N.R.A. Critics: Why So Much Vitriol?

by John Spritzler

December 24, 2012

Methinks they do protest too much: the politicians, newspaper editors and pundits who are resorting to unrestrained vitriol in attacking the N.R.A. president's call, following the Newtown massacre, for armed police officers in every school.* I wouldn't be saying this if the critics of the N.R.A.'s president, Wayne LaPierre, spoke against his proposal by saying, for example, "I think it's a bad idea because ________." I myself have some objections to it as I discuss below. What is so remarkable about the criticism of LaPierre, however, is that it is over-the-top hysterical, ad hominem and devoid of substantive content. The New York Daily News headlined, "CRAZIEST MAN ON EARTH" and called him "Wacko Wayne" a "nut" and a "peril to life and limb." The New York Times called LaPierre "mendacious," "delusional" and "deranged."

The vitriolic aspect of these responses makes me wonder, what's going on here? One can disagree with what LaPierre said at his press conference, but he presented an opinion that, when one actually thinks about it, is entirely in keeping with standard American operating procedure and thinking. As LaPierre pointed out, we have armed police protecting people and property in lots of places already, from banks and airports to universities (where the campus police are armed), courthouses and even many public high schools (where 10,000 such police are assigned currently), and nobody is screaming that these policies were implemented by mendacious, delusional, deranged wacko nut jobs, are they?

What is the rationale for having these armed police? The rationale is well known and not even considered controversial among the circle of politicians, newspaper editors and pundits who came down like a ton of bricks on LaPierre. The rationale is that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun--exactly what LaPierre said at his press conference. (Whether these police are "good guys" is another question, and the victims of police thuggery may very well disagree, but the critics of LaPierre are not arguing that the police in our society are not "good guys.")

The critics of LaPierre are not even embarrassed by their use of obviously illogical arguments. Thus the Democratic Senator from New York, Charles Shumer, criticized LaPierre's call for armed police in the schools by saying, "What about stopping the bad guy from getting a gun in the first place?" Would Shumer apply this same "logic" to automobiles and oppose mandatory seatbelts in cars by saying, "What about stopping dangerous driving behavior in the first place?"

The New York Times resorted to attacking a strawman. They asserted, "Mr. LaPierre would put a police officer in every school and compel teachers and principals to become armed guards."

But LaPierre never said to compel teachers and principals to become armed guards. Here are his exact words:

"Now, the National Rifle Association knows there are millions of qualified and active retired police, active, Reserve, and retired military, security professionals, certified firefighters, security professionals, rescue personnel, an extraordinary corps of patriotic, trained, qualified citizens to join with local school officials and police in devising a protection plan for every single school.

"We could deploy them to protect our kids now. We can immediately make America’s schools safer, relying on the brave men and women in America’s police forces. The budgets -- and you all know this, everyone in the country knows this -- of our local police departments are strained, and the resources are severely limited, but their dedication and courage is second to none. And, they can be deployed right now.

"I call on Congress today, to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation. And, to do it now to make sure that blanket safety is in place when our kids return to school in January."

LaPierre's only mention of teachers in this context was this sentence:

"Right now today every school in the United States should plan meetings with parents, school administrators, teachers, local authorities and draw upon every resource that’s out there and available to erect a cordon of protection around our kids right now."

What Are the N.R.A. Critics Really Afraid Of?

The New York Times editors let the cat out of the bag, I suspect, in their editorial, "The N.R.A. Crawls From Its Hidey Hole." Here's the paragraph in their editorial that reveals their real fear:

"We cannot imagine trying to turn the principals and teachers who care for our children every day into an armed mob. And let’s be clear, civilians bristling with guns to prevent the “next Newtown” are an armed mob even with training offered up by Mr. LaPierre. Any town officials or school principals who take up the N.R.A. on that offer should be fired."

These editors, reflecting the fears of America's ruling plutocracy, are afraid of the people--especially the armed people! Their use of the word "mob," in reference to school teachers and principals, no less, tells us how fundamental is their fear of ordinary people when they have real power. Their preoccupation with this fear is evident from the fact that they feel the need to squash LaPierre like a bug in spite of the fact that he never called for the arming of teachers and principals. LaPierre's unforgivable crime was that he articulated a fact that everybody knows is true--that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Why is it so dangerous to the ruling elite for this fact to be made prominent? Here's why.

If what establishment opinion leaders say is true (I don't buy it myself, but most people currently do), that these mass killings lately are happening simply because our society for some reason is riddled with individuals whose identity we cannot determine (they could be anybody, you just don't know) and who, without warning, go crazy and start killing people, then it means that there is no way we could ever hire enough police officers to ensure that there would be a "good guy with a gun" close by whenever and wherever a "bad guy with a gun" starts killing on a busy public street or a shopping mall or in a restaurant or bus stop or practically anywhere that people frequent. We could have cops in all the schools, but then these crazy killers could go beserk somewhere else where there was no cop. The problem for the ruling elite is that if people believe the establishment explanation for the mass killings, and they also are thinking that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad buy with a gun, then the logical conclusion that will start to enter more and more people's heads is this: the more ordinary people with guns, the safer we'll all be, because then no matter where a crazy person goes to kill people there will likely be a person there to stop him with a bullet.

Our ruling plutocracy wants to squash this conclusion because it fears the arming of ordinary people. It doesn't fear this for good and very understandable reasons that many people have, such as the increased likelihood if lots of people are armed of a gun being used wrongly and resulting in injury or death of an innocent person. Our rulers are not exactly squeamish about killing innocent people, as their unjust wars based on lies in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere make all too evident. Their fear of armed people, on the contrary, is fear of losing dominance over them.

I mentioned above that I don't buy the establishment explanation for the mass killings of late. As I discuss here, there are very good reasons to be skeptical of the official accounts of the killings and to suspect that we are being subjected to the same kind of conditioning that the CIA carried out in Europe, as Operation Gladio, to make the public fearful of random violence and therefore amenable to letting the government do whatever it said was necessary to make people safe. If indeed there are people high up in our government who are making mass killings like Newtown happen, as I believe they made the 9/11 attack happen, then it is one more reason that we should start Thinking about Revolution. We need to build a revolutionary movement for a more equal and democratic society, a movement that will be so large and popular (a real "mob" as the NYT editors would doubtless call it in hysteria) that it will have the support of not only ordinary people (with and without guns) but also substantial members of the military forces (with lots of arms!)

The reality is that police in the United States are not the "good guys"; they act as thugs to cow people at the bottom of our unequal society into obedience and protect the wealth and privilege of the wealthiest. What we need is not more thuggish police everywhere, which would be even more of a police state than what we have, but a revolutionary movement to create a society in which people who execute things like Operation Gladio, and who wage unjust Orwellian wars of social control that kill civilians for no defensible reason, are not in power.


* Note that the elite send their own children to schools with armed guards. The Obamas and Clintons used the Sidwell Friends School, which has armed guards in addition to Secret Service protection when the children of the President attend. For details see the articles here (showing that the Obama children attend the Sidwell Friends School) and here (showing the school's ad for an armed Special Police Officer) and here (showing what a Special Police Officer is exactly). Also Obama's former Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, sends his children to a school with an armed police officer, as discussed here and yet he blasted the NRA proposal, saying, “It’s outrageous and unsettling that the NRA would choose to address gun violence not by taking assault weapons off our streets, but by adding more guns to our schools.”