A few months ago, during the dog days of election season, I posted about my despair at the continuing offenses of the Republican Party. I mentioned that, up to that moment, I was willing to give my fellow citizens who happened to support the GOP the benefit of the doubt: I had assumed that the vast majority of Republicans were basically good and decent folk who shared a worldview with which I disagreed. But with the seemingly constant drumbeat of Republican offenses to common decency--from talk of "legitimate rape" to expressions of contempt for 47% of the American public--I questioned the good intentions of those who would willingly allow such people to speak for them.
I now ask the same question of NRA members.
In the wake of last week's atrocity in Newtown, CT, the leadership of the National Rifle Association was conspicuously silent. A curious nation wondered if the NRA was engaging in some long-overdue soul-searching, perhaps reconsidering its knee-jerk response to any suggestion of increasing restrictions (however minimal or easonable) on the right of private citizens to own guns. Maybe some good could come of this tragedy if the premier firearm advocacy organization could be convinced to join a productive conversation about increasing public safety.
We should have known better.
Today, NRA Vice-President Wayne LaPierre broke the group's silence at a news conference. The official NRA response to Newtown calls not for new restrictions on guns, but for the stationing of armed police officers at every school. LaPierre went on to blame Hollywood and the makers of violent video games for the senseless violence displayed at Sandy Hook Elementary, along with the government's failure to adequately enforce existing gun laws or to create a national registry of the mentally ill.
Does Wayne LaPierre listen to the words that come out of his own mouth?
The NRA's raison d'etre is to defend gun owners' (theoretical) Second Amendment rights against governmental overreach. Yet here is LaPierre, stating that the solution to gun violence is to garrison armed governmental representatives at our children's schools (not to mention creating a national database of the mentally ill). By the NRA's logic, wouldn't the presence of armed governmental forces at a school turn Adam Lanza into something of a liberator? And since when is the NRA in favor of national registries?
I've also had it with the NRA's disingenuous claims that if the government would only enforce existing gun laws, it would prevent psychopaths from building themselves arsenals. Does it escape the notice of LaPierre and others like him that most of these mass slaughters are carried out with legally obtained weapons? When the NRA whines that increased gun restrictions only keep law-abiding citizens from having guns, we should point out that keeping "law-abiding citizens" like Adam Lanza, James Holmes (Aurora, Colorado), Jared Loughner (Tucson, Arizona), Dylan Klebold (Columbine), etc., etc., etc. from having guns sounds like a pretty good idea! Seems to me it's the "law-abiding citizens" we mostly have to worry about. The NRA can talk all it wants about keeping high-powered weapons out of the hands of gangbangers, and I'm all for that, too. At the same time, it seems like gangbangers mostly want to use their guns on other gangbangers--not on random strangers at malls, movie theaters, or elementary schools.
The NRA has millions of members. I'm sure some of them agree with every word LaPierre spews. But I don't believe that a majority of NRA members--most of whom are probably decent people who like to hunt or who own one or two guns for self-protection--actually support his views. Maybe I'm wrong about that. I hope not. The time has come, though, for the rank and file of the National Rifle Association to make their voices heard. Repudiate Wayne LaPierre. Vote him out. You are either reasonable people who care about, and are willing to work constructively with, your fellow citizens to improve everyone's safety, or you are the followers of a socioopathic demagogue. You cannot have it both ways.