It’s now 5 days since the Charleston shooting at Emanuel AME, and the NRA still hasn’t uttered a single, public peep. It’s a tough one for them, in some ways tougher than Sandy Hook, because the debate about how and why Dylann Roof drove down to Charleston from Columbia has now morphed into a discussion about racism and hate, with the issue of public displays of the Confederate flag not far behind. Which means that America’s “oldest civil rights movement,” as the NRA likes to call itself, has an interesting balancing-act to figure out. The bottom line is that the NRA isn’t going to say something that might make it difficult for any of the Republican presidential hopefuls to experience any difficulties appealing to the pro-gun vote. At the same time, the not-surprising calls for more concealed-carry from John Lott and other armed-citizen fantasists have not grabbed much media space from what has been an overwhelming outpouring of concern in response to this tragic event.
The problem, of course, is that the moment an event like the Charleston shooting occurs and gun-control activists start beating the drums for more laws that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ gun owners begin to feel that they are being attacked. Why should the average, law-abiding citizen who happens to like or own guns have to jump through yet more legal hoops just because some crazy kid with a white-supremacist fixation got his hands on a Glock 21? And it turns out that he bought the gun legally, even passed a background check, which only goes to show that passing more gun-control laws won’t prevent the next crazy person from shooting up a church, right?
Sometimes I think that the whole pro-gun, anti-gun argument is misplaced, particularly when an emotion-driven event like the shooting in Charleston takes place. Unfortunately, the only time we do think about the place of guns in American society is when someone uses a gun in a terribly-destructive way. But for many people who own guns, events like the Charleston shooting have nothing to do with them. In fact, such events, as terrible as they are, only serve to provoke more interest in buying and using guns, not the other way around.
The day after the shooting, the Charleston Post & Courier newspaper ran a headline which read: “Church attack kills 9.” The Courier happens to be the oldest daily newspaper in the South, and this year won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of domestic violence, so we’re not here talking about a weekly shopper or some other kind of journalistic rag. But the same day that the paper’s headline was all about the church attack, the headline was actually somewhat obscured by a stick ‘em ad announcing a thirty- dollar “Ladies Night” at a local gun shop and range, the cost covering gun rental, a free t-shirt, 50 rounds of ammo and let’s not forget the requisite safety gear to protect eyes and ears.
When someone finally caught up with the Courier’s editor, he issued the usual half-assed disclaimer about how the paper “regretted” the coincidence and blah, blah, blah. But it turns out that another newspaper, the Florida Times Union, ran exactly the same kind of ad on the front page along with a headline about the previous day’s shooting on a Jacksonville school bus which left two kids only wounded, at least nobody was dead. Of course the Times Union immediately issued a statement about the “incredibly regrettable coincidence.” They issued a statement.
The day after Gabby Giffords was shot in a Tucson mall parking lot, sales of Glock 19 pistols, the gun used by her assailant Jared Loughner, went sky high. Over the next week or so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Glock 21 sales go the same way. It’s Marketing 101 to take advantage of what’s uppermost in the public’s mind, and I’m not being cynical or sarcastic by making the connection between advertising that promotes gun sales and headlines that proclaim yet another horrific shooting event.