My husband flicked on the TV Friday morning as I was finishing my oatmeal and coffee. We were both curious as to what new ideas the NRA would propose. But a deeper question tugged at my curiosity. Does the CEO of the NRA have a conscience? How does a man live with himself when his relentless lobbying over decades has enabled Jared Loughner, James Holmes, the Virginia Tech shooter, and thousands of other killers to buy guns and ammunition?
Gun deaths are so routine, they seldom make headlines. Indeed, the gun battle along a rural Pennsylvania highway Friday morning saw press coverage, because it occurred during the NRA press conference. The newsworthy factor was irony, not novelty–in 2010, there were 31,076 gun deaths (including accidents).
Thanks to the efforts of Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, the killers at Tucson, Virginia Tech, and the Aurora theater were able to purchase military style weapons–guns with high-capacity magazines, drums, and staggering amounts of ammunition. When Seung-Hui Cho stalked students and teachers at Virginia Tech, he was carrying nearly 400 rounds of ammunition. When a clerk at Walmart refused to sell ammunition to Jared Loughner because he was acting strangely, Loughner drove to another Walmart and purchased it there.
Background checks, bans on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, restrictions on the sale of ammunition, and efforts to regulate gun shows–all have met with defeat. Indeed, even an attempt to study gun control offended the delicate sensibilities of LaPierre and his friends at the NRA. In the 1990s, the NRA succeeded in blocking the Centers for Disease Control from studying guns. Surely, if LaPierre and the NRA truly believed what they keep claiming to believe, they would’ve welcomed a scientific study of the effects of gun ownership. By shutting it down, they revealed fear and dishonesty.
So, how did Wayne LaPierre look back at his lifetime achievements during the week following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Surely, he would’ve struggled through a few sleepless nights. But before he even reached the podium, I was getting answers–bad ones–to my questions. The man who introduced him said LaPierre would not answer questions–at what had been announced as a press conference! The arrogance of such a deception was already getting me to simmer, and LaPierre had not even opened his mouth yet.
The moment he did, things got worse. While hiding behind the safety of a podium where no one would be allowed to question him, LaPierre launched an assault on decency, common sense, and everyone who had spoken out this past week against gun violence. He insulted not just any citizens, but the victims of gun violence, for these are the most prominent voices among those seeking stricter gun laws. On the TV news this past week, I saw the widow of a man murdered on the Long Island railway, the son of a teacher murdered at Virginia Tech, and countless others announce the place, the date, and the name of the person they loved and lost to gun violence.
But unlike them, as they sought to politicize the tragedy at Sandy Hook for their own personal gain–unlike them, LaPierre had shown respect for the victims by remaining silent. So, with his opening sentence, LaPierre established that he was not merely the CEO of the NRA, but he was now also the Chief Officer of Protocol for the bereaved. Oh, and he also gave new meaning to the word, a$$hole.
And then it got worse from there. Lawrence O’Donnell took LaPierre to task for his insults to veterans of the armed forces. The Huffington Post, Salon, and the Nation noted not only LaPierre’s unhinged ramblings about violent pop culture, but also his failure to grasp basic facts about some of our country’s most infamous massacres. LaPierre’s panacea is an armed police officer at every school. There were two at Columbine. Virginia Tech had an entire police force.
It was clear the moment LaPierre took the podium, his highest priority was to keep the blood money flowing. He let us know he was driven by a desire to protect our nation’s most precious resource. While he spoke, I pictured his most precious resource–his one million dollar annual salary. He assured us that unlike all those rude people politicizing this tragedy, he is determined to protect our most vulnerable citizens. Indeed, especially in times like these, someone must protect the CEOs of gun manufacturers.
I watched only a few minutes of LaPierre’s ersatz press conference. I had to get to work. But I have been catching up since then on the breathtaking display of meanness, stupidity, dishonesty, and arrogance displayed from the podium. The personality, character, and values displayed by LaPierre were obscene.
You might ask why even bother spilling ink on the unhinged crackpot utterances of such a contemptible coward? Because LaPierre hopes we’ll forget this press conference. He did not wait one week out of respect for grieving families. He waited one week so that his press conference would land right before the holiday weekend and move through the news cycle as swiftly as possible. We have to ensure that doesn’t happen. We have to keep talking about LaPierre, the NRA, and gun tragedies. We have to raise our voices and talk louder when Congress convenes in January.
We have to be the conscience of any legislator who might still be intimidated by Wayne LaPierre. Remember, the only thing that stops a bad guy with money is good people who are willing to speak up and take action.
Merry Christmas Wayne LaPierre! I hope Santa Claus gives you a conscience this year.
Photo by Gage Skidmore under Creative Commons license.