One week after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre took to a microphone to deliver a defensive, crackpot speech that didn’t fully grasp the impact of the murder of 20 first-graders at the hands of a madman with an assault rifle. Everyone was to blame. The media and their corporate owners. The political class in Washington. Video games. Violent movies. The mentally ill. But at no point did he point his finger back at the NRA, the one institution that has made it difficult, if not impossible, to bring about common-sense firearms legislation in the country.
LaPierre’s address was delivered from a hermetically sealed alternate universe. A universe where you ask, “When did the gun become a bad word?” A universe where it makes sense to say, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” A universe that believes gun-free school zones “tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.” A universe that calls on Congress “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school — and to do it now….” A universe that bemoans “our nation’s refusal to create an active national database of the mentally ill,” yet resists efforts for criminal background checks on gun buyers.
When the NRA broke its silence on Dec. 18, the gun rights group promised it was “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” LaPierre failed miserably at that task. What he had to say was not what the American people wanted to hear, needed to hear. What he said was an insult.