There’s a scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone turns to his adopted brother Tom Hagen and tells him that it’s time for him to step aside. Michael needs a “wartime consigliere” and Tom’s just not the right man for the coming battles. It’s a tough moment, letting someone know that, despite having done a great job in the past, you just don’t think they’re the right man for the job that needs doing. And that’s exactly the kind of conversation the guys at the NRA need to have with Wayne LaPierre . . .
At the press conference on Friday, the NRA offered a good option to deal with the problem of securing schoolchildren . . . and then promptly shot itself in the foot.
Wayne LaPierre made a brilliant case for armed guards in the nation’s schools as a logical and rational response to the Sandy Hook shooting, appealing through both logos and pathos to do the right thing to protect our kids. If it weren’t for the protesters, that part of the speech would have been almost perfect. And then he turned to video games.
I get the argument he tried to make. But protecting the Second Amendment by turning on the First isn’t the way to go. As terribly as the media performed in the days immediately following the shooting, it’s their constitutionally protected right to turn the shooter into an anti-hero whose name is known world wide. Someone whose body count is ranked on a list like the high score in a video game, and whose post-mortem fame will no doubt help to incite the next shooter. That’s just the unavoidable fallout from the First Amendment freedoms we have in this country. And the Second Amendment gives us the ability to protect ourselves from that fallout.
LaPierre’s speech turned very quickly from a full-throated defense of the Second Amendment into that of a crotchety old man talking about kids these days with their hip hop music and their damned skateboards. The NRA needs re-branding.
Long seen as a bastion of old men and fudds, the NRA still claims to represent all gun owners in the United States. But the universe of legal gun owners increasingly includes those under thirty years old who grew up with violent video games — and they’re none the worse for wear.
By proclaiming that entertainment like Grand Theft Auto and Natural Born Killers are the real culprits behind mass shootings like Aurora and Sandy Hook, the NRA has makes it nearly impossible for younger gun owners to believe the organization understands the current culture and is capable of representing their interests.
The NRA is pushing away the very population that could help make them an unstoppable force for good in the United States. Instead, it continues to appeal to the arthritic AARP crowd, a demographic that is slowly but surely shrinking. They need to change their image, appealing to the future of the gun culture instead of clinging to to the old ways.
The NRA needs a wartime consigliere. And Wayne LaPierre ain’t it.