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The NRA rejects reason and stokes fear at its annual convention.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston was a three-day carnival of shrill pandering by organization leaders and tone-deaf politicians, who used recent national tragedies to stoke fear and paranoia rather than seek sensible solutions to gun violence.
Instead of joining a growing national consensus in favor of expanding background checks, or even engaging in a civilized discussion about reducing gun violence, NRA leaders and their political agitators embraced the battle slogan “Stand and Fight” as they began to load up for the 2014 congressional elections. Incoming NRA President James Porter called it “a culture war.”
Indeed it is. We can count the casualties in places like Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and Blacksburg. They are the victims in a war the NRA appears bent on furthering with overheated rhetoric and zealous opposition to even the most narrow gun control proposals.
The NRA has lost touch with reason and the 90 percent of Americans who support new background-check requirements on firearms sales. But the organization had enough U.S. senators under its gun barrel to thwart legislation requiring background checks on all firearms sales at gun shows and over the Internet. NRA Executive Director Chris Cox celebrated the victory — and President Barack Obama’s legislative defeat — when the convention opened Friday.
“It was great to see the president throw a temper tantrum in the Rose Garden,” Cox said.
Yes, Cox really enjoyed watching the president, joined by the families of Newtown murder victims and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, mourn the defeat of a bill that would have made it more difficult for criminals and those with dangerous mental illnesses to buy guns. What a triumph for the NRA.
As much as Porter, Cox and a host of conservative politicians tried to incite the Houston conventioneers, they failed to match the audacity of NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. LaPierre, a former Roanoker, managed to link the gun debate to the lockdown that took place last month as authorities pursued a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. LaPierre conjured up images of “frightened citizens, sheltered in place, with no means to defend themselves or their families from whatever may come crashing through the door.”
“How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?” LaPierre asked, as if law enforcement didn’t face enough danger hunting down Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without vigilantes adding to the crossfire.
The NRA could have used its convention for constructive purposes, to advocate for measures that would reduce gun violence and promote safety without diminishing the rights of law-abiding firearms owners. But reason doesn’t move merchandise or get followers to open their checkbooks. For the NRA, inflaming a “culture war” apparently is better for business.
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