12/17/2012 09:31 am ET Updated Feb 15, 2013

Newtown School Massacre: It's Time for a Cold, Hard Look at the NRA


It's time to take another look at the NRA.

Hours after the unbelievable shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut, national and international news sites were predictably awash with breaking news about the murder of innocent children, the identity of the shooter, official comments by the governor of the state and so on.

But the NRA's website, business as usual, had (and 24 hours after the event, still had) not a whisper, not a mention of this national tragedy.

It is symptomatic of the NRA's blinkered views that there is such a disconnect between the immense harm done by handguns, and the NRA's unwavering resistance to any gun regulation.


The NRA website on the day of the Newtown school shooting was a case history in one-sided issues marketing. On the day of the shooting, it featured:
  • A promo for the "real life war hero" Oliver North's new book
  • NRA top "news stories": Friends of NRA nominated for Outdoor Channel Golden Moose Awards; Robert Vadasz wins 4th National Police Shooting Championship; National Rifle Association honors Alaska State Friends of NRA committee
  • Information for women interested in guns, and ads for newsletters with names like "Armed Citizen." Also, a Thank You to Smith and Wesson
  • Click-throughs to the NRA store, the NRA website, the NRA channels.

Remarkably, its News and Politics section carried nary a word about the children murdered in their school on December 14, 2012.

That's because, if the NRA does anything well, it stays on message.

And of late, its message is that citizen ownership of both handguns and semi-automatics is not an individual right, but a source of public safety.

When gruesome reality contradicts the NRA's message, reality is simply dismissed.


The illogic of mutual deterrence is at the heart of the NRA's paranoid, survivalist vision of a future America.

And no doubt about it, you can take them seriously when they talk about "armed citizens." Fast forward their vision of the United States, and the NRA would have everyone armed with enough firepower that the entire country is engaged in a citizens' cold war of mutual intimidation -- every hour of every day, every day of every week, in churches and cinemas and in college dorms and, yes, in elementary schools.

They're only being strategically polite by not arguing their fictional reality-- yet -- that had some elementary school teachers in Newtown been packing heat, that the massacre wouldn't have occurred.

When there's a mass shooting, the NRA slides so far away from taking any responsibility for the epidemic of firearm violence in America that you'd think they were promoting applesauce, not lethal weapons.


It's time to demand some answers of the NRA, their political pawns, and ourselves, the voters:
What's the connection between the NRA's political power and the ghoulish parade of mass shootings in America?

Would mass murder incidents --  like the Newtown school shooting, or the Aurora cinema "Batman shooting," or the attacks at Virginia Tech or others that have occurred with such fearsome frequency -- happen if we hadn't been subjected to decades of the NRA's single-minded quest to zap all limitations on the type and power of both hand guns and military-style assault weapons that civilians can buy, use, and carry in public places?

Would those children in Connecticut been safer had not the NRA, with its deep pocketed financing of elected officials at the federal and state level, swayed federal and state public policy on firearms for years?

What's the lesson to be learned from the fact that 20-year-old Adam Lanza lived in a house where his mother had a legally registered Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistol, in light of the NRA's very targeted marketing to sell women on the idea that they'll be safer and more empowered with firepower in their home?

And how many more innocent lives will be lost before the nation repudiates the NRA's mythologized fantasy that "an armed society is a safer society?"


Just because the NRA excuses itself from any culpability in cases of gun-fueled mayhem does not mean it has no responsibility.

Many of the mass shooters have had mental illness, as it turns out, and certainly there's a discussion to be had about the nation's woefully inadequate patchwork system of mental health services. But that's another issue. The discussion about mental health services should not be deployed as a red herring, to obscure an overdue debate about American policy regarding the regulation of the manufacture, sale, distribution, ownership and use of handguns and assault weapons.

The NRA, with its radical call for unfettered handgun ownership and its insistent promotion of on the myth that an armed society is a safe society, should be held accountable for fostering an unsafe public environment.


Hello, President Obama! Americans are looking for leadership on this issue.

But the President, in his day-of-shooting address to the nation called for flags at half-mast and for parents to hug their children. With his vague rumination -- "We're going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics," he said --  he kicked the gun control policy can down the road. Again.

But until someone in power confronts the NRA, the nation will just mourn for a few days, and then move ahead, sucked into our daily lives.

The United Kingdom changed its firearm policy in response to national outrage over the so-called Hungerford Massacre in 1987, in which a 27 year-old man killed 16 people and injured over a dozen more.

Americans, too, can change course.

And for that change to be effective, it should start with taking a cold hard look at challenging the NRA's relentless myth-making, and reducing the National Rifle Association's power in Washington.

It won't be easy. But thinking about those children in Newtown, hell, yes we can.

You can do something today. See 7 Ways to Respond to the Newtown School Shootings.