Today I received an email from the Violence Policy Center, a DC-based advocacy group that often partners with Brady and Bloomberg to push back against the legislative and legal initiatives of the NRA. Like every organizational email I receive from both sides, the VPC wants dough. But this particular message caught my eye because of what it said about the NRA’s upcoming Indianapolis show.
The VPC is upset not just in general about the NRA’s impending celebration of gun ownership, but in particular because the show is being held this year in a city that has an alarmingly high murder rate, many of these homicides, according to the VPC, committed with guns. Here’s a quote from the email: “Wayne LaPierre, Ted Nugent, and the rest of the NRA leadership will be in Indianapolis later this month for the NRA’s annual meeting which begins on April 25. We don’t expect they will mention the fact that Indianapolis has a murder rate higher than Chicago’s and that most of those killings are committed with guns.”
I’m not exactly sure what the connection is between the crime rate in Indianapolis and the fact that the Indiana Convention Center no doubt worked like hell to land the NRA show. I also suspect that the decision to hold the show in Indianapolis was made years ago and who knows whether crime in Indianapolis has since gone up or down. But if you think for one second that anyone who’s coming to Indianapolis to visit the NRA show gives a rat’s damn about crime in Indianapolis, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
The crowd at the NRA show is going to look just like the NRA membership everywhere else; mostly male, White, over the age of 50 and living in rural areas or smaller towns. The NRA show is just a big gun show and these folks will do what they always do at those shows: play with the guns, eat a few treats, stand on line for a couple of hours to get Ted Nugent’s autograph, say hello to friends, then hop in their 4×4’s and drive back home. They won’t spend a second in the city of Indianapolis, and if while they’re at the show a couple of more inner-city residents are gunned down, they won’t know about it and they won’t care.
Meanwhile, the NRA will treat them to a good dose of double-talk as to why they are really there. They’ll remind the visitors that guns are the best line of defense against criminals and crime. There will be endless exhortations to fight back against a federal government that is out to grab their guns. And if they need the ultimate proof that God is on their side, they can always line up for admission to the Prayer Breakfast before entering the exhibit hall.
Want the truth? Both sides in the gun debate mobilize their followers by appealing to fear. In the case of the NRA, it’s a fear of losing your guns, a fear of the government, a fear of crime. For the Violence Policy Center and like-minded organizations, it’s a fear of guns. As long as the two sides continue to appeal to their followers on the basis of fear, there’s really no chance that we will have a reasonable and responsible discussion about how to stop the killings that occur in Indianapolis and other cities and towns.
If we ever had such a debate, maybe it would turn out that we as Americans would decide that 30,000 gun deaths every year is a small price to pay for the fun of attending the NRA show. Or maybe we would decide that the violence has to stop right now and the 2nd Amendment notwithstanding, everyone has to turn in their guns. I don’t really care which way such a debate works out; all I know is that neither pro-gun nor anti-gun advocates are interested in kicking one off.