Spend enough time dipping into the post-game reaction of NRA leader Wayne LaPierre's press conference today -- staged and performed as the organization's first public statement since the tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- and you'll likely run up on any number of people who'll tell you the LaPierre's presentation (which included calls for more guns in schools and greater restrictions on video games) was tone-deaf or ineffective or out-of-touch or a failure.
Those critics are wrong. LaPierre's presentation was terrifically effective.
Granted, if you believe that what LaPierre was trying to do today was to sincerely join in a national conversation over school shootings, or offer a coherent set of preventative policy options, or even just demonstrate some baseline sensitivity for the lives that were lost, it is easy to see why you'd deem LaPierre's press conference to be an ineffective, tone-deaf failure. But what you should remember that the National Rifle Association does not exist to offer sensible public policy or participate in conversations or pretend to be sensitive about tragedies. The National Rifle Association exists to assist the manufacturers of guns and gun-related accoutrements in selling guns and gun-related accoutrements to people. That is their job, summed up, in its entirety.
The NRA are lobbyists who represent a bunch of gun retailers, and this is what lobbyists do -- they help their clients sell their products. And every action that LaPierre took today can and should be viewed through that prism.
There are people who claim to be legitimately gobsmacked today that LaPierre did not come to Washington, D.C., and say, "You know, I honestly think we can give ground on the assault weapons thing." Those people need to ask themselves: Why would a guy who is paid to help assault weapon manufacturers sell assault weapons to people who want assault weapons say, "Hey, let's restrict the sales of assault weapons?" If you thought that the NRA was going to sign on to any sort of weapons ban, then you have not been paying attention to what the NRA is all about.
Lots of people who have read Buzzfeed's listicle of "10 Things The NRA Blamed For The Sandy Hook Massacre" have noted that one of the things that the NRA went awfully easy on was the actual Sandy Hook Massacre-er, Adam Lanza. Here's what LaPierre had to say about Lanza:
The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters — people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them. They walk among us every day. And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?
See, LaPierre knows that people like Lanza exist, and he's capable of manifesting righteous anger against the things that he believes exclusively shape people like Lanza. And those things are the other things on that Buzzfeed list: video games and celebrities and the media and movies and President Obama.
But at the same time, he probably knows that the next Adam Lanza might have a mother with a stable source of income -- if not a stable source of income himself. And he's not going to get in the way of some of that money going to a gun manufacturer.
Yes -- the entire idea that we should create a small army of minimum-wage mercenaries to guard schools, which LaPierre promoted today, is certifiably stupid. As Salon's Alex Seitz-Wald reported, ABC News undertook an experiment back in 2009 where they demonstrated that you could arm people, train them to use their weapon, put them in a school, warn them that there would be an attack on their school, and they would still massively fail to stop the armed assailant that they knew was going to arrive.
Beyond the practicalities, however, the idea is pretty much a political non-starter, as the party that likes guns does not like spending tax dollars (least of all on public schools), and the party that likes public schools does not like handing out guns willy-nilly to glorified rent-a-cops.
In case you were wondering, the cost involved with putting an armed guard in every single school in America would be around $18 billion and no, the phrase "private-sector solution" was never uttered by LaPierre during his press conference.
But LaPierre is happy to put the notion out there. Who knows? It's not likely that the federal government will pass a law that will create this Paul Blart Army of school defenders, but on the off-chance they do, all it means is that someone is going to have to purchase some guns. And maybe there are some states or counties or municipalities that can be suckered into passing a similar law, increasing the opportunities for gun retailers. (One thing's for sure, it probably won't be a county or municipality that has learned the hard way that placing an armed guard as a school won't prevent gun-related mayhem ... like, say, Jefferson County, Colo.)
So, people wonder how LaPierre could have been so dumb as to sit on his hands for one week and then deliver the presentation he delivered today. And people wonder if, as a result of today's presentation, David Gregory is going to tear LaPierre a new one on "Meet The Press" this weekend. The people who wonder that have obviously not been watching David Gregory or "Meet The Press" lately, but that's beside the point.
Wayne LaPierre is only too happy to lose an argument to David Gregory. Wayne LaPierre is only too happy to have people criticize the NRA for its response. Wayne LaPierre hears the scorn that you have for his "guns in schools" idea, and he welcomes it. That's because today, Wayne LaPierre did not go out in front of reporters in a sincere attempt to mount a policy argument or craft a solution or engender warm feelings from his critics. Today was about synergy. Wayne LaPierre went out in front of reporters because he knew it was time to leverage the Sandy Hook shooting into a unique, sales-boosting opportunity for the industry he represents.
And what's going on in Connecticut today?
So, you maybe didn't notice, but today was a good day for Wayne LaPierre.
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