Yes you read it right. My line of work is branding and I have always told clients a name should reflect who and what they are. If it doesn't, a change is in order: NARA, National Assault Rifle Association. Doesn't that sound right to you? Much has been said in recent days about Wayne Lapierre's breathtaking rant, mislabeled a "press conference". I invite you listen if you have the will. Sometimes it is useful to hear people like this, if only to assess the magnitude of the problem they present. As you know, the bottom line of the NARA's message was arm up, precisely what I said we shouldn't do in my last post.
What both interested and disturbed me most about the rant was its tone and perhaps more accurately its arrogance. Lapierre spoke for 4 Million NARA members and one would think he was talking for the nation. As the political analyst/broadcaster Laurence O'Donnell noted in a commentary (well worth listening) the nation's news outlets all interrupted their programming to broadcast the event live. He noted that would never happen for the speech by A. Barry Rand, CEO of the AARP with a membership of 40 Million. The coverage alone speaks volumes about the NARA's power in this country. Lapierre spoke as if he were on an equal footing with the President or at least some governor or senator. Who elected this guy and why is everyone falling line for someone who may not even fully represent his own membership?
Beyond calling for an arming up, Lapierre spent most of his time blaming everyone else for what happened in Newtown. It is the media's fault with their inaccurate reporting, Hollywood's fault with its violent films, it is all those "vicious, violent video games" — all of them fueled by corporate greed. In a not so subtle critique of calls for better tracking of gun owners, the NARA leader also blamed "our nation's refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill." Running throughout his remarks was a portrayal of the NARA as victim typified by "the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the [NARA] and America's gun owners". Thank you for that. Now we understand the real problem.
For sure, the violence that we're exposed to as "entertainment" is worth considering. It is on the Biden agenda. But so too must we consider that, thanks to the arms industry and NARA, assault weapons have replaced simple riffles and pistols as the weapons of choice in these dramas and videos. Indeed as the NY Times just reported, gun manufacturers use video games as marketing tools. Forget the dues of 4 Million members, these are the same manufacturers from whom NARA gets much of its funding. What about that Mr. Lapierre?
When it comes to the Newtown tragedy, the NARA leader was hardly alone in the blame game. Some of the others playing that card were far more bizarre. Each spoke in his own voice but all seemed to agree that Newtown happened because God and prayer has been taken out of the schools. Onetime presidential candidate Mike Huckabee started the ball rolling. On Fox News he pontificated, "We've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools have become a place for carnage because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, responsibility, accountability?" James Dobson was more specific when he declared that, "...millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me, and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too." Wow. And not to be left out the political Energizer Bunny Newt Gingrich added his own wisdom. "When you have an anti-religious, secular bureaucracy and secular judiciary, seeking to drive God out of public life, something fills the vacuum". Ah, godlessness is the problem. Right.
Some people think that we may finally have reached some kind of tipping point on gun control. The NARA wants us to know that it has no intention of letting us go over the edge toward rationality. Time will tell, but Lapierre in both content and tone seemed out of touch with the widespread reaction to the Newtown tragedy. Reactions to his rant, including by Rupert Murdoch's NY Post, have generally been negative. Nonetheless, initial polls indicate that Newtown did not have much impact on how the public feels about gun control. While more respondents (49%) think control is more important the right to own (42%), there is still no majority for new legislation. That may change in the weeks ahead, especially if the Vice President can make a compelling case.
Fringe politics and fringe religiosity still play far too great a role in American life. That a man like Lapierre can be taken so seriously, and more importantly carry such weight, speaks to the condition of our democracy as we prepare for another turn in the calendar year. The continued dysfunction of our Congress where fringe politics has taken hold, or perhaps more accurately taken rationality hostage, is leading us on a dangerous course. Legislators who want to engage with their opposite number in a constructive way find themselves victims of blackmail, the threat of a primary challenge weighing heavily on their actions. Yes it's hard to listen to the NARA rants, but we should be energized by them. Energized indeed, to rise up a say, we've had enough.