Monday December 24, 2012

Alden Graves

The silence from the pro-gun crowd was absolutely deafening in the week following Sandy Hook. The NRA didn't even bother to trot out its standard "grieving period" excuse. If the gun lobby's respect for the living was half of what it is for the dead, a lot of the country's problems would instantly be solved.

You will notice that Sandy Hook has already assumed a place in our national lexicon beside Triangle, Titanic, Johnstown, Columbine, Deepwater, Wounded Knee, Rosewood, Love Canal, and Three-Mile Island to name only a few of the more notable examples. Once colorfully descriptive words, now they immediately summon up images of horror and death. Triangle is no longer just a three-sided geometric figure, it is a four-walled inferno on the top floors of a New York high-rise.

There was one tiny voice in all the bewillderness. Pistol Packin' Louis Gohmert from Texas told a rapt audience on Fox News, "I wish to God she (the school's principal) had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out ... and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids." Did I mention that Mr. Gohmert is from Texas? Did I mention that he's seen "The Wild Bunch" one too many times? One of the gun lobby's most notable achievements is to make sure that any deranged character with a grudge can transform himself into Rambo with very little interference from any saner voices. Because of the rapidity with which modern weapons can dispense their death, unless the school's principal was gifted with an extremely strong sense of premonition, there would have been absolutely nothing she could have done to prevent the mass slaughter at Sandy Hook.

Getting back to the initial cacophony of silence. It is telling that, on the Sunday immediately following the massacre that left 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7 brutally murdered, 31 pro-gun senators - you know, the staunch guardians of our Second Amendment rights - opted to exploit their grieving processes rather than show their faces on "Meet the Press."

So, it isn't unreasonable to add the charge of moral cowardice to insidious complicity. If the NRA's congressional "A" listers want to perpetuate the O. K. Corral legacy, let them face the American people and tell them why it is worth the lives of 20 of our children. Go ahead. We're listening.

I hope that at least a few of them were confronted with the faces of the 20 murdered kids on a moving opening segment of "Saturday Night Live" that featured a children's chorus singing "Silent Night" as the photographs of the dead were shown. The pictures were taken when their entire lives lay in front of them, shining as brightly as the prospect of the Christmas that they would never live to see. It was difficult to watch, even for people who have been warning about the inevitable consequences of the national obsession with guns and the insanely lax and irresponsible laws governing their accessibility.

The silence from the NRA was finally broken about an hour after church bells in the nation finished tolling to mark the week that had passed since the slaughter in Connecticut. Some people were adrift from reality enough to hope that the gun lobby might signal a willingness to finally entertain the possibility that maybe firearms actually do cause some problems in America.

A dour-faced Wayne LaPierre, of "jack-booted thugs" fame (he was referring to the police), made quick work of both the change in attitude and the smidgen of remorse fantasies, consigning them to the realm of the Easter Bunny, the accuracy of the Mayan calendar, and the fountain of youth. The Crown Prince of Paranoia blamed everything but Mother Teresa's legacy for the carnage that has become the nation's scourge and shame largely because Mr. LaPierre and his followers have worked so diligently to eliminate the assault weapons ban. The NRA plants the seeds, they just disavow the harvest.

In a lacerating commentary on Mr. LaPierre's despicably tone-deaf performance, Lawrence O'Donnell rightfully wondered just who the National Rifle Association is that it should command such obsequious fawning from our elected representatives in Washington. In a nation of 300 million, the NRA is comprised of 4 million people. Many, if not most, of its members are open to the idea of placing some kind of restrictions on weapons solely designed to kill the greatest number of people in the least amount of time - firearms that have no more relevance to what they enjoy about hunting, target practice, or even personal safety than a pea shooter has to an atomic bomb.

But, Mr. LaPierre does not get paid a million dollars a year to represent deer hunters. He rakes in his own version of big bucks (pun intended) by fronting for the gun industry and he is really good at it. He can take an issue that is of no more consequence to him than expanding the figures on Smith and Wesson's bottom line and turn it into a great intrusion into the Rights of the American People or a blatant Assault on the Second Amendment. The sad fact is that NRA members are still falling for that spiel, even in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.

Responsible gun owners have every right to an organization that looks after their interests, but members of the NRA also have a responsibility to look closely at whose best interests their current hierarchy is actually representing. It should have come as no surprise to anyone who knows how Wayne LaPierre operates to hear that his solution to preventing the mass murder of children is to insert even more guns into our schools and into our bullet-riddled society.

In LaPierre's world, children will always take a second place to bottom lines.

Alden Graves is a reviewer and regular columnist for the Banner.