The new and dynamic youth-led gun safety movement, #NeverAgain, has pushed the National Rifle Association’s leadership onto the ropes.
After each of the numerous high-profile mass gun tragedies over the past few decade or so, the NRA has typically maintained a relatively low profile and has remained virtually silent for a specific amount of time until headlines fade from view and the country’s attention is diverted elsewhere.
Since the horrific massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, the leadership of the NRA has attacked everything from the “fake” media to the emerging student activists.
In fact, both Wayne LaPierre Jr., Executive VP of the National Rifle Association, as well as NRA spokesperson, Dana Loesch, co-opted one of #NeverAgain’s phrases, “We Call BS,” used so effectively by one of its courageous leaders, Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Douglas High School. But to paraphrase an old truism, obvious and ineffectual attempts at cooptation are the highest forms of flattery!
Speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Maryland, Loesch indicted the media, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.”
Next, when it was LaPierre’s turn to rant at CPAC, he brought out every tired clichéd buzzword in the ultra-conservatives’ playbook to attack anything other than the NRA’s extremist positions on the Second Amendment.
He accused “intellectuals” who think they are “smarter and better” of killing freedom. Any first-year psychology student would have noted his projection when he said that “socialism is a movement that loves to smear.”
Subsumed within his overarching nationalist theme of a “socialist enemy,” which he claimed “oppose[s] our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” he embedded an anti-intellectual subtext by going after higher education.
Taking words that could have come directly from the mouth of Senator Joseph McCarthy, LaPierre warned that the Communist Manifesto and all the works of Karl Marx were among the most assigned curricular materials, and he described socialism as “a political disease,” to loud and boisterous cheers.
“You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the Second Amendment to the US constitution,” he told the crowd.
LePierre tipped his hand that he not only fears the youth leading the fast-moving mobilization against gun violence, but also several strong voices in a new crop and old guard of political leaders that he singled out in his diatribe.
Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Era” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic right have flung the term “socialist” as an expletive to discredit political ideas and sway the electorate toward a conservative and nationalist agenda.
No country today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.
But to LaPierre and other advocates of smaller government and massive deregulation, virtually any form of governmental regulation is “socialistic.” And though their battle cry of “liberty” and “freedom” through “individual personal responsibility” sounds wonderful on the surface, what are the costs of this alleged “liberty” and “freedom”?
How free and liberated are the estimated 11,000 people gunned down annually in the United States? And how free and liberated are their loved ones left behind?
How truly free and liberated are we as a nation when a powerful lobbying group buys our politicians to vote for the special interests of the industrial firearms complex over the best interests of the people and to the detriment of our democratic form of government?
LaPierre concluded his CPAC speech by repeating his delusional mantra that he introduced following the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012: “To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”
No Wayne, to stop a bad guy with a gun, we must enact common sense regulations on firearms so we may better ensure safer and more socially connected communities.