NRA's Bizarre Press Conference: 'More Guns Now!'
This piece has been updated.
After a week of hiding after the school massacre in the Sandy Hook community of Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association today broke its silence with an extraordinary press event in which Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed everybody and everything but the gun culture it has fostered for the deaths of 20 children and seven adults last week at the hands of Adam Lanza.
As media swarmed into Washington, D.C.'s historic Willard Hotel for the NRA event, protesters led by CREDO Action, bearing signs emblazoned with the slogan, "Stop the NRA," gathered outside the hotel with the stated goal of delivering petitions signed by some 235,000 citizens. The petitions read: "In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the NRA must stand down and stop blocking Congress and the President from passing gun control legislation."
Petitions from CREDO Action stacked outside the Willard Hotel on Dec. 21, 2012, await their attempted delivery to NRA leaders. Photo: © Josh Lopez
Time was when the National Rifle Association was an organization for hunters and law enforcement officers, among its main aims public education on the safe use of firearms. But that was decades ago, before the NRA found more lucre in its current role trade association and lobby for manufacturers of firearms and ammunition, a business sector that, these days, shows no shame in being among the nation's foremost merchants of death.
Paranoia Runs Deep
Given the paranoia in which right-wing leaders traffic, there's a natural alliance between the arms merchants and the political right. Add to that the neo-libertarian ideology of much of the Tea Party movement, which opposes virtually all forms of government regulation, and you have a perfect confluence of interests that keeps conservative politicians of both parties in the NRA's thrall, hungry for the campaign dollars the organization dispenses through its PAC, and fearful of its opposition at primary time.
At the press conference, LaPierre laid down, in no uncertain terms, that a ban on assault rifles or large-capacity magazines, such as that being suggested by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calf., is unacceptable. (Hear that Republicans? Don't even think about voting for such a thing.) He complained that the media "demonized" gun-owners, and claimed that a ban on particular weapons such as assault rifles would do nothing to avert future tragedies.
LaPierre then went full-bore into the fear-mongering mode those on the right traditionally invoke in order to win converts. (It's not for nothing that sales of assault rifles -- particularly the AR-15 model used by Lanza -- and high-capacity magazine clips have soared since the massacre.)
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre calls for the arming of school personnel at Washington, D.C., press conference. Photo: A.M. Stan
From LaPierre's prepared text:
How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame...A dozen more killers? A hundred? More? How can we possibly even guess how many, given our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill?
And the fact is, that wouldn't even begin to address the much larger and more lethal criminal class: Killers, robbers, rapists and drug gang members who have spread like cancer in every community in this country. Meanwhile, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40 percent — to the lowest levels in a decade.
Actually, crime rates among the sort of violent criminals named by LaPierre have dropped steadily in recent years, with a gain so small as to be statistically insignificant over the last year. (There has been a rise in unarmed, so-called "simple assaults," which raises violent crime figures overall.)