The NRA has a consistent PR pattern after mass shootings. It refrains from comment in the immediate aftermath and then eventually emerges with condemnations of the media and the entertainment industry and variations on a theme that the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun.
After the shocking execution of 20 first- and second-graders in Newtown, CT, the graphic horror of the situation dramatically shifted the debate to the point that a majority of Americans now support major gun control restrictions and outright banning of certain weapons.
As the NRA remained silent, several national figures who have supported the organization — including senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Warner (D-VA), Robert Casey (D-PA) and former Republican congressman and current MSNBC host Joe Scarborough — have called for new gun laws to try to prevent more shootings. President Obama named Vice President Biden to come up with concrete proposals to prevent gun violence. And several Republicans in Congress said they would consider them.
So when NRA president Wayne LaPierre took the stage in Newtown a week after the massacre to offer what the organization promised would be a “meaningful conversation,” many had hopes that the NRA would break from its pattern and support some of the measures the public widely supports — including banning assault weapons, limiting the number of bullets in a magazine and universal background checks.
But LaPierre instead put on a performance that shocked and disappointed with its unhinged contradictions that began with his introduction, when the reporters in attendance were told, “This is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking any questions.”
LaPierre’s statement has already been denounced by Democrats including Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-CT) who called it “the most tone-deaf statement” he’d ever seen. Twice interrupted by protesters blaming the NRA for “killing kids,” LaPierre trudged on, unashamed and determined to reshape the narrative.
He began by insisting that he was speaking for “our nation’s children.” He decried “gun-free school zones” for telling “every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
This talking point ignores the fact that school shootings are actually down while mass shootings and gun violence in general are up, and will pass auto accidents as a cause of death by 2015.