On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being Bill Clinton waxing philosophical on the meaning of the word “is” and 10 being Mike Tyson threatening to eat his opponent’s babies, the absurdity of NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s public response to the shootings in Newtown, CT was about a 6 or a 7. It wasn’t completely divorced from reality, but it was delusional enough that a British news outlet had to clarify twice for its viewers that what they were watching was not a spoof and actually happened. If LaPierre wanted to enter full-blown Tyson face-tattoo/pigeon-whispering territory, he would have had to go beyond simply giving voice to the twisted pro-gun rhetoric that we expect from him. Had he held the press conference remotely from his personal home movie theater wearing nothing but a strategically placed tube sock and channeled the spirit of Howard Hughes by surrounding himself with hundreds of Ball jars of his own urine, then I could’ve validated giving the man the full Nadia Comenci treatment. As it is, LaPierre only registers as another deluded embarrassment to humanity with access to a microphone and pool of press reporters.
Why any of us expected anything other than a polishing up of infantile and idiotic talking points after a tragedy like the one at Sandy Hook when we were treated to the same nauseating dog and pony show after Aurora and Tucson and Columbine is beyond me. I never expected anything but the lowest common denominator of bullshit from the NRA, but I don’t think I was prepared for how dated and overly simplistic LaPierre’s bullshit was going to be. At one point, without the faintest hint of irony or self-awareness, LaPierre told the crowd that, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Such a sentiment might be appropriate for an NRA-sponsored children’s book, but such a dichotomous worldview is not acceptable coming from a grown man who is responsible for one of the most powerful lobbies on the face of the planet. Give the good guys guns so they can kill the bad guys with guns? Are you shitting me? Maybe when Mr. LaPierre gets done playing with his GI Joes and watching The Justice League he can come out and give us a nuanced position on gun ownership that isn’t rooted in simplistic fantasy. It’s like the NRA’s position on gun rights was drawn up by a 10 year old: “Bad people are killing lots of people with guns, what should we do?” Give the good people guns. “Brilliant!”
Honestly, can you think of another situation where an organization’s solution to a problem is making that problem ubiquitous? LaPierre’s demand that we militarize our schools and and place armed guards in every school is patently insane. Never mind the fact that there were two armed guards at Columbine during the massacre in 1999 and that the guards had no bearing on the actions of the shooters. Don’t take into account the fact that the instances of armed civilians stopping shootings are exceedingly rare and almost always carried out by off-duty police officers or ex-military personnel.1 Clearly, the answer to this issue lies in turning our schools into mini-armories complete with a few of the city’s finest patrolling the halls. It’s not like that would unduly frighten children or hamper learning and development in any way. Hell, just let all the teachers keep a 9mm in their desk drawer. What could possibly go wrong by filling our schools with firearms?
In addition to the assertion of the completely unfounded more guns = less death argument, the NRA busted out their favorite scapegoat, violence in the media. Listening to LaPierre tell it, you would be forgiven for thinking this speech was being given in 2002 and not 2012. According to the NRA, the most corrosive influences on the minds of today’s youth include, “Mortal Kombat…American Psycho and Natural Born Killers”. You people had an entire week to come up with examples of negative portrayals of violence in the media and this is what you ended up with? So, we have a video game that involves no guns and has been irrelevant for 15 years, and two films that are both more than a decade old. You realize that Adam Lanza was 2 when Natural Born Killers came out, right? If you’re going to blame Hollywood for inspiring an underclass of depraved mass murderers, at least have the common courtesy to refer to films and video games that have some current cultural cache. Do you have a pencil? Call of Duty, Hostel, Sons of Anarchy. You’re welcome NRA, and you can use those in your talking points after the next mass murder in America happens, which should be sometime in January if the recent past is any indicator.
Instead of focusing out attentions on the supposed evils of contemporary media, it might be fruitful to turn our eyes to the other side of the Pacific and the nation of Australia, who was faced with a very similar situation in the mid-nineties. In 1996, a deranged young man took an AR-15 rifle (sound familiar?) and murdered 35 Australians in cold blood at Port Arthur, a tourist hotspot in Tasmania. It was by far the worst mass murder in the nation’s history and, within weeks of the tragedy, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard enacted sweeping gun reform, banning assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons and orchestrating a massive government buy-back of more than 650,000 firearms. The reforms have been an undeniable success, with gun violence in Australia decreasing by 59% in the decade since its passing. In the 18 years prior to the reforms, there had been 13 mass shootings in Australia. In the 16 years since the ban there have been 0.2 And, in case you forgot Mr. LaPierre, these are the people that gave us Mad Max. Gratuitous film violence can’t lead to actual violence if there’s nothing to commit it with.