The National Rifle Association once again demonstrated its majestic lack of empathy this week when it made robocalls and sent mailings to homes in Newtown, Conn., calling on the occupants to oppose gun-control legislation. It was an appallingly insensitive move, but no one should be to surprised that the NRA would act so objectionably. This is, after all, the group that said it was a lack of guns, not their ubiquity, that led to the massacre of 20 grade-school students and seven adults at the hands of a deranged teenager last December. For the NRA, exploiting other people’s misery is simply good business.
Recall that in the aftermath of the Newtown killings, the NRA’s president, Wayne LaPierre, held a news conference at which he refused to take questions. Instead, he ranted to the gathered media about natural disasters and other threats to stable society, and blamed the killings on the lack of armed guards in every school in America (this in spite of the fact there were armed guards at Columbine High School when that particular child massacre took place in 1999). It didn’t take long for people to realize what Mr. LaPierre was doing: He was pushing the products of the gun manufacturers that fund the NRA. Instead of sharing in the common grief brought about by the slaughter of innocents, he was scaring Americans into buying assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and other arsenalia in advance of an anticipated call to ban such things. Thousands responded; guns stores reported record sales.
The NRA’s intransigence and opportunism have now successfully fought off a ban on assault weapons. Last week the U.S. Senate dropped the measure from proposed gun legislation when it became clear the votes weren’t there – even though polls show a majority of Americans support such a ban. The NRA is continuing to fight against background checks for gun purchasers, a battle it may yet win given the unwillingness of both houses of Congress to challenge the gun lobby.
And now it is asking the families and neighbours of the victims of the Newtown massacre to join in its fight to reinforce the status quo in America. There have been more than 3,000 gun deaths in the U.S. since Newtown. The NRA’s victory nears its completion.