It is a common tactic among bullies to be absolutely blind to their own insensitivity toward others while being hypersensitive to any perceived slights against them.
And that truism has never been on display more absurdly and hypocritically than at this year’s NRA Convention in Texas.
Amid all of the hyperventilated rhetoric about President Obama’s “secret” determination to strip law-abiding American citizens of their right to bear arms against the combined forces of government tyranny and rampant criminality, there was a booth on the convention floor that should have shocked the attendees but instead seems to have simply amused far too many of them.
A company named Zombie Industries has produced a life-sized figure of President Obama that is meant to be used as a target—and that “bleeds” when a bullet strikes it.
Yes, the same people who have been arguing that violent video games are a more likely cause of mass killings than the proliferation of assault-style weapons and large magazines of ammunition seem to think that simulating not just the assassination but the near obliteration of the president in a hail of bullets is entertaining and perhaps even therapeutic.
I am trying to imagine the response on FOX news and in other Right-wing media if some group identified with progressives had provided comparable targets resembling George W. Bush or, God forbid, Ronald Reagan.
What if a progressive group began shooting at targets crafted to resemble Wayne LaPierre himself?
I think that it is very telling that LaPierre claimed in his address to the convention that the un-American advocates of any restrictions on Second Amendment rights are simply waiting on the next mass shooting—the “next massacre”—to provide an opportunity to renew their assault on those rights. He might just as well have described the victims of such a shooting, which does seem tragically inevitable, as unwitting accomplices in the national conspiracy to persecute gun advocates.
How far are we here from Ward Churchill’s describing the victims of the 9-11 attacks as “little Eichmanns”? Why is Churchill’s remark infamously insensitive while LaPierre’s is simply hyper-partisan rhetoric?
Over the last decade, far more people in America have died from gun violence than from terrorism: nearly 100,000 from gun violence and just over 3,000 from terrorist attacks.
Moreover, one might reasonably ask what exactly is the difference between what occurred at the Boston Marathon and what occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School?
The NRA cannot deflect the outrage over future massacres simply by predicting that there will be outrage. What will be the NRA’s response if all of this hyper-heated rhetoric about President Obama’s diabolically un-American ambitions contributes to some lunatic’s taking a shot not simply at a target that resembles him but at the President himself?
Typically, there is a significant legal distinction between what is said and what is actually done. But, just as typically, legal distinctions are beside the point in politics. (Recall President Clinton’s assertion that it depends on what the definition of “is” is.)
The leadership of the NRA should be smart enough to realize that it is playing a series of losing hands and that no one can continue to win on sheer bluffing alone.
There is a footnote to this story that links it directly to higher ed.
As if to commemorate the NRA Convention’s being held in their state, the Texas legislature has begun considering a bill to permit “concealed carry” on the state’s college and university campuses.
Very obviously, campuses have not been immune either to mass shooting or to more routine acts of violence.
Yet, one wonders how many students and faculty have been on campus and at some point during the day have thought, “I’d feel a lot safer here if I were armed.” And if, as I suspect, very few of us actually have such thoughts with any regularity, then one wonders why, aside from some escalating personal conflict, anyone on campus would be having such thoughts. And, for that reason, it should not make anyone feel more secure that some people on campus may soon routinely be choosing to carry weapons.
There is an illuminating analogy in some of the broader statistics on gun violence in America. In 2010, over 19,000 suicides and over 11,000 murders involved guns. (Suicide by gun is the truly silent crisis that has received almost no attention.) Moreover, about 70% of the murders were committed by family members against other family members, and another 2,000-plus gun deaths were accidental, with many of those accidents presumably occurring in the home. In contrast, only about 300 people were shot and killed in home invasions, nationwide. And I suspect that a very high percentage of those murders were concentrated in neighborhoods with a high traffic in illegal drugs. So, a very large percentage of homeowners are protecting themselves against a very nearly non-existent external threat and are ignoring considerable statistical evidence that having a gun on the home increases the likelihood of deadly gun use by a family member.
When there is a mass shooting, all of us feel less safe. But knowing that more people are carrying guns as a response to that insecurity does not make me feel more safe.