Wayne LaPierre, executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA).

Olivier Douliery, MCT

Move along, folks: Nothing to see here

  • Article by: GREG SARGENT
  • Washington Post
  • December 21, 2012 - 6:08 PM

After having promised "meaningful contributions" in response to the shooting in Newtown, Conn., National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre on Friday clarified what that contribution would be: A proposal for armed security in every school, sponsored by the NRA itself.

LaPierre said such a security system might have saved the lives of the children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Dripping with resentment and self-pity, he claimed the media is so consumed with hatred of guns and the NRA that it won't embrace the only way of defending our children -- beefed-up school security. "Will you at least admit it's possible that 26 innocent lives might have been spared?" he asked.

LaPierre even painted the NRA as the party that has shown class in response to the tragedy. "Out of respect for the families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from commenting," he said. "While some have tried to exploit the tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectably silent."

But don't get mad about this. Keep in mind that all of this is deliberately designed to serve an overarching strategic goal -- distraction.

The NRA absolutely must keep the focus off of the problem of easy gun availability, and what can be done about it, for as long as possible.

The media narrative the organization hopes for out of this news conference is twofold: "NRA criticizes media for maligning gun owners" and "NRA calls for armed security guards in schools." This is standard obfuscation from the NRA, which always tries to distract from the discussion about the need for reform by characterizing the push for it as driven by elite cultural disdain for gun culture and ordinary gun owners.

And focusing only on schools is about diverting the conversation away from the broader epidemic of gun violence. After all, the question of whether we respond to the shooting with increased security in schools is entirely separate from whether we also respond to it -- and the broader epidemic of gun deaths -- with sensible gun-law reform. These are not mutually exclusive topics.

LaPierre said nothing to signal a willingness to even consider any change in its opposition to many of the sensible gun-law reforms that have been proposed.

I do wonder, though, whether his performance -- combined with his unwillingness to even brook discussion of any reforms -- will ultimately help the gun-control side a bit. After all, his tone (aggrieved, angry, hostile) seemed highly off-kilter in the wake of such an awful tragedy. And LaPierre revealed again that the NRA does not speak for the majority of rank-and-file gun owners. CNN's latest poll shows very broad support for specific gun-law reforms, such as background checks on every would-be gun purchaser and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Even majorities of Republicans favor these.

Friday's statement was only about the NRA's need to prevent these ideas -- and the broad problems of gun violence and the easy availability of firearms -- from being discussed as long as possible. If it can, then perhaps public sentiment in the wake of Newtown will dissipate, as it has in so many other cases. The NRA, today, was trying to take more time off the clock. It's a familiar play. We've seen it before.

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Greg Sargent writes for the Washington Post.

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