As someone who follows gun news with obsessive, some would say maniacal fervor, I’m here to say that the NRA is the 800-pound gorilla that isn’t in the room. In general, America’s oldest civil rights organization doesn’t respond to journalists’ requests for comments. If there’s a high-profile gun-related tragedy in the news – such as the mom killed by her toddler at an Idaho Walmart – the NRA stays stum. Personally, I think it’s a mistake. It’s not enough to be America’s most powerful gun rights group; the NRA needs to be seen as America’s most powerful gun rights group. Strangely, gun control advocates are doing that for them . . .
Well, not so strangely. The antis conform to Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals playbook. Specifically, rule 12: ““Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” The NRA is the target, constantly, with Wayne LaPierre as its public face. The polarization takes the form of endless tweets, Facebook postings and mainstream media rants that paint the NRA as the enemy of public safety.
It’s a shame these attacks go unchallenged by the NRA, but there you go. And here here go. Again. Still . . .
It has been a week since Ismaayl Brinsley, a deranged man with a long criminal record, killed two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, in cold blood, but so far we haven’t heard a word from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
It was Brinsley who pulled the trigger on the silver Taurus semiautomatic handgun that he used to kill the two officers, but the NRA and its fanatic Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre also have blood on their hands. LaPierre, who has worked for the NRA since 1978 and served as its top official since 1991, is the organization’s hit man when it comes to intimidating elected officials to oppose any kind of sensible gun control laws, including a federal law requiring background checks on would-be gun buyers and a national registry of guns. LaPierre likes to fulminate about gun owners’ rights. But he’s been silent on the ambush of the two New York cops.
As you can see by the intemperate language deployed by Peter Dreier, his HuffPo essay Focus on the NRA pulls no punches. But thanks to the NRA’s silence, the Professor of Politics is simply shadow boxing. Is that a good thing? Again, I say no. But there is that whole give ’em enough rope, hoisted by your own petard thing. To wit:
If [the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick] Lynch wants to point the finger of blame for his colleagues’ deaths, he should focus on the NRA, not de Blasio. For decades, the NRA has fought every effort to get Congress and states to adopt reasonable laws that would make it much less likely that people like Brinsley would be able to obtain a gun. The NRA even defends the right of Americans to carry concealed weapons in bars, churches, schools, universities, and elsewhere. This poses a huge threat to police and civilians alike.
The NRA could have supported “reasonable” laws that would have made the NYPD assassination “much less likely”? That’s weak sauce, easily perceived as a preposterous prescription against murderous madmen. The NRA defends the right to carry concealed weapons “elsewhere”? As in “somewhere?” That’s hardly what most people would call an abomination (even in the Obama nation).
Dreier really wants people to focus on the NRA. Which means the media needs to stop focusing on Brinsley and start focusing on . . . you know it’s coming . . . the gun.
The news media will spend an inordinate amount of effort trying to figure out what was in Brinsley’s head before he shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at an Owings Mills, Maryland apartment complex, posted anti-police messages on social media, then traveled to Brooklyn, where he fired his gun several times through the window of a parked police car, killing the two police officers.
Although the psychology and motives of the murderer may be fascinating, it should not be the major focus. There are plenty of deranged people in the world, but in most well-off countries they can’t easily get their hands on a firearm.
“Most” well-off countries deranged people can’t “easily” get their hands on a firearm. Dreier uses weasel words because he knows there are numerous examples of deranged people in well-off countries (with stringent gun control laws) committing heinous atrocities with firearms. Norwegian Anders Breivik‘s slaughter of 69 people, mostly teenagers, springs immediately to mind – which Dreier later dismisses by stating that “the shooting in Norway was an infrequent occurrence.” Anyway . . .
Brinsley had a history of criminal activity as well as mental instability. In 2008, he was convicted of felony shoplifting, which made it illegal for him to buy or carry a gun under federal law. Three years later, after he shot a women’s car with a stolen handgun, he admitted to other crimes. According to police records, he was arrested 19 times in Ohio and Georgia.
This is where the NRA should have put in its two cents. For decades, the gun rights group has been arguing that firearms-related crime can be prevented by enforcing laws against firearms-related crime. Don’t infringe on Americans’ gun rights. Lock up violent criminals. It’s a message that doesn’t see the light of day nearly often enough. Which should be all the time. But isn’t because the NRA prefers radio silence to arguing with antis.
Professor Dreier certainly provides enough grist for the gun rights mill. I won’t bore you with his litany of misleading statistics, half-truths and out-and-out anti-gun agitprop that follows his initial anti-NRA salvo. Suffice it to say, the academic eventually resorts to a simple rhetorical flourish: because I said so.
In 2012, there were 32,288 deaths from firearm violence in the United States, including 11,622 homicides (32 a day) and 20,666 suicides. Firearms were used in 69.6 percent of all homicides that year. Of course, many more people are injured — some seriously and permanently — by gun violence.
The NRA has two knee-jerk responses to this. The first is that the Second Amendment gives all Americans the right to possess guns of all kinds — not just hunting rifles but machine guns and semi-automatics. Efforts to restrict gun sales and ownership is, according to the NRA, an assault on our constitutional freedoms.
The second is the cliché that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” To the NRA, gun laws have nothing to do with the epidemic of gun-related killings.
Both of these arguments are bogus, but the NRA has the money and membership (4 million) to translate these idiot ideas into political clout to thwart even reasonable gun-control laws.
Dreier’s dietribe [sic] ends as it began: with unbridled animus.
Every American grieves for the families and friends of the two police officers killed in New York City on December 20. But until we tame the power of the NRA, we can expect more killings like this, a part of the deadly daily diet of murders throughout America committed by angry gun-toting people whose “freedom” to own weapons of mass destruction that the NRA defends.
The NRA doesn’t defend the right of men like Ismaayl Brinsley to walk the streets, never mind keep and bear arms. Nor does it defend the right of anyone who seeks mass destruction to keep and bear arms, no matter what their mental state (which somehow morphed from “deranged” to “angry”). And it’s time they said so, each and every time American gun rights are challenged. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.