Sunday, August 12, 2012
National Rifle Association weirdness
The conversation did actually manage to remain civil -- no raised voices, no yelling, no name calling -- although it was more than a tad bizarre. When I asked questions like "Aren't you concerned about the increasing number of incidents of mass shootings?" the response was "Those are all happening in states where they've suppressed gun owners' rights or places where you're not allowed to have guns. If bystanders had guns, they'd be able to defend themselves and others." My response: "You mean like in Arizona when Gabby Giffords got shot in a shopping center parking lot?" I reminded her that the only thing that stopped the shooter from targeting more people was someone in the crowd tackled Jared Loughner when he paused to change clips. He wasn't "taken out" by an armed bystander; he was physically tackled and (figuratively speaking) sat on until the police got there.
Her response to my mention of the Aurora, Colorado, massacre was to mention another incident in Aurora where an armed gunman shot a minister and someone in the congregation then shot the gunman -- except she had her facts totally wrong on that one. Her narrative was that the shooter walked into the church and shot the pastor; the reality is that the perpetrator crashed his car in the parking lot and freaked out when members of the congregation walked toward the car to help him (the guy had a long history of drug abuse, including PCP use, and had apparently exhibited freakish behavior in the past). One woman died. An off-duty police officer was also a member of the congregation, and it was that police officer (not an ordinary citizen who just happened to have brought a gun to church) who then shot the gunman. This story, incidentally, is making the rounds out there in bizarro land -- it's the "Aurora shooting the media won't tell us about" -- as if one off-duty cop happening to be at the scene of a random incident somehow cancels out the 13 people who died and dozens wounded in the theater shooting. Of course, that is a typical NRA tactic: you take one incident where someone having a gun possibly saves a few lives and totally ignore all the hundreds of incidents where, thanks to stupidity, carelessness, or craziness, people die.
She then trotted out the "Americans have always been well-armed; people used to walk around all the time with a six-shooter on their hip." I laughed a lot at that one. I asked her if she knew what caused the famous gun fight at the OK corral. She didn't. I said it was because the Clantons refused to check their weapons at the sheriff's office when they rode into Tombstone. The town, like most Western towns, had an ordinance saying you couldn't carry a gun within the city limits. She did some sputtering and said she'd certainly never heard that. I told her to Google it -- it's historic fact. Then she tried going back farther, to the founders and the right to bear arms. I said, sure, and do you know why the founders were concerned about having a "Well regulated militia?" No real answer, of course.
The most bizarre part of the conversation, though, was about President Obama. Half the table was covered with literature that portrays Barack Obama as the most rabidly anti-gun President of all time, a man who is just chomping at the bit to nullify the Second Amendment and turn us all into tools of the United Nations. As I was looking over the literature, I couldn't help it. I asked her just how nuts they were. That's when she gave me the literature that proves Obama is out to take away our guns. The flyer had ten points on it, most of which are paranoid fantasies (e.g., Obama's promoting an anti-gun treaty with the UN that's going to gut our gun ownership rights; this is a perpetual favorite lately with the tin foil hat crowd despite being debunked numerous times).
Point number 10, though, was a little gem that the NRA lady kept insisting to me was gospel: President Obama had told Sarah Brady they're quietly working on gun control, just planning to sneak stuff through without anyone noticing. She told me this several times, and it is indeed on the flyer. This is what the flyer says (and I quote exactly, right down to the punctuation): Obama admits he's coming for our guns, telling Sarah Brady, "We are working on [gun control], but under the radar."
You know what brackets mean in a quote? The speaker said something else, but the editor is substituting a word or a phrase that will make the meaning clearer -- or, in this case, give it the spin the NRA wants. And why did they feel the need to do that? Because, according to Sarah Brady, the one thing she and Mr. Obama did NOT talk about when they met back in March 2011was gun control. PolitiFact has given this particular claim by the NRA a resounding Pants on Fire, but I didn't have to do any research to know the claim was bogus: those brackets tell the whole story. Checking on it made it clear it's even more bogus than my initial reaction indicated: it's not a direct quote at all; it's paraphrasing from a Washington Post article in which the reporter surmised that Mr. Obama and Sarah Brady must have talked about gun control because Mrs. Brady is a strong gun control advocate. In fact, Mr. Obama made a courtesy visit to the Bradys on the 30th anniversary of President Reagan getting shot; the conversation they had was brief and superficial. PolitiFact has researched a number of other claims made by the NRA; it's not much of a surprise that the Pants on Fire and Mostly False findings outnumber any deemed True.
I'm old enough that I can remember when the NRA was a relatively sane organization. They focused on hunting, conservation, and gun safety. Now they obsess about the UN taking away our freedoms, promote paranoia and xenophobia, and peddle lies.
For what it's worth, I'm not anti-gun ownership, and I don't have a problem with the Second Amendment. I do have a problem with organizations that have apparently decided the way to boost their membership and ensure a healthy income is through the use of scare tactics, groundless conspiracy theories, and hate-mongering. The NRA is working hard at turning the United States into a nation of paranoid cowards who huddle in their houses, fearing for their lives every time they hear a strange noise and convinced that the only solution to any problem is to shoot it.