Whatever Will They Talk About At Houston NRA Convention This Weekend?
Many of us haven't given too much thought to the NRA in the last few years, largely because they've been too busy going broke to do much that would attract attention to themselves. But this is a big week for them. Not only have we had two major mass shootings in the last month, but they also have their yearly meeting tomorrow in Texas, the state where the most recent school shooting occurred. Nineteen children and two adults were brutally gunned down in Uvalde, Texas, with an AR-15 wielded by an 18-year-old kid, and they are off to celebrate guns in Houston. With Donald Trump. And Ted Cruz. But minus Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has reportedly decidedthis weekend might not be the best look.
There will, of course, be no "good guys with guns" at this meeting. One would assume that if gun control made us all less safe, as the NRA frequently insists, if it is bad to not allow concealed carry and public carry of weapons, that the NRA would want a whole audience made up of armed citizenry. Just to be safe! But no. No guns or weapons of any kind are allowed. Surely, they must all feel like sitting ducks.
This is not the first time this has happened. The NRA banned carrying firearms during Mike Pence's speech at their 2018 convention. Guns were also banned for certain events during their convention in 2015. And Trump himself doesn't allow guns on many of his properties or at his rallies.
It's also not the first time the NRA has held its annual convention in the same state as a recent mass shooting at a school. In 1999, the gun rights group had already been advertising their annual meeting all over Colorado when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up their school, killing 13 of their fellow students and injuring 24 before killing themselves. Rather than postponing it or deciding to maybe hold it somewhere else, they decided to still have it in Denver that year, just a few days after the Columbine massacre.
Just last year, NPR obtained tapes of NRA officials discussing what they should do.
"Everything we do here has a downside," NRA official Kayne Robinson says on the tapes. "Don't anybody kid yourself about this great macho thing of going down there and showing our chest and showing how damn tough we are. ... We are in deep s*** on this deal. ... And so anything we do here is going to be a matter of trying to decide the best of a whole bunch of very, very bad choices." [...]
"At that same period where they're going to be burying these children, we're going to be having media ... trying to run through the exhibit hall, looking at kids fondling firearms, which is going to be a horrible, horrible, horrible juxtaposition," says NRA lobbyist Jim Baker on the conference call.
"I got to tell you, we got to think this thing through, because if we tuck tail and run, we're going to be accepting responsibility for what happened out there," says NRA official Jim Land.
"That's one very good argument, Jim," replies PR consultant Tony Makris. "On the other side, if you don't appear to be deferential in honoring the dead, you end up being a tremendous s***head who wouldn't tuck tail and run, you know? So it's a double-edged sword."
"Tucking tail and running" certainly would have been a less callous look. It's what they would have done if they cared more about the actual victims than they did about making sure "guns" didn't look bad.
They considered creating a victim's fund, to make it seem like they are good people who care about others, but decided against it because, again, it would make it look like they thought guns had something to do with a mass shooting.
Clearly they thought this worked out well for them, as their reactions to mass shootings have become even more callous and vindictive in the years since. After Sandy Hook, they released a particularly grotesque ad calling President Obama a “repugnant and cowardly" elitist for sending his daughters to school with armed Secret Service agents (like the children of all US presidents) while supposedly opposing armed guards at schools to prevent school shootings. This was, of course, some bullshit. He never said he was against armed guards at schools, just that he did not think it would be particularly effective. He was not wrong. It didn't help this time, either.
A 2021 study on armed guards in schools determined that "data suggest no association between having an armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases" and that in fact, "[a]n armed officer on the scene was the number one factor associated with increased casualties after the perpetrators’ use of assault rifles or submachine guns." Why? Because the presence of another weapon has been shown to increase, rather than decrease, aggression, and because many of these shooters also plan to commit suicide afterwards, "so an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent."
After the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, the NRA's Chris Cox took out an actual op ed claiming that the shooting was not the fault of guns, but the fault of the Obama administration for doing political correctness by not making it illegal for American citizens to be Muslim. Or something. Cox responded to the San Bernardino shooting in a similar fashion, taking out another op-ed accusing President Obama of being mean to guns and trying to make people less safe, for reasons.
One NRA board member actually blamed the pastor of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for the Charleston shooting (in which he was killed), because he had also been a state legislator in South Carolina and voted against concealed carry.
"Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead," wrote Charles L. Cotton on his pro-gun messageboard TexasCHLForum.com. "Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
After the Las Vegas shooting, they kept their mouths shut until coming out with a list of ways that gun control wouldn't have done anything to prevent the deaths of those 59 people, and started demanding "right-to-carry-reciprocity" across state lines, so that people who have concealed carry in one state can go to a state where that is not legal and do it anyway. You know, because of how they love states' rights.
At their meeting after Parkland, complaints about "gun free zones" ruled the day — suggesting that if teachers and students were armed, such a tragedy never would have happened. Some might say it's a pretty great way to ensure far more casualties — at least in part because how the hell would anyone know who the "good guy with a gun" was versus the "bad guy with a gun?" Then-NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch also pitched a fit over Parkland survivors appearing on a CNN Town Hall about gun violence.
Nice, nice people.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse