivalent of 195 a year in the United States. Clearly, Houston, we have a problem.
But Wayne LaPierre has no problem. His job is not to represent the public or even all gun owners. His job is to serve gun manufacturers and related industries to help them sell more guns and ammunition and block any efforts that could dampen sales.
Last summer, whipped up by fears of Obama’s reelection, there was a boom in gun sales. Black Friday gun sales set an all-time record. And after Newtown, guns have been flying off the shelves across the country.
Congressional talk about reinstating a loophole-ridden assault weapons ban doesn’t address today’s reality and, even in its modest form, can’t be depended upon. Public support for improved gun safety is only up marginally given the horror of Newtown and, if the past is prologue, will probably diminish in coming months.
So Wayne LaPierre is clearly earning his keep, laughing all the way to the bank. While the media intone that he’s making his hideous public image worse, others love him and his message. The criticism doesn’t at all seem to bother him or those rushing to be his customers. Too bad for the rest of us who cling to the hope that this time things might be different.
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