Now that the NRA annual big deal has come and gone, there will be the usual post-mortem as to whether the show was the biggest and the best, which Republican candidate gave the best speech and, of course, whether the Donald is still looking for that birth certificate. You can get a taste of all this and more on the NRA website where most of the celebrity speeches have been posted, but what I found interesting was a comment made by Wayne-o in his annual attempt to scare gun owners into buying more guns.
The appeal to fear first started with Wayne’s predecessor, Harlon Carter, who ran the NRA from 1977 until 1985. It moved into high gear when Charlton Heston was featured in a series of anti-crime television ads that showed the former Hollywood liberal walking down back alleys in Washington, D.C. while saying that the streets were “ruled by criminals” and that criminals should be “banned” rather than guns.
Unfortunately for the NRA, the problem with using crime as a rationale for owning guns is that violent crime in the United States keeps going down. For that matter, so does the percentage of older, White men, who just happen to be the demographic that buys and owns most of the guns. So sooner or later, if these trends continue, the NRA is going to have to craft a new message and find a new reason for all those guys and gals walking around armed.
They began to take a new approach last year before the mid-term elections with a series of cable ads that featured the “five million NRA members” standing up for honesty, truth and various so-called core values, while at the same time swiping at you-know-who in the White House and the elitist culture that is undermining everything we hold dear. The problem with this ad campaign, however, is that it doesn’t do what the NRA has been most successful at doing for the last twenty years, namely, ginning up fears about something that can only be overcome if you go out and buy a gun. But Wayne-o and his PR staff have evidently come up with their latest scare technique, which came at about the 4th minute of his speech to NRA members when he mentioned that “terror cells” were operating in cities all across the United States and that a major terrorist attack was about to take place.
At last year’s meeting Wayne-o told the audience that terrorists were just one of a large group that were threatening America, a group which included home invaders, drug cartels, campus killers, airport killers, power-grid destroyers – it was quite a list. This year he got his act somewhat more focused, pulled the ‘terror cells’ out of his hat, and then reminded his listeners that only a national CCW law and every NRA member renewing their dues would truly make Americans safe.
Meanwhile, outside the NRA meeting, Shannon and the Moms held a rally to promote a different idea about whether guns make us safe. Immediately after the rally, various pro-gun bloggers went out of their way to assure their readers that the small attendance at Shannon’s rally showed that the anti-gun forces would never be a match for the NRA.
I have gone to more than 20 NRA meetings and for people who like guns, the exhibit hall is a cross between a swap meet and a Scout jamboree. As for core values, just wander into the sales area and see how much the NRA charges for a t-shirt or a hat. In all the years I went to the annual meeting, the only person demonstrating outside the hall was some old guy with a ‘Prey To Jesus’ placard, and not the Moms who have chapters in all fifty states. The NRA’s attempt to use terrorism as a bogey-man to sell more guns is a new riff on an old strategy that sooner or later will wear out. Shannon and her Moms are truly new, different and here to stay.