We’ve always known that conservatives — National Rifle Association members in particular — are not always the brightest bulbs in the chandelier. Yet, the response by the NRA and its supporters have reached dizzying new heights of bizarre rationalizing and tone-deafness in their response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, CT. The NRA’s long-awaited official statement and press conference with CEO Wayne LaPierre on December 21st, as transcribed by The Washington Post, was a travesty; LaPierre appearance on Meet the Press baffled and frustrated its host, David Gregory (as reported by Addicting Info‘s Egberto Willies); NRA President David Keene’s facile arguments were repeatedly shot down by Face the Nation host Bob Scheiffer; and pro-gun supporters have blamed the Sandy Hook shootings on mental illness, video games, the president, lack of armed guards in our schools, and just about everything under the sun except for guns.
For those who haven’t heard the news: It’s the guns, stupid, and it’s about time we progressives debunked these stupid conservative myths once and for all. Below, please find 10 scapegoats the NRA trots out after every mass shooting, and why they have no relevance whatsoever:
- Gun free zones: According to the NRA’s ‘logic,’ gun-free zones — like schools — attract heavily-armed crazies like flies to honey. During LaPierre’s fact-free press conference, he called for an armed police officer in every school, and declared: “Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.” But during NRA President David Keene’s Sunday appearance on Face the Nation, host Bob Scheiffer pointed out that Craig T. Steckler, president of the International Association of Police Chiefs says, “Number one, this is totally impractical. He says he happens to be the [police] chief in Fremont, California. He said, if you put a police officer in every school in Fremont, he’d have to put half his police force there. We all know the budget constraints that all these governments are under.” Scheiffer also mentioned that “On the other side, the president of the National Education Association [Dennis Van Roekel] says ‘we do not need guns in schools, period.'” In a joint statement by the NEA and the American Federation of Teachers, Roekel stated: “Guns have no place in our schools. Period. We must do everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.” Furthermore, Think Progress‘ Igor Volsky reports that Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), said that one-third of the nation’s 99,000 schools already employ armed security.
- The mentally ill: The NRA also loves to promote images of mentally deranged psychos running wild every time a tragic shooting occurs, and LaPierre’s press conference was no exception, saying, “The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can every possibly comprehend them.” Gun advocates count on our morbid fascination with twisted minds to distract from the real issues, which are: Why is it so easy for people to buy guns? and; Why do we allow people to buy semi-automatic assault rifles? Also, don’t forget that the NRA’s mostly conservative supporters have absolutely no desire to help the mentally ill. According to a report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, states have cut at least $4.35 billion in public mental health spending from 2009 to 2012. In addition, conservatives vehemently oppose Obamacare, which would give more people access to mental health services.
- Copycats: While the American people struggle to process the tragic shooting du jour, the NRA swoops in to strike fear in our hearts with the looming specter of ‘copycat killers’ — as though murderers enjoy mimicking each other like young children. “How many more copycats are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame from a national media machine that rewards them with wall-to-wall attention and a sense of identity that they crave, while provoking others to try to make their mark,” LaPierre asked rhetorically. While some murderers do, indeed, model their crimes on what they see on the news or in the media, the fear-inducing ‘copycat’ image is specifically designed to — once again — distract from the real solution, which is to limit or prohibit ownership of assault weapons so the crazies and copycats can’t kill so many people in such a short amount of time.
- President Barack Obama: In Pro Gun Bizarro World, President Obama is to blame for recent shootings because he’s soft on crime. According to ‘reliable sources’ like Breitbart.com and The Examiner, Federal gun prosecutions have declined by 45%. LaPierre attributes this dubious statistic (which this writer can’t find in reputable media sources) to Obama’s “declined willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years.” Yet in the ‘real’ world, the president has taken a tough stance on crime and — until the Newtown, CT shootings — has not taken on the gun lobby. According to Anita Kumar’s and Lesley Clark’s article in The Charlotte Observer, Obama has actually “loosened some gun restrictions, signing into law measures that allow people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and in checked bags on Amtrak trains. He long supported reinstating a 1994 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, but he hasn’t pushed to make that happen.”
- Video games: The NRA also blames gun violence on video games, despite a complete lack of evidence. Apparently, having a digital avatar running around shooting stuff on a computer screen corrupts the mind, while running around and shooting stuff in the real world is good, wholesome, family entertainment. In his press conference, LaPierre ranted: “There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like ‘Bullet Storm,’ ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ‘Mortal Kombat,’ and ‘Splatterhouse.’ And here’s one, it’s called ‘Kindergarten Killers.'” This is an easy smokescreen, since many conservatives and progressives alike have expressed concern about the effects of violent video games on our children. But remember … the NRA and its conservative membership doesn’t really care about the possible negative effects of video games on our children: These are the people who’ve supported deregulating corporations, giving them free license to pollute our economy and our physical and mental environments with their toxic filth. Save your concerns for another day.
- The media: In addition to blaming video games, the NRA complains about the media in general. During his press conference, LaPierre scolded, “a child growing up in America today witnesses 16,000 murders, and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches the ripe old age of 18 … Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize gun owners.” Awwww, that’s so sweet that the NRA cares about the effect of media violence on our children. Except that the NRA and its supporters really couldn’t care less.
- Too few lawful gun owners: No matter how many mass murders and other unnecessary shooting deaths make news headlines, the NRA always thinks the solution is more ‘good guys’ with guns. During his press conference, LaPierre firmly stated, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or from a minute away?” Unfortunately for the NRA, this rationale has no factual basis. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, as reported by Eric W. Dolan for Raw Story, weak state gun laws have contributed to gun violence by allowing people with misdemeanor and felony convictions to own guns. Should convicted criminals really count as “lawful gun owners?” Conversely, a study by the Violence Policy Center points out that states with stricter gun laws and lower rates of gun ownership also have lower rates of gun violence. Coincidence? I think not.
- America’s unwillingness to protect its children: Gun violence supporters also accuse gun safety proponents of not caring enough about our children to protect them with guns. LaPierre claims that since we protect everything else that’s valuable to us with armed guards, we should protect our children the same way: “So, why is the idea of a gun good when it’s used to protect the president of our country or our police, but bad when it’s used to protect our children in our schools?” LaPierre’s concerns about Americans’ unwillingness to protect their children may be valid. Unfortunately, these Americans are the gun owners themselves. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly 2 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns, and “39 percent of children interviewed knew the location of their parents’ guns and 22 percent said they had handled the guns despite their parents’ reporting otherwise.” According to a 2004 report from The American Journal of Epidemiology, the risk for gun-related deaths increases significantly when guns are present in the home (a 1:9 ratio or 11.1% for homicides, and a whopping 31:1 or 3100% for suicides). And those are just the intentional killings. JustFacts.com reports that there were 613 fatal gun accidents in 2007. It never seems to occur to LaPierre and other pro gun spokespeople that there’s a huge difference between trained guards, police officers, and elite secret service personnel and just any old person who keeps guns in their house.
- Budget cuts: Funny, how conservatives keep enacting draconian budget cuts and then have the nerve to complain about the results of these draconian budget cuts. LaPierre whines about how “this president zeroed out school emergency planning grants in last year’s budget and scrapped Secure Our Schools policing grants in next year’s budget. With all the foreign aid the United States does, with all the money in the federal budget, can’t we afford to put a police officer in every single school?” Um, no … we probably can’t. According to the conservatives who support the NRA, we can’t afford to pay our teachers and policemen decently, we can’t afford their retirement packages, and we can’t trust them to rationally conduct collective bargaining through their unions, yet we can trust them to carry guns into our children’s schools? Go figure.
- Lack of gun safety training: The NRA famously boasts about its gun education and safety training programs (though if the illustration above is an example, they should rethink that), as if these mass shootings would magically cease if only the murderers realized how unsafe it is to take guns into a place full of people and start shooting them. LaPierre declared: “Our training programs are the most advanced in the world. That expertise must be brought to bear to protect our schools and our children now.” Unfortunately, that ‘expertise’ has been brought to bear, most recently on the 20 first graders who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
You can watch The Washington Post‘s video of the NRA’s press conference with Wayne LaPierre here:
You can watch NRA President David Keene’s appearance on Face the Nation here: