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Welcome to the madhouse: Here’s your N.R.A.

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Ahh, the National Rifle Association. The group liberals love to hate. Ask them to describe the typical NRA member, and you’ll get some combo of:

  • a white, Bible-thumping Christian yahoo
  • probably racist, homophobic and anti-foreigner
  • in love with guns, assault rifles, tanks, rocket-propelled missile launchers, and anything else that shoots to kill
  • a hater of “big gummint”
  • a conservative Republican tea partier
  • an angry and possibly seditious radical who wouldn’t have minded seeing Obama and Hillary assassinated
  • an altogether unpleasant, stupid individual, characterized by what writer William Alexander calls “the three Bs—beards, baseball caps and bellies.”

Mr. Alexander is a retiree who just wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times about his experiences after attending his first NRA convention. A self-described liberal, the 64-year old realized upon retiring that “I wanted to try a new pastime: shooting,” a decision that “surprised” himself. But there it was, and what better group to hang out with, if you’re a new shooter in search of a gun, than the NRA?

It didn’t quite work out. After attending the NRA show, Alexander left thinking, Perhaps golf’s a better hobby, after all.”

What turned him off? When he asked members if they supported tougher gun laws for the mentally ill, they replied, “Who’s to say who’s mentally ill?”

They told him people need guns because “Islamic terrorists are coming to your town. Rioters rule the streets. Unarmed women are rape bait. It is twilight in America and no one is going to defend you. Except you.”

He was told the Sandy Hook massacre “was the fault of the school itself and the lyin’ dirtbag media.”

He was told the San Bernardino school shooting also was the school’s fault because “somebody in the school should’ve been armed and able to protect themselves.”

NRA members warned Alexander “not to expose [his] home address on luggage tags,” to “set up a safe room in [his] house,” to “make sure [his] holstered weapon is so comfortable that [he] never leave[s] home without it,” and to “cover all accessible windows with bulletproof film.”

The NRA used to be about gun training and safety, but over the last 40 years, it’s devolved into an asylum for the most radically conservative wing of the Republican Party—people, like Jeremy Joseph Christian, the white supremacist who just killed two men in Portland, Oregon after they came to the defense of two women; Christian claimed his motive was “patriotism.”

I’m not sure exactly when the NRA fell down the slippery slope from innocence to depravity, but it had certainly occurred by the 1980s, when the NRA began issuing bumper stickers proclaiming, “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” By 2000, the cheesy actor, Charleton Heston (who was the NRA’s president), popularized the slogan, while smearing Al Gore at an NRA convention. Claiming that gun control—of any kind, no matter how incremental—“would take my freedom away,” Heston anticipated the lies and paranoia that, a decade later, would characterize the tea party.

Some Republicans lately have accused Democrats of blaming the victim—that liberals lie when they characterize conservatives as dummies when, in reality, Trump’s base are good, decent, patriotic, Christian Americans. The idea, I suppose, is to make liberals feel guilty, and to reassure the Republican base that they’re the good guys in this “fight for freedom.”

I will ‘fess up. When I read Alexander’s essay, it made me embarrassed to think that people as crazy as the NRA members he quoted share the same citizenship as I. For people to allege that Sandy Hook was the school’s fault, aided and abetted by the “lyin’ dirty media,” is nauseating in its twisted sickness. Adam Lanza, a 20-year old fascinated by “battles, destruction and war,” on the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and summarily shot to death 20 children between the ages of six and seven. His weapon of choice: a Bushmaster XM15-E2S carbine, a semi-automatic rifle now banned by the State of New York in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.  (The XM15 was the same type of gun used by Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammed in the Washington, D.C. terror killings.) The gun shoots bullets that travel at three times the speed of sound, and can penetrate a steel helmet at 500 yards. During the police investigation of Lanza’s home following the massacre, “police found a certificate from the National Rifle Association bearing the name Adam Lanza” and “an N.R.A. guide to the basics of pistol shooting and training manuals on the use of a variety of firearms, including a Bushmaster.”

Mr. Alexander’s op-ed piece reminds us in a most timely way that ISIS isn’t the only terrorist threat to Americans; the U.S. has homegrown terrorists, too, including elements within the National Rifle Association.  Remember that NRA person who asked Alexander, “Who’s to say who’s mentally ill?” I get to say who: Adam Lanza and Jeremy Joseph Christian were mentally ill, and so is an NRA that denies there’s a gun problem in America.

P.S. The has-been rock musician Ted Nugent once called for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton “to be hung.” On another occasion he said, concerning Harry Reid, “[S]hoot him.” And yet, in April, President Donald J. Trump invited Ted Nugent to the White House, and did him the signal honor of posing for a photograph, the two men grinning and shaking hands. Now, Trump claims to have been highly offended by comedian Kathy Griffin’s holding up a fake severed Trump head. Crocodile tears. When Trump apologizes to all the innocent people he and his friends have insulted and maligned, then I might feel bad for him and Melania. But he never will, and I don’t. Trump can dish it out, but he can’t take it.

 

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