Faced with a nation rising in anger against the prevalence of guns in American society, the head of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre chose on Friday to blame Hollywood and media companies for the violence that led to the deaths of 26 innocents in Newtown, Conn., last week.
It was an astounding performance, like watching a scene out of a drama in some parallel universe.
Even as funeral preparations continue for the Newtown victims, LaPierre joined the national conversation by reaching for an argument that ducked all responsibility and pointed the finger across the country.
A “shadow industry,” he said, is guilty of making movies and videogames that “portray murder as a way of life … and then they have the nerve to call it entertainment.” He pointed to decade-old films like “American Psycho” and videogames called “Kindergarten Killer” as the culprits.
"Blood-soaked" films, he said, are "aired like propaganda loops on splatterdays." And, “Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?"
Naturally, he went on, it’s the media companies in their “race to the bottom,” that bring “criminal cruelty right into our homes, every minute every day every hour of every single year” and “violate every decent standard in society,” he said.
It was a ballsy performance that demonstrated a remarkable ability to pass the buck and tune out the rest of the country.
Everyone, everywhere is talking about the fact that Americans possess 300 million guns, far more than any other country. Everyone, everywhere — including conservative senators like Mark Warner — is questioning the need for gun owners to have access to high-volume magazines in military-style weapons.
This is the tenor of the national conversation because such measures strike us all as common sense, and long overdue at that.
To that conversation LaPierre then suggested: More Guns! Let’s arm the schools! Let’s post police in every school facility across the country!
There was nary a thought entertained about why civil society should permit military-style guns to be so commonly sold.
The logic of this seems flimsy at best. Instead of restricting guns in any way, LaPierre suggests a society where kindergartners might as well be wearing Kevlar vests out of a multitude of caution that Newtown never happen again.
But children don’t only frequent schools. And they are not the only innocents who must be kept safe from the “monsters” and “rapists” LaPierre sees lurking behind every door.
What about theaters, to prevent another Aurora? And parking lots? Malls? Parks? Do we really need to stop at schools? LaPierre’s logic suggests more guns, everywhere, to keep our society safe.
But would we be free?
The only solution LaPierre will contemplate are those do not touch his guns — any guns — under any circumstances. The rest of us will just have to cope.
Whether Hollywood must search its soul is a discussion for another column. The entertainment industry is not absolved from taking responsibility for its role in the national debate, and the ubiquity of violent images in our culture.
But to see Wayne LaPierre on Friday is to watch a man profoundly out of step with the outraged pain of parents all over the country. He managed to insults those parents once again with his closing words, warning: “If we cherish our kids more than our money, more than our celebrities, more than our sports stadiums,” he said, we must give them … more guns.