Last week, while I was away, the NRA had a press conference about the Connecticut shootings. Actually, it wasn’t a press conference since they took no questions. It was more of a statement.
A statement from the NRA in the wake of Sandy Hook required a degree of tact. I realize that the Left expected the NRA to come out, do a mea culpa and call for a gun ban … you know, the same way they expected pro-choice groups to reverse course after the Gosnell scandal. But those of us who live the real world knew that the NRA would stand for gun freedom. The question was, after a week of thinking about it, how would they stand for gun freedom while respecting the delicate feelings of a wounded nation?
What I expected and hoped for was something along these lines:
It’s important to recognize that there are 300 million weapons in this country and less than one in a thousand is used every year to commit a crime. Less than one in 25,000 will be used to commit a murder. Violent crime has fallen dramatically in the last twenty years — and we’re willing to admit that part of the reason may be measures that the NRA opposed. And mass shootings, contrary to hysterical claims in the media, are not increasing.
Clearly, more needs to be done. We are ready to take whatever steps are needed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally disturbed; as long as that does not compromise the Second Amendment liberties of law-abiding Americans.
The NRA’s statement, to say the least was not this. In fact, I think it did more to damage the cause of gun liberty than anything the gun grabbers could have said.
Let me back up a moment. The anti-gun lobby has a problem: the public has considered and rejected most of their arguments. There is sympathy for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, but efforts to recreate gun bans or repeal the Second Amendment are going precisely nowhere.
In the wake of this complete defeat in the arena of ideas, they have been reduced to making absurd suggestions like gun buybacks. Gun buybacks sound good until you consider you’d have to spend $5 million for every gun murder prevented. If I gave you $5 million, I guarantee that you could save more than one life with it. And that’s assuming 100% efficiency. More likely, gun buybacks would take guns away from the law-abiding or allow criminals to dump “hot” weapons.
Another dumb idea that has surfaced is restricting or taxing bullets. HuffPo makes the case that when you buy bullets, you should have to crawl to the local police station and lick their feet until they agree to give you some ammo (I’m exaggerating only slightly). I’m sure this sounds good to someone who doesn’t know one end of a gun to another. To an enthusiast, who typically uses more bullets in a day at the range than a spree shooter will use before putting one in his own brain, it sounds insane. It also simply wouldn’t work. Black market bullets would flood the market, people would start making their own bullets and the Supreme Court would almost certainly reject it as a too clever attempt to get around the Second Amendment.
They’ve also been reduced, as defeated movements usually are, to saying things that simply aren’t true. I covered before how they manipulated the numbers to make it seem that spree killings are rising. Here I take apart a claim that we have more spree killings than 36 other nations combined. Here is a refutation of the false contention that spree killings are never stopped by armed civilians (a claim that was patently ridiculous when it was made). The ridiculous and insulting “If I Only Had a Gun” piece is also making the rounds despite Gary Kleck’s actual, you know, research on the defensive use of guns.
My point is that the anti-gun lobby has a very limited influence right now. They might be able to get a ban on high-capacity magazines or something but disarming the nation is simply not on; at least not with the gang of clowns and idiots currently comprising the radical anti-Second Amendment wing. Even Diane Feinstein’s newly-proposed gun grab is likely going nowhere.
They realize this, which is why they have stooped to such Orwellian methods as publishing the names and addresses of legal gun owners in New York.
No, I don’t think the anti-gun lobby is a real threat to Second Amendment liberty. The only threat I foresee is that the pro-Second Amendment side manages to turn back the progress made in the last twenty years by playing to every gun-totin’ stereotype the Left can imagine, by turning the vast middle of this country against gun freedom, at least on issues like assault weapons or conceal-carry, where public opinion is more finely balanced. And the NRA’s statement couldn’t have been better crafted to do precisely that.
LaPierre came out and blamed everything except guns. It was the fault of video games, of movies, of Obama, of hurricanes, of everything. He talked about Natural Born Killers for Christ’s sake, a movie that came out 18 years ago and that no one watched. All of this played right into the Left’s “anything but guns” narrative, making the NRA seem desperate to avoid even talking about weapons.
Their specific proposals were even more appalling. They called for Congress to look into violent entertainment and create a national database on mental illness (because nothing says “liberty” liked trampling on the First and Fourth Amendments in defense of the Second). Most notably, they called to have armed guards in every school. Never mind that Columbine had armed guards and most college campuses have police forces. Never mind that this plays into every our kids are in danger! hysteria. Never mind that a child in school is safer than they are anywhere else. (The number of children murdered in school every year is about 20-30. The number of children murdered outside of school is more like a couple of thousand, depending on how you define child.)
Thankfully, sensible people like Chris Christie and Ron Paul recognized this proposal for what it is: a tremendous waste of resources, a hysterical response to a tragedy and appalling encroachment of a literal police state into every school.
Of course, this is just the statement from the NRA, not a politician. So why did it bother me so much? It took me a few days to unpack what really bothered me about it: it’s a pattern that has become endemic to the conservative side of the aisle lately. It sounded like something a caller to a radio talk show would say; not something worthy of the leader of an organization number 4.3 million people. I’m sure it rallied the pro-Second Amendment base. But ardent gun rights supporters are not what we should be worried about. What we should be worried about are the tens of millions of people who are kind of mixed on the gun issue and could easily be persuaded that DiFi’s horrible assault weapons bill is a sensible alternative to the NRA’s bluster.
LaPierre has history, of course. His famous “jack-booted thug” letter caused George H. W. Bush to resign his life membership. But he also came to the front when gun freedom really was under siege, with mainstream politicians openly calling for gun bans. He’s fighting the fight of 30 years ago. This simply does not apply today, when Obama’s response to this tragedy was to … have Biden convene a commission. In fact, Obama has yet to do anything about gun control and has specifically said the Second Amendment protects an individual right. When LaPierre came to lead the NRA, even the NRA was tentative about saying that.
I think it’s clear the LaPierre has outlives his usefulness Someone needs to step up who has come of age in the 2000’s and understands that the main thing the NRA needs to do is hold the line, to maintain the freedoms we have rather than fight against a political opponent that is beaten, defeated and impotent. My fear is that if they keep fighting the political fights of the 1980’s, they will get them back: blow life into an anti-gun movement that is currently moribund.