WASHINGTON -- A "major news conference" organized by the National Rifle Association promises to attract scores of news media and protesters to downtown Washington, D.C. on Friday morning.
The event follows an initial decision by the nation's largest gun-owners lobbying group to remain silent following the massacre last Friday of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. But as criticism of the group spread among Democrats and even some Republicans, the NRA announced Tuesday that it was prepared to make "meaningful contributions" to prevent any future mass shootings. The details of those contributions are expected to be announced at Friday's press conference.
The event will mark the first time since the Sandy Hook massacre that members of the gun lobby have been face to face with the national media, as well as expected protesters rallying in support stricter gun control measures.
The NRA has been tight-lipped so far about what the public can expect on Friday, a tactic which has only added to public interest in the announcement. Given the controversy surrounding the NRA's leading role in opposing stricter gun laws, the venue was well chosen. The Willard Hotel in downtown Washington has a reputation as maintaining one of the highest security levels of any hotel in the city, and those without room keys or legitimate business at the Willard on Friday morning can expect to be turned away at the door.
This likely includes members of the news media who did not preregister for the event. Conflicting reports emerged Thursday afternoon about what type of credentials would be required to attend the press conference, after some outlets received requests from the NRA for faxed confirmation of their identities on company letterhead. But an NRA spokeswoman told The Huffington Post Thursday evening that credentialed reporters who had previously confirmed their attendance would be admitted.
Anyone stuck outside the Willard on Friday morning will likely have company, as at least three advocacy groups will be holding protests.
The online advocacy group Avaaz has been pressuring the Wyndham Hotels group -- which owns chains such as Days Inn and Super 8 -- to end its corporate affiliation with the NRA. On Friday, it will display a massive bed outside the Willard Hotel featuring "personifications of Wyndham brands 'in bed with' piles of toy guns," according to a press release from the group.
"It's time for mainstream companies like Wyndham Hotels to get out of bed with the extremist NRA," said Avaaz senior campaigner Joseph Huff-Hannon. "Their affiliation is a toxic approval of how this gun lobby has made America less safe for our children."
Progressive advocacy group CREDO will be delivering petitions with more than 200,000 signatures asking the NRA to stop opposing gun control legislation on Friday. CREDO also led a march on the NRA's offices on Capitol Hill on Monday.
Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) will be at the Willard, although its message will go further than what the others groups are promoting. PETA members will be holding signs reading, "Get All Living Beings out of the Crosshairs: Ban Hunting."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the Wyndham Hotels group owns the Best Western chain; it does not.
Also on HuffPost:
The Lack Of Guns In Schools
The idea that the tragedy wouldn't have been as bad if more guns had been available has emerged as a highly popular argument in pro-gun circles. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/16/louie-gohmert-guns_n_2311379.html">suggested on national television</a> over the weekend that if the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary had quick access to her own assault-style rifle, the situation could have been halted by her gunning down the shooter. A number of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/guns-for-teachers_n_2324095.html?utm_hp_ref=politics">state legislators</a> and governors have since announced plans to consider eliminating gun-free school zones in order to allow staff to come into work with their firearms. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/brady-group-arming-teachers-insane-85245.html">responded to this idea</a>, calling it an "insane" proposal that suggests "the only answer to violence is more violence. The only answer to guns is more guns.” A large <a href="http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2012/12/teachers_union_rips_idea_of_arming_teachers_asks_how_any_sane_person_could_suggest_that.html">Illinois teacher's union</a> and other <a href="http://www.reporternews.com/news/2012/dec/18/abilene-school-administrators-say-arming-not-the/">school administrators</a> have since scoffed at the suggestion.
The Lack Of God In Schools
Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/14/mike-huckabee-school-shooting_n_2303792.html">became the spokesman for this argument</a> on Friday, saying that the crime was no surprise because we have "systematically removed God" from public schools. A number of religious leaders have since echoed this reasoning, claiming that the squelching of religion in school has helped create a culture where mass shootings are more frequent. In this argument, they also appear to suggest that free-flowing religious expression repels violence.
Violent Video Games
Reports that alleged shooter Adam Lanza was an avid video game player have led lawmakers from both parties to suggest games deserve some blame for mass shootings. A <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2012/12/hill-eyes-video-game-use-by-shooter-85255.html?hp=l8">number of Democratic lawmakers</a> called for new studies into the effects of violent video games on their players. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said some blame belongs to <a href="http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/dec/18/tennessee-georgia-lawmakers-mum-on-guns/?local">violent forms of entertainment</a>. A <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/alyssa/2012/12/17/1343641/video-games-newtown/">number of recent studies</a> have found no correlation between video games and gun violence.
Fisher Price Toys?
Glenn Beck seems to think there could be a connection between baby toys and mass murder. Follow the link to the left for additional confusion.
The 'Evilness' Inside People
As <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-finocchiaro/aurora-shooter-evil_b_1703278.html">in prior mass shootings</a>, <a href="http://townhall.com/columnists/patbuchanan/2012/12/18/the-dead-soul-of-adam-lanza-n1469007">commentators and politicians</a> have been quick to assign words to Lanza that suggest he was driven by some supernatural force. "What we tend to do, because we can't understand these killers, is define them as monsters," Scott Bonn, a serial killer expert and assistant professor of sociology at Drew University, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/sandy-hook-blame-game_n_2318334.html">told HuffPost's David Lohr</a>. "You almost always see the word 'evil' and 'monster' used in reference to serial killers and mass murderers. This tendency to turn them into these supernatural ghouls obscures the fact that these are really disturbed individuals. It oversimplifies what is a very complicated problem. It obscures the reality of what's going on, and we as a society never make it beyond that. That's why we go on finger-pointing."
Support For Gay Marriage & Abortion
Here's how Focus on the Family founder James Dobson <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/james-dobson-connecticut-shooting-gay-marriage_n_2318015.html">attempted to explain the massacre</a>: <blockquote>I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences, too.</blockquote> Apparently growing public support for gay marriage and abortion rights helps explain mass shootings.
In a Sunday sermon, Pastor Sam Morris of Old Paths Baptist Church in Tennessee linked the shooting to a public school system that focused on "humanism" and scientific principles, which in turn may have led Lanza to believe that he was God and could "go blow away anybody he wants.” Morris also managed to throw in a reference to "how to be a homo" classes. "When I got in high school, man, I started learning all this kingdom, phylum stuff, all this junk about evolution,” Morris told his congregation, <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/17/tennessee-pastor-mass-shootings-because-schools-teach-evolution-and-how-to-be-a-homo/">according to Raw Story</a>. "And I want to tell you what evolution teaches -- here's the bottom line -- that you're an animal. That’s what it teaches. So, you’re an animal, you can act like an animal. Amen.” Morris continued: “So, here you are, you're an animal and you’re a god! So, what are we going to teach you about in school? Well, we can teach you about sex, we can teach you how to rebel to you parents, we can teach you how to be a homo! But we’re definitely not going to teach you about the word of God! Amen.”
It's popular to blame Hollywood for promoting themes that contribute to the supposed disintegration of society's moral fabric. Over the weekend, former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan argued that Hollywood was being negligent in denying its role in promoting a culture of violence that supposedly motivates mass killers. She said it would take action from Obama to get the film industry to change its mind. From Noonan's <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2012/12/17/newtown/">Wall Street Journal op-ed</a>: <blockquote>When Hollywood wants to discourage cigarette smoking it knows exactly how to do it, because it knows exactly how much power it has to deliver cultural messages. When Hollywood wants to encourage environmentalism it knows how to do it. But there’s a lot of money to be made in violence, and God knows there’s a market for it -- in fact, the more people are fed violence the bigger the market grows, so it’s an ever hungry, always growing market. This is exactly what you want if you’re in a tough business and don’t have a conscience. Republicans have no sway in Hollywood, none. They are figures of mockery, sometimes deservedly so. If they get into the act here, Hollywood will be able to ignore them, and nothing will change. But the Democrats and the president are in a different position. They could change things for the better.</blockquote>
Due to a number of <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/print/fox-news-and-the-new-york-times-abet-media-effort-to-falsely-link-autism-with-ct-shooting/">media reports</a> and <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/piers-morgan-quack-says-people-with-autism-lack-empathy-somethings-missing-in-the-brain/">interviews</a>, claims that Lanza had Asperger's -- a form of autism -- has played into initial rounds of speculation about why he might have carried out the massacre. Experts <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/experts-link-aspergers-violence-17987339#.UNFIf4njnYF">say there is no link</a> between Asperger's and violence, and the original reports have since <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/12/adam-lanza-aspergers-autism-and-violence/60078/">prompted pushback</a> from a number of writers and bloggers who claim they were wrong to connect the two.
Libor, 'The Hunger Games,' Drugs, Brainwashing, Or...OBAMA?
Talking Points Memo <a href="http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/12/newtown-libor-hunger-games-theories.php">broke down the conspiratorial fervor</a> over supposed ties to the Libor British banking scandal. According to their report, proponents of these theories attempted to to connect the Newtown shooting with the earlier one in Aurora, Colo., crafting a complex web surrounding unfounded rumors that various family members close to both gunmen had been planning to give bombshell testimony on global banking fraud. Others said the shooting had something to do with the highly popular book series, "The Hunger Games," because author Suzanne Collins is from Newtown. And the drugs and/or brainwashing theory <a href="http://www.orlytaitzesq.com/?p=367385">comes from birther queen Orly Taitz</a> and has zero discernible factual basis, so that pretty much covers that angle. She's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/orly-taitz-sandy-hook-obama_n_2325671.html">also responsible for concocting a theory</a> that President Obama is "trying to show that some person can appear out of the blue and slaughter people" so he can ban guns and "gain an absolute power." So there you have it.
This fringe idea comes from <a href="http://www.teapartynation.com/profiles/blog/show?id=3355873%3ABlogPost%3A2364503&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_post">Timothy Birdnow at Tea Party Nation</a>, an ultra-conservative offshoot of the Tea Party movement. According to Birdnow, teacher's unions have helped ensure the gradual degradation of the moral values espoused in schools will continue to do so as long as they exist. Birdnow suggests allowing volunteers such as George Zimmerman, the man accused of killing Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, to serve as security personnel. If Zimmerman had "been at the front door instead of some mechanical card reader those children would still be alive," Birdnow writes. Thanks to the teacher's unions, he argues, that will never happen.
In a <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/best_of_the_web_today.html">Wall Street Journal column</a>, James Taranto argued that wall-to-wall coverage of the perpetrators of mass shootings encourages them to act. He admitted that there was no simple way to avoid such tendencies, but urged restraint: <blockquote>Our point here is that the medium is the motive: If these killers seek recognition, it is available to them because the mass media can be counted on to give extensive attention to their horrific deeds. They are, after all, newsworthy, and they do raise important questions of public concern, not only about the availability of weapons and the vulnerability of "gun-free zones" but also about the treatment of mental illness. We journalists often proclaim high-mindedly that the public has a right to know--and we're right. But as in the Garden of Eden, knowledge is dangerous. An industry devoted to serving the public's right to know gives twisted and evil men the means of becoming known.</blockquote>