In February 1995, a 13-year-old boy walked into Andy Pope’s classroom at Nebraska’s Chadron Middle School and shot the social studies teacher and basketball coach. Fortunately, the bullet hit a rib, missing his heart by an inch. He survived and returned to the classroom less than a week later. Later the same year, in what would become one of his more famous paranoid pronouncements, Wayne LaPierre referred to federal agents as “jackbooted government thugs” in a National Rifle Association fundraising letter.
At the time a school shooting was astonishing. Since then, the incident at Chadron has become sadly familiar. In the intervening years, the pace of school shootings and the level of carnage has escalated, but one thing remained constant: the NRA’s vehement opposition to any gun-control measures that might minimize gun-related atrocities on school grounds.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, LaPierre delivered predictable testimony absolving his constituency of any responsibility for America’s gun mayhem. In Wayne’s World, the mentally ill, the media and the failure to prosecute criminals all bear the brunt for rising gun deaths – but guns are blameless.
Be assured, he cares deeply about children and gun violence. We know this because he tells us in impassioned prose: “There is nothing more precious than our children and we have no more sacred duty than to protect our children and to keep them safe.”
He cares so deeply that the NRA is urging Congress to throw “an immediate blanket of security” around our children by militarizing America’s public schools, leaving no armed guard behind. In Wayne’s World, children are sent to fortified compounds for their education; six-year-olds take gun safety classes; and if boys and girls are really good, Santa will come – locked and loaded, of course – to leave a Bushmaster AR-15 under the Christmas tree!
All that matters in Wayne’s World is that his vision of a country drowning in firearms is preserved. LaPierre despairs for our children who are dying. He is dedicated to their well-being. And his optimum solution is more guns in schools and more children shooting guns. Even for an organization famed for its double-talk, this is a new low in absurdity. To prevent more gun tragedies in schools, add even more guns to the mix. To protect children from gun violence, directly market deadly weapons to them through a feathery mascot.
In a testy exchange at the Senate hearing, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin told LaPierre he “missed the point” on background checks. But LaPierre, in his trademark arrogance, didn’t miss the point. He ignored it.
The NRA approach to reducing gun violence will always be more guns. They will never agree to any changes that curtail the growth of the gun industry, feverishly pushing unrestricted civilian access to weapons that belong on the battlefield. They are impervious to facts. And they really don’t give a rat’s arse about the Second Amendment, except using it to whip gun owners into a frenzy.
In a country that leads the world in gun-related killings, logic dictates that a responsible government would do more to control the access and availability of firearms. But logic doesn’t guide our country’s elected leaders when it comes to guns. If we want safer communities where we can send our children off to school and reasonably expect them to return home safely at the end of the day, the NRA can’t be allowed to write politicians a check and buy their silence when children are killed by guns.
Gun violence has shattered far too many lives of students and educators. The NRA can and must be defeated – and it will be, if we care enough to crusade against it and stop being a prisoner of Wayne’s World.