Bob Franken: America’s armed camps
Quoting the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre: “If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy.”
OK, Wayne: You’re crazy.
Crazy like a fox.
You know that the millions of Americans who have an obsessive love affair with their guns are simply looking for some way to deal with the national horror over the slaughter of little children in Newtown, Conn. They’re desperately trying to justify keeping the arsenal they maintain. Millions of them even want to flaunt it, like some player in a cowboy movie, or worse, a murderous figure in a video game.
In fairness, LaPierre has it right when he lays blame on today’s films, with their gratuitous violence and certainly with the video games that turn deadly mayhem into child’s play.
For the record, though, he has it way wrong when he claims, as he did on “Meet the Press,” that “most of the media, when I go around the country, they’re protected by armed guards.”
The only way that would not be a boldfaced lie would be if he was talking about his travels in Afghanistan or another war zone, where some prominent anchors might have protection. Even there, most of us who cover combat do so without any security. That was a big fabrication on LaPierre’s part, designed to push the buttons of the millions in this country who simply don’t want to give up their weapons of mass destruction.
He’s been doing this for a long time, stifling any uproar that temporarily breaks out when another massacre penetrates the national conscience. He knows that it will pass. He understands that most of our officeholders and candidates shrivel from their duty to protect the nation when faced with the awesome political and financial firepower of the gun lobby.
It’s not just Republicans, by any stretch of the imagination. Many Democrats also present themselves as keepers of the Second Amendment faith. They are really just true believers in not being defeated at the ballot box. Let’s be direct: That would include President Barack Obama and his campaign professionals, who shied away from the gun-control issue as self-defeating, or more importantly, Obama-defeating.
As for the idea about putting armed guards or armed teachers in the schools, that is not just crazy but cynical. LaPierre is well-aware that a police presence at Columbine didn’t stop the teenage killers there. He is familiar with the recent shootout in Manhattan, which left nine bystander casualties in the hail of gunfire — police gunfire. He chooses to ignore such consideration and demonizes those who report them because his constituency, the gun addicts and manufacturers, don’t want to be bothered with inconvenient facts.
He and they can take heart in the knowledge that the keepers of our system are so bitterly divided that nothing can be done about anything. Witness the thrashing around over avoiding the fiscal cliff. Even when a majority of poll respondents say they favor a tax increase for the wealthy, the hard-rock conservative members of the House GOP prolong the agony by resisting any compromise to avert serious fiscal damage. They lost the presidential election, and the great tradition of our democracy is that they should function as the “loyal opposition.” Instead, they continue to operate as a spiteful opposition. The president hit the nail on the head when he said, “It is very hard for them to say yes to me.”
That vengeful mind-set makes it impossible to find solutions and makes it possible for organizations like the NRA to flourish by simply maintaining rigid positions and exploiting the worst instincts of so many who are armed to the teeth. We need to prevent the bloodshed. Gun control is an essential part of that. Selfish interests who block it are not just crazy, but a danger to us all.
Bob Franken is a former CNN correspondent. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com.