On Friday, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association called the organization’s first press conference since the Newtown massacre. The press was notably more sympathetic to the Code Pink protester who crashed the event to scream mindless slogans. No surprises there. Oddly enough, the reporters were also very angry that LaPierre didn’t take questions, even though they sat happily through President Obama’s rare pre-election “press conferences,” and he didn’t take questions, either.
As to what LaPierre had to say, he began by explaining why the NRA has waited until now to speak up: “Out of respect for those grieving families, and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment. While some have tried to exploit tragedy for political gain, we have remained respectfully silent. Now, we must speak ??? for the safety of our nation’s children. Because for all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week, no one ??? nobody ??? has addressed the most important, pressing and immediate question we face: How do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works?”
His suggested solution involved enhanced security for schools, specifically asking why, “with all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?” But he went on to discuss a more broad-based solution compatible with the idea for swift private-sector action I’ve been kicking around:
Now, the National Rifle Association knows that there are millions of qualified active and retired police; active, reserve and retired military; security professionals; certified firefighters and rescue personnel; and an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every school. We can deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer ??? relying on the brave men and women of America???s police force.
The budget of our local police departments are strained and resources are limited, but their dedication and courage are second to none and they can be deployed right now. I call on Congress today to act immediately, to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school ??? and to do it now, to make sure that blanket of safety is in place when our children return to school in January.
He went on to offer the NRA’s resources, “as America’s preeminent trainer of law enforcement and security personnel for the past fifty years,” to aid in the endeavor, announcing that the organization would “bring all of its knowledge, dedication, and resources to develop a model National School Shield Emergency Response Program for every school that wants it.”
The reaction of liberals to this proposal was remarkable: within a matter of minutes, the hot new lefty meme on the Internet was that the notion of protecting school children is crazy. For years, liberals have said only cops should carry guns; now that they know the NRA likes cops, and LaPierre has reminded them that a large number of law enforcement personnel are members, suddenly they can’t be trusted, either.
There are reasonable questions to be asked about the practicality of a “cops now, private security later” approach, given the strained resources of many police departments; LaPierre raised those questions himself. But liberals suddenly decided there was nothing to debate – the whole notion was utterly beyond the pale, and the NRA was daft to even propose it. There was a whiff of ideological panic about the reaction. With new gun laws suddenly on the table after such a long time in the wilderness, gun-control zealots don’t want Americans engaging in a serious discussion of the alternatives.
Besides their ideological hostility to the NRA, some of the media reaction could be attributed to the confrontational attitude LaPierre took toward them, early in his remarks. He goaded them quite frequently, calling them out for their ignorance about firearms, castigating them for packaging and promoting a culture of violence, and reminding them that the politicians and celebrities they love already enjoy armed security protection. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre said. Perhaps a few of the big network anchors and Washington power brokers might try running that idea past their armed bodyguards, and see what they think.
“Is the press and political class here in Washington so consumed by fear and hatred of the NRA and America’s gun owners that you’re willing to accept a world where real resistance to evil monsters is a lone, unarmed school principal left to surrender her life to shield the children in her care?” LaPierre asked, referring to the heroic principal of Sandy Hook Elementary, Dawn Hochsprung. That’s not the kind of question that wins you glowing coverage from the press, or the warm embrace of the political class.
But he was just getting warmed up:
And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here???s one: it???s called Kindergarten Killers. It???s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn???t or didn???t want anyone to know you had found it?
Then there???s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.” But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
In a race to the bottom, media conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society by bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes ??? every minute of every day of every month of every year.
I confess myself to be dubious of these general indictments of violent cinema, music, and video games. Every cultural and narrative tradition in the world contains a good deal of violent content. The human race wasn’t exactly a peaceful flock before the invention of the video game. LaPierra evidently hasn’t been to the video rental kiosk in a while, if “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” are the first examples of cultural corrosion that leap into his mind. But some liberals have been on a tear against “gun culture” lately, so isn’t it fair enough for the principal target of their opprobrium to ask about the liberal media’s cultural contributions? It would seem that both LaPierre and many of his critics agree that these rare but terrible incidents of mass violence are symptoms of a broader cultural dysfunction.
It could be said that LaPierre hammered his point about the vulnerability of unprotected “gun-free zones” too aggressively, at too much length, but then again, this is a point the NRA has been trying to make for a long time. It’s not surprising that he’d feel a bit frustrated at watching law-abiding citizens, and particularly the members of his organization, once again held responsible for something they didn’t do… something they abhor, and would risk their own lives to prevent. Their frustration is increased by their reasoned conviction that the hasty legislation likely to result from the latest demonization of gun owners is unlikely to prevent the next school massacre.
Update: Jammie Wearing Fool reminds us that Bill Clinton also proposed putting cops on guard at schools after the Columbine massacre, but the media didn’t think he was crazy. Daniel Foster at National Review recalls that Columbine High School did have an armed security guard, and his actions unquestionably saved lives.