Clarence Page: NRA shoots down its own ideas
Sometimes the leaders of the National Rifle Association don’t seem to know how to take “yes” for an answer.
Their ridicule of President Barack Obama’s comprehensive response to the complex problem of gun violence includes a rejection of ideas they suggested.
Remember how NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, after the Newtown massacre, eagerly blamed just about everything but federal gun policy?
Remember how he attacked gun-free school zones, lax mental health facilities and even violent video games — but not military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines or his own organization’s resistance to such sensible ideas as background checks for gun purchasers at gun shows?
Remember how he also doubled down after astonished critics ridiculed his call for even more guns in schools, handled by “armed officers”? “If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” two days before Christmas, “then call me crazy.”
Well, guess what? Among his legislative gun control proposals and 23 executive actions, President Obama agreed in some form with all of those ideas from LaPierre. But don’t hold your breath waiting for any semblance of looming cooperation from the NRA.
Obama called for federal aid to states for the hiring of up to 1,000 new “school resource officers,” which would be specially trained police officers that work in schools where school districts want them.
He called for mental health professionals to “help prevent school crime and student-on-student violence.” That proposal would include initiatives to help school staff catch symptoms of mental illness early and refer students for treatment.
President Obama even agreed that the influence of video games was worth investigating. He called for $10 million from Congress for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct a study on whether there is a correlation between gun violence and “violent video games” and other media.
To its credit, the Entertainment Software Association sounded eager to cooperate. Although it pointed out that researchers so far have failed to find a definitive link between violent video games and violent behavior, the organization that represents the interactive entertainment industry said in a statement that it would cooperate and “collaborate” with the government to “examine the facts that inform meaningful solutions.”
Good for them. It is an underreported scandal that, since 1996, Congress actually has handcuffed the federal government’s ability to conduct any research into firearm safety. Under NRA pressure, lawmakers removed research funds from the CDC that was being used for any research that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” The NRA was particularly alarmed by a study that showed a gun kept in the home to be 43 times more likely to be involved in the death of a member of the household than to be used in self-defense. The NRA solution: ban the research.
That helps to explain NRA President David Keene’s hardline position even on issues that LaPierre proposed. Such ideas as mental health services and school resource officers are “a drop in the ocean in terms of the problem,” Keene told ABC News. “It’s simply a fig leaf so he can pursue an anti-gun agenda. It has less to do with security and more to do with guns.”
To help insure that Congress will block the president’s proposals, the NRA didn’t even wait to hear him say what they actually were before launching an outrageous attack video on their website.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the 35-second video’s doomsday-voiced narrator asks. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
President Obama’s announcement nullified the video’s argument, which was ridiculous anyway. The children of presidents are protected by Secret Service not because they are “more important” than other kids but because they are more at risk.
Besides, if anybody sounds “elitist,” which my dictionary defines as one who believes in “a sense of entitlement enjoyed by a group or class,” it’s the NRA.
Clarence Page’s column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. Email him as firstname.lastname@example.org. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.