Saturday, December 22, 2012

Why Do We Give The NRA Such Power?

The largest headline on the print Richmond Times-Dispatch this morning, covering more than half of the entire width of the front page, reads “NRA calls for armed guards in schools.” The number two story in the Washington Post this morning (top of the left column) reads “NRA, Put armed police in schools.” Last night on the NBC evening news the lead story involved footage of a press conference held by NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre rejecting any additional gun laws and advocating the placement of armed (that is with guns) guards in all of the nation’s schools. The press conference by the National Rifle Association took place one week after the slaughter of 26 people, including 20 young children, at a Connecticut elementary school.

If I were a visitor from another planet and read these newspapers and watched television last night, I would naturally assume that the NRA was our national legislature and that Wayne LaPierre was a high-ranking elected official—perhaps the president. Why else would we pay so much attention to the views of an organization or of one man? The alien maven would be shocked to learn that the NRA was a lobbying group for gun manufacturers and that Wayne LaPierre had been elected by only a few people.

The National Rifle Association has been powerful in our national politics for a long time. As I made clear nearly five years ago (OnGuns—An Ode in Prose) over the years the NRA has morphed from an organization of sportsmen and gun collectors to a lobby for the gun industry. It has taken a “no-compromise” position with respect to gun legislation and has convinced hundreds of members of the Congress and state legislatures that any support for even the most modest control on the purchase of firearms will result in their being defeated for reelection. It has also convinced its members that the Federal Government is devoted to taking away all their guns.

But, dear reader, is it not possible that all of us have given the NRA all this power? Even the proponents of controls on the purchase of firearms have spent most of the last week attacking the NRA in paper and electronic print. They have even gone so far as to hold the NRA culpable for the murders in Connecticut last week. Apparently, it is much easier to create and attack a bogey man than to deal directly with the complex issues raised by gun control.

What if, loyal reader, we treated the NRA differently? What if, for example, we chose to ignore it? Can you imagine what would have happened yesterday if the NRA held its press conference and Wayne LaPierre came to the podium and the room was empty? Think of it—no reporters, no cameras, no protesters. What if, regardless what it said, the media chose to not report anything about the NRA? What if I had watched the evening news last night and saw stories that gave no attention to Mr. LaPierre’s statement? What if the newspapers this morning ran no stories about the NRA’s proposal to put more guns into our schools? (Oh, I know what you are saying, what about the First Amendment? Reader, the First Amendment guarantees the NRA and Mr. LaPierre the right to say anything they want; it does not require us to listen to them.) Is it not possible that if we treated the NRA this way it would shrink from the tiger it wants us to believe it is to a snarling but powerless kitten?


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