After a week’s hiatus following the horrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut the NRA finally decided to make a statement. Instead of making an impassioned and sympathetic plea to America to understand, show reason, and perhaps also take a portion of the weight of the circumstances, they scraped up some foaming raver who blamed everything on video games, a lack of morals, the mentally ill, and said that what the world needs now is guns, more guns.
Oh, wait. That was no random loon. That was the NRA’s executive vice president Wayne LaPierre.
Before I launch into my own tirade, I need to backtrack. People should have the right to own guns. If they are a hunter, they should be allowed to own hunting rifles. If they live in places where their lives may be in danger, they should have the ability to protect themselves. However, they should be required to respect the gun as much as they warn others should, and by respect I think they should not only need to pay for licenses for these items, but should have to carry insurance on each firearm. They should be on record for ownership and they should be called upon to have yearly registration — all these things apply to motor vehicles which most gun enthusiasts say are more dangerous. I am not saying people should have guns pried out of their hands.
I am saying there’s no good reason for people to own assault rifles, automatic and semi-automatic weapons. There’s no reason for an average citizen to need fast-reload clips of bullets. Regulation must be decided upon based on the utility of the machine. The primary utility of a motor vehicle is to transport people or goods. The primary utility of a knife is to cut bread and meat and maybe cardboard. The primary utility of rope is to moor a boat to a dock, hang a tire from a tree branch or to use for drying clothes in the summertime. The primary utility of a gun is to launch a projectile with the intent to maim or kill, and unless I’m missing the alternate use for mixing pancake batter that is a gun’s only utility. This “cars are more dangerous” alibi sounds an awful lot like the drug addict who has been challenged to stop taking the drugs.
Before LaPierre’s rant on Friday December 21, I used the drug analogy in a figurative sense but afterward that shocking sense of watching an addict in full defensive stance seemed frighteningly evident. Indeed, most public relations experts weighed in immediately stating this was one of the worst cases of an organization’s self-immolation they’d ever seen. Newspapers followed suit. Even the New York Post, a tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., hardly the stronghold of the “mainstream liberal media,” announced LaPierre in no uncertainty as a “Gun Nut.” It is not a “lamestream” slant to say LaPierre looked and sounded like an unstable, ignorant crone with only one goal in mind: to protect his stash no matter who, old, young, or very young, got in the way. It is, in fact, the common perception of the majority.
What was so offensive? First off, the irrational simplification that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Seriously? Good guy/bad guy? Is the executive veep of the NRA himself a seven year old? This particular mouthful of excrement came from the NRA’s solution to the problem, being every school in the United States needed armed guards because the only solution in his mind is to fight fire with fire, his wet dream of a world thrust into a permanent police state. This notion was quickly debunked scant minutes later by the press when it was recalled both Columbine and Virginia Tech had armed guards. There were plenty of good guys with guns.
Here’s the thing. Most people don’t know there are guns involved until after they’ve heard the shot or, God help us, after they’ve been shot. In a situation where children and danger mix, the parental instinct is to protect the children first above all else. This is why airplane passengers are told before every flight that, if an emergency occurs, put the air mask over your face first before your kids. You’re no good to them if you pass out and leave them on their own. This is not a learned behavior, but an instinct of species. We can’t help but protect our young, possibly to our own detriment and demise…
Unless you have no parental instinct which may categorize you as mentally unstable. There’s part two of LaPierre’s gauntlet of blame reassignment, that if the mentally ill were accounted for, massacres like this wouldn’t happen. He’s partially correct in that the U.S. attitude toward mental health is shameful and inadequate, and good people are left to suffer and run afoul over the cost of health care, the stigma attached to mental issues, and the societal condemnation brought upon those with the courage to say, “I have a mental health issue.” They go silent because they will be made like modern lepers, will lose jobs, and will not be able to find other jobs should they be honest.
LaPierre’s second simplification is that there should be a registry of the mentally ill. Let’s call ’em out! Let’s not help them but, rather, corral them into a corner where we can shame them more. So long as I can keep getting my gun fix, who cares about them. Firearms uber alles. Now the irony here is that LaPierre seems to embody a psychological profile that would, under his own design of a solution, deny him his liberty and cause him to be one of the “registered mentally deficient.”
The remaining arrow in his quiver was that it was the video games and the movies that did it. It’s a tired old argument that has surfaced every time an entity seeks to shift focus from the “smoking gun.” Hey, there is a little truth in this as well as video games like the God Of War series, the torture porn of the Saw series of movies (which is currently no longer a series but, honestly, we haven’t seen the last of them), and television have become more graphic and gruesome than at any previous era. I once quipped that if you wanted to see a woman tortured, held hostage, and threatened with unspeakable violence, just turn to CBS. One of the CSI shows will definitely fill your thrill. Scapegoats abound. Henry Miller, Elvis Presley, Frank Zappa and Ozzy Osbourne alike were sending your best and brightest straight to hell too.
Violence in the media is nothing new though. I’m reminded of John Lennon who said something like, “In our society it is more acceptable to see two people killing each other than to see two people making love.” In LaPierre’s feeble assessment, John Lennon would still be alive if only he and Yoko were packing heat. NOT TRUE. Only in the movies do the “bad guys” wave around their guns and talk for five minutes about their evil schemes; just enough time for Dirty Harry to take out the trash. This is unrealistic. Again, most victims only knew there was a gun situation after the sound or experience of the first shot.
LaPierre’s performance yesterday was breathtaking in its utter disconnection to reality. The only way he could have made it worse for himself and his organization would have been if he wet himself onstage as well. It was the kind of performance I’ve seen from people who were prepared to die for the last drops of liquor in the bottle or the remaining white residue hidden in the coffee can. His membership should be outraged by what a mockery he made of them all yesterday, regardless of how measured or extreme their gun enthusiasm is. They waited for their leader to speak when, out of nowhere, an addict appeared in fear that the government was about to exact his final, ultimate drug intervention.
To those responsible, licensed gun holders and hunters out there, those who take seriously the great power and the massive responsibility of firearms, would you really want someone like Wayne LaPierre representing you?