Opinion Columns & Blogs

April 12, 2013

Carl Hiaasen: NRA’s mission is to frighten, sell more guns

The National Rifle Association wants to give me a “heavy-duty” duffel bag.

The National Rifle Association wants to give me a “heavy-duty” duffel bag.

It’s a nice one, too – roomy enough for an AR-15 and maybe half a dozen 30-round clips. Stitched on the side is a bold-looking NRA patch.

The bag is mine if I pay $25 and join up.

Like most gun owners in this country, I’m not an NRA member. It’s possible that Wayne LaPierre got my name off a mailing list from catalogs that sell hunting gear.

LaPierre is the NRA’s perpetually apoplectic “executive vice president.” You see him on TV preaching against gun control, practically levitating with paranoia. He signed the letter that arrived with the nifty duffel-bag offer.

One thing about LaPierre: He likes to underline. He’s also fond of boldface type, and of capitalizing important words. This rises to a fever pitch when he’s writing about “anti-gun members of Congress”:

“And they will not stop until they BAN hundreds of commonly owned firearms, PROHIBIT private transfers of firearms, CLOSE gun shops and shows, and DESTROY your freedom to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones.”

Here’s another beauty:

“Remember, gun ban politicians and their media allies are on the attack. And the future of your freedom is at stake.”

LaPierre might seem like an under-medicated whack job, but he’s just acting. His job is to frighten people, and to sell more guns.

Major firearms manufacturers such as Smith and Wesson and Beretta have given millions of dollars to the NRA. Sturm, Ruger and Co. donated a dollar from every gun sale to the organization from May 2011 to May 2012, raising $1.25 million.

This isn’t mentioned in LaPierre’s letter. He calls the NRA a “grassroots membership organization,” when in reality it’s a coldhearted lobby for the gun industry.

And the industry definitely gets its money’s worth. The push in Congress to revive the ban on assault rifles is dead and other modest reforms have struggled, in spite of the nation’s horror at the massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

The NRA wasn’t always quite so loony. It once supported comprehensive background checks on gun purchases, and even took a position against guns being carried in public schools.

Now the group has swung 180 degrees, in sneering opposition to public sentiment. Polls show 90 percent of American favor background checks on all firearms sales, including those at local gun shows.

LaPierre insists that background checks will lead to a “national gun registry,” which will then lead to mass confiscation of firearms by the government.

Oh, sure. The same government that can’t afford to deliver mail on Saturdays is poised to send armed agents to every single house in the country to search for weapons.

The notion is ridiculous, and LaPierre is well aware of it. The NRA isn’t aiming for the mainstream support. The fringe is what they’re after – the spooked-out guys who were lining up to buy assault rifles after the mass shooting in Newtown.

By the way, those 20 murdered children and six murdered adults aren’t mentioned anywhere in LaPierre’s rousing membership letter. I double-checked all the underlined sentences and boldface paragraphs.

Not a single word, capitalized or otherwise, about how some crackpot with a Bushmaster fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, turning a schoolhouse into a slaughterhouse.

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