For days after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School the National Rifle Association was oddly silent. They even shut down their Facebook page and stopped tweeting. (The NRA tweets? How weird does that sound?)
Eventually the NRA announced that in an upcoming press conference it would reveal how they would “contribute meaningfully” to preventing further gun violence. Everyone assumed that finally they would be willing to compromise. Everyone was wrong.
On the same day six more murdered children were buried, the NRA held its press conference, except no questions were allowed. (The big, bad NRA is afraid of the press?) Instead, Wayne La Pierre, the NRA’s executive vice president (and chief pitchman), took the podium and gave a lengthy and bewildering interpretation of the Sandy Hook massacre reminiscent of something out of “The Twilight Zone.”
Self-righteously, La Pierre, whose NRA annual salary is reportedly $1.4 million, identified the villains of Sandy Hook as the shooter, violent video games, “blood-soaked” Hollywood movies, President Obama and fluoride in the water. (OK, I made up the fluoride part.) The truth is La Pierre blamed everyone and everything but guns.
The movies La Pierre singled out for blame were “American Psycho” (2000) and “Natural Born Killers” (1994), neither exactly current. As for the video games, La Pierre cited “Kindergarten Killers” a game no one had heard of until he mentioned it. With its amateurish cartoon figures, one reviewer said the game was so lame and repetitive that “after five minutes I couldn’t stand any more.”
Given the horror of Sandy Hook, La Pierre was shockingly disconnected. Never once did he mention that the Bushmaster AR-15 with the high capacity magazine used at Sandy Hook is the same weapon used at Aurora, Colo. and used by the D.C. sniper in 2003.
Eerily, only days later the Bushmaster would be the weapon of choice of William Spengler. On Christmas Eve in Webster, N.Y., Spengler, 62, killed himself after murdering two firefighters and wounding two others at a blaze he apparently set to lure them to the scene. (Wayne probably blames it on a video game.)
La Pierre’s “solution” to gun violence massacring our children is to have every school in America staffed with an armed policeman. This seemingly ignores that at Columbine there were two armed security officers, at Virginia Tech there was a well-staffed campus police department and at Fort Hood the entire based was armed.
Apparently to La Pierre there can never be enough guns. The U.S. represents 5 percent of the world’s population, but at 300 million guns we account for 50 percent of the world’s supply. (Should we chant “we’re No. 1?”)
Not surprisingly, La Pierre’s “press conference” was a PR disaster. Commentators were shocked by his “tone deafness.” Even Rupert Murdoch’s conservative New York Post ran a headline, “Wayne La Pierre Is The ‘Craziest Man On Earth'” and referred to his speech as a “bizarre rant.” (If anything, the Post was too kind.)
But maybe La Pierre is crazy like a fox. He is, after all, a high-priced pitchman for the gun and ammunition industry — and business, baby, is beyond booming. Fearing changes in gun laws, on this past Black Friday, 300,000 guns were sold nationwide. And since Sandy Hook, assault rifles have been selling off the shelves as delighted manufacturers struggle to keep up with orders. (What a country.)
Since 1982 there have been 62 mass murders in the U.S., 10 this year alone. In the past, as people return to their busy lives and the NRA, with its $250 million annual income, continues to fund pro-gun political campaigns, public outrage subsides. But hopefully not this time.
The seeds are already there. In this recent election the much-feared NRA used their typical bully tactics, plowing huge dollars into eight key congressional races. Guess what? In seven out of eight their candidate lost. (Can you say “the emperor has no clothes?”) And I’m confident that the grieving but remarkably strong community at Sandy Hook will not let their children or their children’s heroic teachers and principal die in vain.
Real hunters and gun enthusiasts attest that assault weapons have no place in the sport or even self-defense, nor do 30- to 100-bullet magazines. The irony is that a majority of NRA members are in favor of changing these laws (as was Ronald Reagan) and closing the gun show loophole, which allows 40 percent of all guns to be purchased without background checks.
But as a shill for the weapons and ammo manufacturers, La Pierre is sticking to his guns. (Pun intended.) The NRA is famous for giving grades to political candidates ranking them as pro- or anti-gun. Grading La Pierre as a human being with a soul I’d have to give him an F. And frankly I’d also like to tell him what he can do with all those assault weapons, but this is a family newspaper.
To do your part to prevent future gun violence, go to www.bradycampaign.org. Jack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.