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The NRA Has Declared War on America

Wayne LaPierre and Co. want you to pay the ultimate price for your freedom.

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As the annual meeting of National Rifle Association members  started here this weekend, the gentleman seated next to me said to settle in: "It's mostly administrative stuff. We vote on things." He paused for emphasis: "It's the law."

He's somewhat mistaken, of course. The NRA doesn't have any state-mandated obligation to hold an annual meeting. What's more, the NRA has very little respect for the law. A half an hour later, at that very meeting,  NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre exhorted the crowd to a morally obligated vigilantism. He drew a vivid picture of a United States in utter decay and fragmented beyond repair, Mad Max-meets-Hunger Games, divided by Soylent Green:

We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping-mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all.

LaPierre's bleak vision is exaggerated dystopianism in service of sedition, a wide-ranging survey of targets that put justice against the intrusions of the IRS on a continuum with (as an  advertisement he ran during his speech put it) workplace "bullies and liars".

Talk about mission creep. At its convention in 1977, the NRA rejected its history as a club for hunters and marksmen and  embraced activism on behalf Second Amendment absolutism. Rejecting background checks and allowing "convicted violent felons, mentally deranged people, violently addicted to narcotics" easier access to guns was, said the executive vice president that year, "a price we pay for freedom." In 2014, 500 days after Newtown and after  a year of repeated legislative and judicial victories, the NRA has explicitly expanded its scope to the culture at large.

The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment's right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: "the bad guys".

It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined "good guys" so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?

"I ask you," LaPierre grimaced at the end of his litany of doom. "Do you trust this government to protect you?"

This is not one of the items the membership voted upon. Indeed, Wayne LaPierre's confidence in making this question rhetorical is one of its most frightening aspects, though of course it's his prescription that truly alarmed me:

We are on our own. That is a certainty, no less certain than the absolute truth – a fact the powerful political and media elites continue to deny, just as sure as they would deny our right to save our very lives. The life or death truth that when you're on your own, the surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!

You cannot defend this as anything other than the dangerous ravings of a madman. LaPierre’s description of the world is demonstrably untrue, and not just in concrete, objective terms. To cite just one example:  crime rates in the US have been falling for 20 years – a statistic that some gun rights advocates brandish as proof of the selectively defined cliché, “ more guns, less crime.” Just as troubling is LaPierre's internal inconsistency about what it means for NRA members to be "on their own".

 
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