In his press conference on the Sandy Hook elementary school slaughter of the innocents today, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) executive vice president, gave new meaning to the term American exceptionalism, the theory that there is something inherently different about the United States from other nations.
LaPierre blamed violent video games, movies and other entertainments for the large number of guns death in the United States.
But Canadians have ready access to the same violent amusements. The French have access to them. The English, Japanese, Koreans, Spanish have access to them. In fact you can find a plethora of violent games and movies in every westernized industrial country of the world.
But only in the United States is there a high level of gun deaths. In fact, 80% of all deaths from guns in the 23 populous, high-income countries of the world occur in the United States. We have both the highest number of gun deaths and the highest rate of gun deaths.
That certainly makes us exceptional—but are we exceptionally susceptible to suggestion? Exceptionally given to playing out fantasies? Exceptionally stupid? Do an exceptionally large number of our citizens have violent tendencies?
No, no, no and no.
What we are is exceptionally inundated with guns and exceptionally lacking in laws to control their registration and use.
LaPierre, whose job is to be the chief salesperson for gun manufacturers, proposes an interesting and very expensive way to prevent future Sandy Hook massacres: have government pay to place an armed police officer in every single school in the country. I assume he means private schools as well as public schools.
The solution is absurd for several reasons. Let’s start with cost: right now public education is underfunded. We’re talking about cutting all kinds of government programs that help the poor, children and senior citizens. Our roads and bridges are in disrepair. Mass transit is being cut in many cities. We have to shore up our shorelines to protect our citizens from another Sandy or Katrina. How do LaPierre and the NRA expect us to pay for all that extra security? I guess he doesn’t care since his industry is going to benefit from its plan to militarize schools because it will likely require the purchase of more firearms and more ammunition.
And what do we do about malls? Movie theatres? Churches? Universities? Health clubs? Hospitals? Public buildings? Over the past few years, there have been mass murders at all of these locations. Many of them already have police officers or armed security on detail. Evidently there weren’t enough in place.
Then there are the killers who operate on the run, like the Washington D.C. sniper or the western Pennsylvania nutcase who went out hunting ethnic and racial minorities. Do we place a policeman at every intersection and every quarter mile of freeway?
If we were to take the NRA’s proposal seriously, we would become a police state in which there would be a security force on every block and in every building. And even then we wouldn’t be safe from the proliferation of guns and weak gun control laws.
There are two characteristics that mass murderers have in common. First of all, they are all crazy. There is no way to guarantee we can keep guns out of the hands of all the nuts, although every other industrialized nation seems to do a pretty good job at it. But stiffer gun ownership requirements, a longer wait before one is able to purchase a gun, requirements that gun owners get licenses like drivers of automobiles, a more extensive FBI database of criminals and the mentally ill—all of these gun control initiatives would make it much harder for the nuts to get their hands on firearms.
The other characteristic shared by many of the mass murderers is their use of semi-automatic assault weapons. It makes sense to ban these weapons. Of course that would take sales away from LaPierre’s clients, the gun manufacturers. And we can’t have that, can we?
Lobbyists for industries never want to regulate their industries, and they often give reasons that defy logic and stretch the truth. But in this press conference, the NRA has hit a historically slimy and self-serving low.