Back in late December, when NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre delivered his first bracing, snarling comments about the Newtown mass killing I noted how LaPierre repeatedly diverted into the language of secular apocalypse, the total breakdowns of public order that are his signature device to play up the need for everybody to be armed.
The fact is this. That wouldn’t even begin to address the much larger, more lethal criminal class, killers, robbers, rapists, gang members, who have spread like cancer in every community across our nation. Meanwhile, while that happens, federal gun prosecutions have decreased by 40% to the lowest levels in a decade. So now due to a declined willingness to prosecute dangerous criminals, violent crime is increasing again for the first time in 19 years. Add another hurricane, terrorist attack, or some other natural or man made disaster, and you have got a recipe for a national nightmare of violence and victimization.
It’s almost … scratch that, it’s not almost as if it were a tailor-made focus-group litany meant to incite maximal fear and hysteria, it clearly is just that. We just had Sandy. We’ve had black outs. We’ve had big terror attacks. We don’t go all Escape from New York or Mad Max. Yes, you can come up with a lot of scary scenarios and there are gangs and you do have looting sometimes. But these are terror fantasies. The whole thing is intended to portray a world just one slip down from a rapid descent into chaos.
So what I was struck by this week is how even in total vanilla cases, the folks at the NRA, intentionally or perhaps partly by habit, fall into this same language. Now we’re talking about background checks. Little more than a decade ago, the NRA supported the idea. Now it’s totally unacceptable because it’s allegedly not working even though it is working. And it takes too long and the system is overburdened. Whatever. But listen to the language. It’s a “federal nightmare”, “unworkable universal federal nightmare bureaucracy being imposed under the federal government”.
It strikes me as something like comical. But it just drives home to me how this is an organization, at the leadership level, entirely focused on creating hysteria and maximal fear to drive its agenda, even in cases where the rhetoric simply becomes comical.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.