"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

National shame

rainey BARRETT


Wayne LaPierre is a driven guy. Finishes what he starts. No quitter. He’s single-handedly determined to become the most hated S-O-B in America. With one more NRA national convention under his belt – or maybe one more appearance before a congressional committee – he’ll likely achieve the dream. Trump – the distant second – isn’t even close.

It’s no secret Wayne doesn’t speak for responsible gun owners. Hasn’t for years. His overblown salary is paid for by firearms and ammunition companies – not dues from responsible member shooters. His job is to be the lightening rod keeping public attention and anger off the industry while killing any legitimate effort to craft responsible gun legislation by anyone. Takes a special kind of guy – one willing to subvert personal morality and conscience to the demands of people who don’t give a damn about the rest of us. Or him, either, when he finally leaves the job.

Following daily insights into the gross affairs of last week’s NRA convention, I was struck – make that grossed out – by two items. Not that there weren’t several dozen others to turn responsible stomachs.

First item: the exhibit booth of Zombie Industries which – hang on to your lunch now – sold life-sized targets that bleed when shot. Yep, give it a good “kill” shot and the damned things gush red “blood.” If that’s not gross enough, one on display for conference attendees to try their aim on was – I hate to use the words – a dead ringer for President Obama. I’ve seen the picture in all it’s gory glory and you ain’t gonna see it here.

In a fit of uncharacteristic “conscience,” someone from the NRA asked the Zombie folks to take it down. But only after the media had taken pictures and many folks had literally taken their “best shots.” When the operator of the grizzly exhibit was told the bleeding target looked like Obama, he said “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.”

Second item: LaPierre’s annual speech and the lies therein. All of it could easily be classified as morally disgusting. But he really hit the lowest note when he got to the Boston Marathon tragedy. While the event itself was gruesome enough to stay with us the rest of our lives, Ol’ Wayne had to take it down further.

“How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago” he asked? “Imagine living in a large metropolitan area where lawful firearms ownership is heavily regulated and discouraged. Imagine waking up to a phone call from the police at 3 a.m. warning a terrorist event is occurring outside and ordering you to stay in your home.” A lie, of course.

Shouts from the crowd of “disgusting” and “outrageous” responded to his crazy premise that some citizen militia was prevented from forming and taking to the streets in the name of justice. Authorities did NOT tell people to stay off the streets. And many did not.

Well, let’s take his crazy premise into reality. Every law enforcement group – every emergency outfit within 100 miles of Boston – was somehow involved in the aftermath of the killer explosions. Media was running rampant with facts, speculation and hearsay. Authorities were asking people to “stay in place.” Not “ordering” but “asking.”

Now, let’s go where Wayne wanted to go. As darkness settles over Beantown, small groups form in neighborhoods. Some have automatic rifles. Some pistols. Some shotguns – regulation and sawed-off. Even two guys with machine guns on one corner. Nearly all wearing the NRA-approved Wal-Mart camouflage outfits with combat boot knock-offs. Let’s see. In this group, there are several auto mechanics, a pediatrician, three shoe clerks, a cab driver, two lobster fishermen, an insurance salesman, two teachers, three real estate sales ladies, two grocery checkers and a retiree who just turned 87. Yep. That’s our heavily armed citizen militia, ready to do it’s job. ‘Cause that’s how the NRA wants it.

Now, they split into teams of two and spread out. Some get in personal cars to patrol the neighborhood. Some creep down both sides of the streets in darkness. Others go around back – down alleys and around back fences. Some have flashlights some don’t.

Then – BANG. The pediatrician saw something. Then BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG. Silence. Then BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG. They all turn loose the neighborhood firepower. Then – silence. Because the pediatrician, one clerk, both fishermen and one of the checkers have been hit. One police officer, too.

For the record, the terrorist they were looking for – the guy from the bombing – when they got him, he was unarmed!

We followed the Boston affair pretty closely at our house. And not once – not even once – did an NRA militia group meet on any corner in any part of Boston. Not one. Is that because Boston is a “heavily regulated” place that “discourages” gun ownership? Or is it because – even with weapons – most of us know such searching is best left to professionals and we civilians should stay the hell out of their way? Even rank-and-file NRA members?

Over the years, a lot of us who used to carry NRA cards tore ‘em up. We did so for two main reasons: the NRA didn’t do squat for the individual shooter; the NRA adopted such outrageous political positions we wanted nothing to do with the outfit. Those were the reasons in our household.

The NRA is no longer a support and fraternal organization for casual gun owners. The shooting and youth safety classes have become just P-R covers for ammunition and gun makers who want no – repeat no – regulation of any sort interfering with their billion-dollar industries. What was once a fine association representing citizen hunting and sport shooting interests has become a juggernaut political machine wielding unchecked power. It operates – not in the public interest but in the self-interest – of major corporations who pay very big bucks to keep the spotlight off themselves. LaPierre is not an association executive. He’s a hired gun. In my book, he’s a hired killer. Run afoul of him and your career goes to Boot Hill.

We’re hearing victim voices telling us things are “different” this time. They’re saying they “won’t go away.” They say they’re “going to keep at it.” I wish them well. Very, very well.

But the political reality is there’s no evidence that what needs changing – and the politicians that need changing – are being changed. The political blackmail numbers the NRA needs to keep us from feeling safer may not be as great as they were some years back. But they’re high enough that effective – really meaningful – gun safety laws won’t be part of our immediate national future.

As long as we use a 1776 document – written in the days of single-shot muzzle loaders that took nearly two-minutes to reload – to permit civilian sales of 150-bullet-per-minute assault weapons, the NRA will hold us their national prisoner. That the NRA has such power is a disgraceful, murderous, national tragedy. That LaPierre can represent such power to make the ridiculous claims he does every time he opens his mouth is reason for national shame.

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