The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is one of America’s most visible not to say virulent anti-gun violence groups. OK, virulent. Led by Josh Sugarmann, the VPC has become less about “Research, Investigation, Analysis” and more about the “and Advocacy” bit. To that end, the VPC has unleashed a startling broadside against the National Rifle Association (NRA). Lessons Unlearned accuses the NRA of fomenting armed anti-government insurrection [download pdf here]. “On April 19, 1995, former National Rifle Association (NRA) member Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168, including 19 children at a day- care center in the building,” the polemic’s introduction tells us. “McVeigh had been an NRA member for at least four years prior to the bombing, an unprecedented period in the organization’s history during which it began catering to increasing anti-government sentiment.” And they’re off!

During this period, the NRA adopted the anti-government language of the militias and other components of the “Patriot movement,” a loose coalition whose adherents are “animated by a view of the federal government as the primary enemy, along with a fondness for antigovernment conspiracy theories.”2    Offering a soft embrace to many of the conspiracy theories that drove the anger and fear of the Patriot movement, the NRA declared in its official publications that “The Final War Has Begun,” equated Federal Bureau of Investigation agents with goose-stepping Nazis, labeled other federal agents “jack-booted government thugs” in its direct mail, and repeatedly warned of conspiracies—allegedly concocted by forces ranging from the Clinton administration to the United Nations—to disarm American gun owners. Presumably undertaken initially to engage and activate its membership while opening the door to a new strata of potential supporters, the NRA’s shift in rhetoric and action—as seen in the organization’s magazines, public statements, and nascent on-line efforts during this period—had the ancillary effect of validating the most paranoid fears of the most extreme elements of American gun owner. Eventually, the NRA found itself exploring potential partnerships with militia leaders.

And so on. The document launches a preemptive attack on the Second Amendment March and targets a recent NRA T-shirt for featuring a “Don’t Tread on Me” design. The VPC pretty much calls NRA members fat bastards—pointing out that “The shirt comes in sizes up to XXXL.” In conclusion, any act of “lone wolf” terrorism will be, in part, the NRA’s fault.

As was the case 15 years ago, America is once again at a place where the language and rhetoric of the gun lobby, most notably the NRA, has the potential to validate violent acts. And while no act equaling the horror and devastation of Oklahoma City has occurred, there is general acknowledgment of a steady thrum of anti-government sentiment and attendant violence occurring in our nation.

Quite how the VPC would think that they’re full-frontal attack against the NRA would appeal to anyone other than the VPC’s “base” is beyond me; it seems carefully designed to alienate anyone other than the extreme left of the gun control debate. In fact, the whole “debate” reminds me of the scene in the Jack Nicholson Batman movie where The Joker says “I created you; you created me.” The bit most people forget: the Joker says it doesn’t matter. True dat.

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