By Michael Baker
Earlier today the National Rifle Association held its first official press conference since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Check out the full text of NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s comments here.
This is a big deal because as goes the NRA, so goes the pro-gun lobby in America. The main proposal presented in the press conference is to place armed police or security in every public school in the nation. I don’t find that too disagreeable (I much prefer it to the idea of arming teachers, for example), but in acting as though it is a total solution the NRA is attempting to narrow our focus in order to dodge the larger and more pressing issue.
Armed security in schools would give us a safety net when it comes to school shootings – it would likely have a deterrent effect, and would ensure that a first responder is already on the scene if chaos erupts. But it does absolutely nothing to address the real issue of gun violence in America. Armed security guards were on the scene of the mall shooting in Oregon early last week, and by all accounts police responded to the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado within minutes, to no avail. The NRA’s proposal implies that the threat of this kind of violence only exists on elementary and high-school campuses.
Let’s get real. This is a disingenuous, ham fisted solution from the pro-gun lobby’s national mouthpiece. It is designed to avoid talking about legislative reform of gun laws. This proposal is, at best, a band-aid; it’s putting lipstick on a pig (or a bulldog, to paraphrase one of the gun lobby’s most grateful beneficiaries). And of course, the press conference was adjourned without entertaining a single question from journalists. In particular, the NRA fears discussion of the oft-proposed assault weapons ban. That’s probably because a federal assault weapons ban makes so much sense that serious discussion of the issue by Congress is likely to result in reinstatement of that legislation.
I’ve gone on record as being kind of a strange bird when it comes to the whole gun issue – I’m pro-Second Amendment, but I’m also anti-gun; I guess I like that people have the right to bear arms, I just hope they’ll choose not to exercise it. And while I completely understand the argument that the Second Amendment is designed and intended to protect against tyranny, it’s a well-settle point of both law and good sense that the Second Amendment does not prevent the government from banning any category or arms. The fact is that if some great American tyrant (Big O, I guess) decided to deploy troops to my apartment to take me down, no amount of badass, Rambo-esque assault weaponry is going to stop them. To defend against that kind of assault, I would need some sort of high-grade explosive, and even the NRA doesn’t argue that the Second Amendment entitles me to that.
“There’ll be time for talk and debate later,” LaPierre insists. (And yes, “later” is emphasized in italics even in the NRA’s online version of the statement). This is an old, squirrely political tactic. If now is not prime time for debate about guns, when is? The NRA is savvy enough to know that the American public has a short attention span, and the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary will be largely forgotten by this time next month. (If you disagree, talk to me in a month, if you remember reading this). This is nothing more than a deferral to some hypothetical future debate as a means of dodging the pressing questions.
So, contrary to what many had hopes for today, the NRA is who we all pretty much knew they were. They’re still who they were before last week, and I guess they always will be. The question now is whether the public at large is paying enough attention to see through it all.