Sunday, 23 December 2012

And the NRA's antidote to guns is...more guns!

We may share a common tongue and a fondness for fried potato products, but watching the press conference from Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice-President of the National Rifle Association, the United States of America has never seemed more foreign, and less united.

Ominously silent since the Sandy Hook massacre, this was a first response to the events that crow-barred Newtown, Conneticut, into our collective consciousness, and whipped up the wave of anti-second amendment rhetoric now breaking daily on the doorstep of the NRA.

Mr LaPierre initially welcomed assembled members of the press to what he termed ‘the beginning of our discussion of the topic’, before announcing that no questions would be taken. From that point it became apparent the ‘discussion’ would be a tad one-sided and although an opportunity for questions was promised on another occasion, this was distinctly more polemic than press conference.

After confirming the NRA shared in the collective revulsion, Mr LaPierre asked why, in the aftermath of the abhorrent actions of Adam Lanza, was nobody tackling what he sees as the central issue; how to keep children safe, right now, in “a way that we know will work.” Mr LaPierre pointed out that Americans are perfectly happy to see presidents, airports, offices, court houses and even sports stadiums protected by armed guards, and yet when it comes to children, he said, they are left “utterly defenceless”. It was by now abundantly clear what was coming.

The solution, as the NRA sees it, is a National School Shield Emergency Response Program, that’s gun-totting guards in schools to you and me. After all, as Mr LaPierre put it; “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” Well, the National Rifle Association must have a lot of guns, and, surprise surprise, LaPierre announced that the NRA is “willing and uniquely qualified to help.” But, not only help, they’ll bankroll it with both barrels, to the tune of “whatever scope the task requires.” Now, in a time of tight budgets and fiscal shortfalls, it’s deeply gratifying to think of an army of heavily-armed altruists riding to the rescue. Or is it?

Mr LaPierre had pilloried those he professed were trying to exploit the tragedy “for political gain”, and rightly so. Yet, it is hard to envisage from this “multi-faceted program”, incorporating armed security, building design, IT, access control, and featuring the “most knowledgeable and credentialed experts”, that somebody wouldn’t quietly come out of it with a big stash of cash.

Setting aside such cynical assertions, LaPierre did make some salient points. Movie studios and video games manufacturers were duly called to account for portraying life “as a joke” and murder “as a way of life”. After stating that society was “populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters”, he also chastised the media for giving said monsters their much craved global platform.

Although from this side of the pond, LaPierre’s proposal may smack of opportunist economics, or a cynical justification of the NRA’s own existence, saying; ‘oops, we were wrong, could everyone give their guns back?’ is unlikely to have the desired effect either.

However morally bankrupt it might seem to suggest sending armed security into American schools, perhaps the time for a more educational approach elapsed when Pandora’s gunpowder pouch was opened, and its access enshrined in US law. Sandy Hook evokes a collective pain, pointing to a collective problem, and a society consistently producing such cancerous killings, needs to take a long hard look inside itself for the cure.


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