Beware the National Rifle Association. The disproportionately powerful pro-gun lobby group finally broke its silence about the Newtown massacre Tuesday, but only to say that it will hold a press conference on Friday, and that it "is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." After years of doing the exact opposite, it would be unwise to hope that the NRA's "meaningful contribution" will involve tighter gun controls.
The essential problem for the NRA is that it has spent decades fighting against even the most common-sense restrictions on gun ownership, including background checks, waiting periods, the banning of high-muzzle-velocity assault rifles that come with handy grenade launchers, the prohibition of large-capacity magazines that make it easier to fire large numbers of rounds more quickly, restrictions on concealed weapons in schools, and so on. Not only has it spent money and harnessed its vast membership to fight reform and unseat heretical politicians, but it has also very effectively turned the issue into a cultural battle zone, pitting what it considers to be red-blooded, patriotic Americans fighting for their freedom against a tyrannical government and its liberal allies bent on destroying their way of life.
So it is hard to imagine on Friday the NRA will suddenly become its own worst enemy and declare that it now sides with those who don't believe any law-abiding American can own any gun he chooses, in whatever quantity, or that the Second Amendment is his god-given right to defend himself. It is, frankly, ludicrous to believe the NRA will support those it has demonized as un-American and "socialist," including the NRA's greatest stated enemy of all, President Barack Obama.
Most likely, the NRA will do what it has always done: say something soothing and ambiguous, and then lay low until the shock of Newtown has passed. In due time, it will resume its full-throated defence of unfettered gun ownership and its attacks on the "enemies" of the Second Amendment. The massacres at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech and so many others were not enough to change the NRA's fundamental (and fundamentally wrong) position that tighter restrictions won't prevent future tragedies. In spite of that, we will remain hopeful of a different outcome on Friday, but only in the name of those 20 murdered children.