There were so many layers of derangement to the “press conference” the National Rifle Association held last week in response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., I almost feel as though portions of that 30 minutes should be left unexcavated for future generations to sift through.
Archeologists do this at particularly rich sites, to preserve context and artifacts for future generations to study. One day we may have the tools – the spin-unravelling equivalent of carbon-dating – to fully understand why, for example, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre spoke several times during his speech of storms and natural disasters.
Was Mr. LaPierre trying to change the topic? Was part of the NRA’s response to the murder of 27 people, including 20 small children, to talk about the weather? Was Mr. LaPierre attempting to invoke Hurricane Sandy in the hopes of reminding Americans of a time when they all agreed what the problem was, and it wasn’t guns killing people in slaughters so common some barely break the surface of the network news?
There are approximately 310 million firearms in civilian hands in America – 98 weapons per every 100 people. By comparison there are six weapons for every 100 pairs of civilian hands in Britain.
If American’s real concern, as expressed by its Second Amendment, is that the British are coming, I think they’ve got that one covered.
And yet the insatiable arms gluttony of Americans, and the statistically provable inability of those law-abiding gun owners we keep hearing about to keep an eye on the damn things, isn’t a topic most politicians address willingly.
The NRA offered two solutions to gun violence: They demanded an armed police officer in every school, which – at a time when some on the right resent paying to put teachers in schools, and some to the right of them aren’t convinced children should be there – seems like a tough sell.
This perhaps explains why the second speaker, former congressman Asa Hutchinson, spoke of an armed volunteer guard, something I think any parent who’s worked a pizza lunch might instantly see as problematic.
Finances, logistics and the emotional well-being of the children aside, even if American schools were fortified, what of the proven vulnerable malls, movie theatres, gyms and places of worship?
This weekend near Rochester, NY, a fire was set and two volunteer fire fighters were shot and killed by the man waiting for them there.
As for NRA’s other demand, a “national database of the mentally ill”? Few of the people who commit these kinds of murders had done anything to warrant being placed on such a list.
The definition of mentally ill used would have to be so broad as to include mild depression. Even that would have flagged only some of those killers. Meahwhile, due to the increased stigma and surveillance, many Americans might forgo seeking help for psychiatric conditions. So that might not end well.
The demand is particularly rich coming from the NRA, which labours hard to oppose any kind of gun database largely on the grounds that it’s an invasion of privacy.
The government has no business knowing if you have a dozen AR-15s. They just need to know if your Aunt Jean is arachnophobic.
But then, the NRA wasn’t there to talk about guns: They wanted to talk about the weather.
Mr. LaPierre mentioned natural disasters after listing a series of violent video games, “Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster. … I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there, like American Psycho, Natural-Born Killers.”
Studies have repeatedly shown no link between video games and gun violence. The Dutch, for example, spend substantially more per capita on video games than Americans, and yet that country has a drastically lower rate of gun violence.
There’s also no proven link between satirical nineties movies, bad weather and gun violence. American Psycho grossed a mere $15-million. It’s practically an art-house film. At that point (there was a big storm in it!) you might as well try and pin this whole thing on The Piano.
Some had speculated that the NRA would announce they were ready to make concessions – to close the gun-show loophole that allows sales without background checks, or to institute a ban on extended magazines.
Instead, citing a series of misleading crime statistics, Mr. LaPierre evoked an oncoming rainy Armageddon.
“Add another hurricane, terrorist attack, or some other natural or manmade disaster and you’ve got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization,” he warned – because that’s the kind of talk that sells guns, and he was on TV.
The time after a mass murder is the NRA’s Christmas season. Gun sales from which they directly and indirectly financially benefit soar when a mass shooting occurs.
You can’t call what happened there a press conference because, like a starlet at the premier of her new film, the NRA began by coyly announcing Mr. LaPierre wouldn’t be taking any questions. And like that starlet, he was only there because he had a product to promote.