Earlier this week I suggested that America's gun owners have often been let down by the leadership of the gun-rights movement. I don't know if that has ever been more obvious than it is today.
The press conference - well, a statement really, since there were no questions permitted - held by the NRA's Wayne LaPierre is quite extraordinary. Reading the transcript I thought at first that it must be a parody written by gun-control activists determined to discredit the National Rifle Association. Turns out there's no need to attempt that, not when the NRA is prepared to do the job itself.
I don't know if I can recall a performance quite as stupid, bone-headed, ill-judged, morally obtuse, tone-deaf, politically obnoxious and emotionally unintelligent as this. Heckuva job, NRA.
The NRA's solution to America's gun problems? Armed guards in every school. Because, yes, the further paramilitarisation of American life is just what every child needs. Apparently so:
The National Rifle Association's 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayerfor the families of Newtown, Connecticut … who suffered such incomprehensible loss as a result of this unspeakable crime.Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent.
Now, we must speak … for the safety of our nation's children. Because for all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one— nobody — has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works? The only way to answer that question is to face up to the truth. Politicians pass laws for Gun-Free School Zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them.
And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.How have our nation's priorities gotten so far out of order? Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants,courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.
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 really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?
It didn't get any better after that introduction, either. It's almost as though you could be forgiven for thinking that beneath this curdling self-pity and self-righteousness the NRA sees some grim upside to the Sandy Hook tragedy. Perhaps now other Americans will finally see that the NRA has been right all along. Finally! More guns are needed.
(Of course, as has swiftly been pointed out, this is no guarantee either: Columbine High School had an armed guard. Despite this and despite Sandy Hook schools are safe places for kids. They really are. )
The Americans I know who own guns are not morons. The same cannot be said of the NRA's leadership. There are times when playing to the dafter elements of your core support may make sense; this should not have been one of them.
I think that were I a member* of the NRA, I'd be resigning my membership this weekend.
*And if I were American I might be! Of course I'd be a member of the ACLU too.