Like millions of Americans, I sat agape as I watched National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre's stunning response to the slaughter of 26 innocent people, including 20 small children, at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., just before Christmas. My mother used to tell me not to sit around with my mouth open because a bug might fly into it. As I listened to the nonsense that issued forth from the Head Gun Nut—equal parts bluster and paranoia—my mouth was so wide open, an eagle could have flown into it. Apparently, LaPierre is French for tone deaf.
God help me, but all I kept thinking of as he spoke was, "This guy had better hope that there's no video (or photos, for that matter) of what went on in that school."
Two day later, just in case there were people out there who hadn't caught Crazy, Act I, he went on Meet the Press and solidified his legacy by quibbling over the reported muzzle velocity of the multiple bullets that ripped through each of those little kids' bodies. How is it even possible to be that out of touch?
A few days after the shooting, Arizona Daily Star cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons had a brilliant cartoon depicting Uncle Sam and a guy in an NRA cap, both chest-deep in guns. The NRA guys says, "The answer is more guns." The next morning, on his local radio show, Jon Justice ripped into Fitz for what Justice considered to be an unfair representation of the NRA and gun-rights advocates. Not long after that, Justice came up with his own solution—more guns, this time in the schools, in the hands of janitors and teachers and whomever.
Amazingly, Justice was himself trumped by several dim-bulb members of the Arizona Legislature who, over the past few years, have taken a few days off from the gutting of Arizona's public-education system to try to see to it that Arizona is wall-to-wall guns, everywhere, all the time. They want guns in churches, in court, in bars and, especially, in schools. Here's a really frightening thought: The only thing standing between us and the implementation of some of the crazier guns über alles ideas is Gov. Jan Brewer. If that doesn't send a shudder through you, nothing will.
As I listened to the NRA press conference that first day, I kept waiting for Cyborg LaPierre to stop talking and let Human LaPierre get a few words in. Didn't happen.
I'll be honest; I'm not opposed to his idea of having police on campus, as long as it doesn't turn the schools into armed camps. However, security experts figure that having an armed response already on campus might prove beneficial in about 8 percent of such incidents. (During the Meet the Press interview, LaPierre either dodged or tried to downplay the facts that there was an armed resource officer on campus the day of the Columbine shootings and that Virginia Tech has an armed police force. In both cases, guns on campus weren't helpful in any way.)
What bothers me the most about this situation is that I know a whole lot of good, decent, hard-working Americans who happen to own guns. Most like to shoot them, some like to collect them; some, for all I know, like to fondle them. I have no fear whatsoever of any of these people using a gun to commit a crime. But when you try to talk to them rationally, they go all snake-eyed, like Dustin Hoffman in Little Big Man.
It's eerily similar to the recent discussion on the national debt. People who claimed to be fiscal conservatives said that all of the changes had to involve the cutting of spending. It seemed ludicrously logical to me (and others) that if we raised revenue and simultaneously cut spending, we could solve the problem in half the time. That would also show the business community (and the world) that we are serious about dealing with the problems that we created. The No-Taxers' position got so absurd that they rejected a suggestion that we raise revenue by $1 for every $10 of spending cuts.
Fortunately, there was a national referendum on that particular issue this past November and a majority of the electorate spoke rather loudly and clearly on the matter.
Similarly, there is a gun-worshiping faction in this country that sees the word "compromise" and reads it as "surrender."
When it was suggested that the multiple factors that led to the Newtown slaughter of children included widespread flaws in our mental-health system, a violence-obsessed media, the breakdown of the American family, ultra-violent video games and the ridiculously easy access to guns, the NRA and its minions said, "Yup, it's all of those things ... except guns. Guns have nothing to do with it."
LaPierre could have done his organization (and America) a solid by getting out in front of a ban on assault weapons, the sole purpose of which is to kill lots of people in a short period of time, and/or magazines that hold an insane number of rounds. But he chose Ted Nugent over the dead kids. We'll see how that goes.
(Next week: How to argue with Gun Guy. It involves logic, which means it might not work, but at least you'll be in the right.)