At times like this, I pay a visit to the NRA’s website. If you’ve never looked at it, do so. As you’d expect, it’s a slick and professionally produced affair, nearly all of it devoted to boasting about the group’s successes and legislative wins.
There wasn’t a word, Sunday morning, about the weekend’s carnage in El Paso and Dayton. There was, however, one piece of content that the weekend’s events turned into a macabre joke. The lead story, so to speak, on the home page was something called “A Statement by NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre.”
Yes, I was naïve enough to think that this was going to be about the weekend’s shootings. It would be evasive and dishonest, of course, but at least it would acknowledge that these horrors had occurred.
But when I clicked on it and started reading it, I saw that in fact it was a statement to members explaining why the NRA was going to stop producing live television for NRATV. This was not of course the NRA’s fault, because nothing is ever the NRA’s fault, according to the NRA. Instead, LaPierre pinned the problem on “our longtime advertising firm and website vendor,” which had “failed to deliver upon many contractual obligations.” Rest assured though that NRATV would continue to exist, airing exclusive video content. The world can’t live without that.
From time to time, I visit the web page of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). This is the dark heart of it, where they brag about how many politicians they own. I nosed around this page on Sunday morning, and lo and behold, the top item “Trending Now” was about a governor who’d just signed 10 “pro-Second Amendment” bills into law. The governor in question is Greg Abbott, of Texas, who Saturday bemoaned “one of the most deadly days in the history of Texas.”
Ten laws! One measure prohibits “no firearms” clauses in future residential leases, which is great, right, because it means that people who rent apartments can build up whatever caches of semi-automatic weapons they want. Another prevents school districts from prohibiting the presence of firearms in private cars on school property. This is great, too, because it allows teachers to come to school armed. Of course, it logically does the same for unstable people who want to shoot up a high school. But the price of liberty is high.
And another strikes the words “churches, synagogues, or other places of worship” from an existing firearms law, “clarifying that these places have the same right enjoyed by nearly all other controllers of private property in the state to decide whether to allow License To Carry holders on their premises.” Because packing heat in church is just what Jesus would want.
(Sunday night, long after this essay was posted, the NRA got around to mentioning that “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims of these tragedies, as well as the entire communities of El Paso and Dayton.” The statement from LaPierre, however, remained atop its website, with no mention on the homepage of the massacres.)
No one is putting the blame for these shootings directly on the gun group or the politicians in its pocket. We are blaming them for the fact that ours is such a blood-splattered land, completely unlike anyplace else in the world.
Other countries do sensible things. You’ll recall that after that mass shooting in New Zealand in March, the country’s parliament banned assault weapons six days later. Six days! New Zealand has not, incidentally, escaped the NRA’s notice. The second trending item, under Governor Abbott’s heroic efforts, was called “Never Enough: New Zealand pushes even more gun control.”
Yes, because sane countries do something. Here in the United States, these things happen, and we do nothing. We even watched 20 first graders get slaughtered by a crazy man in Connecticut, and we did nothing. More than 100 pieces of gun legislation have been introduced in Congress since around the time of that Sandy Hook massacre. Not one has passed. Most don’t even get voted on. Then, every so often, Moscow Mitch decides it’s time to go through the charade of giving a gun control bill a vote, and the Republicans all vote no.
And now let’s talk about Donald Trump. Where the NRA said nothing about the massacre in El Paso, Donald Trump Saturday at least did tweet to condemn the “hateful act.” Fine. But remember that he had been in the very same El Paso back in February, where he riled people up and bragged about border patrol agents arresting undocumented immigrants who were guilty of “murders, murders, killings, murders” (at which point the crowd started chanting “build the wall!”). The El Paso shooter’s apparent manifesto mentioned a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
More recently, Trump spoke to the NRA-ILA convention in Indianapolis in April. The right to bear arms “is under assault,” he said. “But not while we’re here.”
He then used the occasion to announce that he was pulling the United States out of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty. You know that he revoked U.S. acceptance of the Paris climate accord and the Iran deal. But you probably didn’t hear about this one. It regulates international trade in conventional weapons. It entered into force in 2014, and 101 nations have accepted it. Not the United States. The Senate, led by you know who, never ratified it. And it is opposed, of course, by the NRA.
This is what the NRA does, day after day and week after week, largely out of public view. They buy politicians like Abbott (“A Rating” from the NRA) and state legislatures and even presidents. They dream up laws normal people wouldn’t even conceive of—laws that make sure the horrors like those we have just witnessed in El Paso and Dayton happen and will continue to happen. Each new bloodbath should bring us closer to finally acting, but if anything the country is moving in the opposite direction. All in the name of freedom.