The National Rifle Association’s leading figure apparently paid so little attention to the particulars of the Sandy Hook School massacre that he misstated the number of murdered children when the organization finally broke its silence on Friday.
In irony gone ghoulish, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and chief executive officer, actually inflated the body count of youngsters. He made the startling and revealing error while suggesting that things might have been different if Adam Lanza had encountered an armed security guard at the school.
“Will you at least admit it’s possible that 26 little kids, that 26 innocent lives might have been spared that day?” LaPierre asked.
The official NRA prepared statement said only “26 innocent lives,” which was correct when the six murdered adults were tallied with the correct count of 20 murdered children. The “26 kids” was added by LaPierre, but his lack of attention to detail is understandable when you consider that his organization is essentially a sham. Facts cannot mean much when the whole proposition is a lie.
As should be apparent to anybody who attends one of its conventions turned gun show, the NRA is a shill for the gun industry, which puts profits far ahead of victims, even if the victims are 20 school kids. Or was it 26?
The NRA’s proposal to post an armed guard at every school is only part of a larger plan. The ultimate aim is for the firearms industry to keep selling as many guns and magazines and bullets as it can.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, a friend of mine who was a longtime Special Forces operator before he was wounded in Afghanistan summarized in an online posting the general position of the NRA and its supporters: “If everyone had a gun, people would be able to kill a shooter before he caused too much mayhem.”
The operator also offered a highly skilled and experienced good guy’s view of this notion.
“This, simply put, is bullshit,” he wrote. “There are people who train night and day to be good at shooting bad guys in situations where there are innocents in close proximity and even those people screw up because a gunfight is not a shooting range. People are dying and screaming and there is blood and all that silly shit you ‘think’ you’re going to do goes right out the window when you are in that crazy environment.”
He further tendered his opinion of the high-capacity magazines that the NRA has fought so hard to keep on the market.
“There is no reason for a noncombatant citizen of our country to have a weapon that can shoot 30 rounds of ammunition. I have been in many gunfights in ‘bona fide’ war-zones and only a few times did I have to use that many bullets. If you are a hunter or a sports shooter, you don’t need a 30-round magazine to do either of those things.”
It should be noted that one number that LaPierre never seems to get wrong is the bullet capacity of a magazine. Other people who remember that number as well as the number of murdered children are the parents who had kids at Sandy Hook School, where 20 kids were killed with 30-round magazines.
A group of Sandy Hook parents have formed a grassroots organization that is only beginning to take shape but promises to become a force of greatest good.
One number that LaPierre never seems to get wrong is the bullet capacity of a magazine.
“Energy and ideas and compassion and outrage and commitment,” says Sandy Hook parent Andrei Nikitchyuk. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
Nikitchyuk’s 8-year-old son, known as Bear, and a schoolmate were classroom helpers, on their way to deliver the attendance sheets when gunfire erupted. They might well have been killed had not a heroic teacher named Abbey Clements pulled them to safety. Clements did her best to keep the kids calm as gunfire and screams keep coming over the public address system.
“She tried to make sure those noises were not the last ones the children heard," Nikitchyuk says, his voice beginning to choke up. "She was telling them, 'I love you,' and, ‘Please, I'd like to see you smile.’”
After his son was home safe but 20 other youngsters were dead, Nikitchyuk found himself churning with emotions that seemed to have no place.
“I really didn’t know what to do,” he says. “I tried drinking, but it just wouldn't do anything to me. I didn’t know how to express my feelings.”
He ended up going on Twitter, and he came in contact with somebody who had a connection with the ++Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ++ [http://www.bradycampaign.org]. He was invited to Washington and he spoke at a press conference on Monday at the Capitol in front of seemingly thousands of cameras.
“We were just mobbed,” he says.
He afterwards met with legislators and then went to the White House, where he and people with the Brady Campaign met with presidential assistant Valerie Jarrett in the Roosevelt Room. She told them that her grandfather had been a victim of gun violence. She also told them that on the day of the shooting, President Obama had raced upstairs to hug his daughters when they returned from school. She said the president had made a commitment.
“To do whatever he can to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Nikitchyuk reports.
Nikitchyuk returned to Connecticut and began meeting with other Sandy Hook parents who share a commitment of their own.
“To make this tragedy into something that the people who perished would be proud of, to give some meaning, some positive meaning, not something monstrous,” he says.
This commitment will combine with unassailable moral authority to make the parents more than the equal of the NRA—and the gun manufacturers behind it.
“They can’t just hire associations to do their dirty work for them,” Nikitchyuk says.
The voice that had choked up as he recounted how the teacher had told the children she loved them had now filled with a quiet, unshakably determined power. It was the power of a parent who knows what it is to almost lose a child and who knows 20 families who have lost children.
“I don’t know how these people can look in the eyes of their children,” Nikitchyuk says of the gun makers.