What is America's "oldest civil rights organization"?
American Civil Liberties Union?
Guess again Bucko.
Southern Christian Leadership Conference?
Yes, you sir, with the bulge under your jacket.
Did you say National Rifle Association?
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!
And this week, our nation's self-proclaimed "oldest civil rights organization" is setting up camp in St. Louis, Missouri, for its annual meeting and gun industry exposition, a celebration of Freedom!, Freedom!, and yes, even more Freedom! -- especially if the true measure of freedom is easy access to increasingly lethal firearms. (For reasons unknown, the NRA recently amended its self-serving characterization of itself to "America's oldest civil rights and sportsmen's " organization. Perhaps even the NRA's hardened PR flacks couldn't continue to utter the original with a straight face.)
This three-day pro-gun pep rally -- numerous segments of it sponsored by members of the firearms industry -- will feature meetings, concerts, prayers, seminars, and a firearms expo (and while attendees with concealed handgun permits will not be able to bring their handguns into the exposition hall due to city law, they will be able to visit the display -- Booth 2439 -- of gun manufacturer Kel-Tec, maker of the pistol that concealed carry killer George Zimmerman used to shoot Trayvon Martin).
Virtually every topic imaginable that could fall under the rubric of what the NRA alliteratively labels "Firearms Freedom" will be discussed. Except, of course, there will be no mention of the carnage gun violence inflicts on Americans, their families, and their communities day in and day out. And the NRA is certain to assiduously avoid acknowledging the fact that it's holding its annual meeting in the state that leads the nation in black homicide victimization.
According to Black Homicide Victimization in the United States, an annual report issued this past January by my organization, the Violence Policy Center, Missouri ranks first in the nation for black homicide victimization with a rate of 34.72 per 100,000. The study uses 2009 unpublished Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) data, the most recent comprehensive state-by-state data available. Missouri's black homicide victimization rate of 34.72 per 100,000 was seven times the national overall homicide rate of 4.76 per 100,000. There were 239 black homicide victims in Missouri. Of these, 206 were male and 33 were female.
In 2009, 87 percent of black homicide victims in Missouri were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 65 percent were killed with handguns. Missouri also ranked first in the nation for black homicide victimization in 2008, with a rate of 39.90 per 100,000.
This type of grim irony, especially in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, is nothing new to the NRA. Following the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, that left 13 victims dead, the NRA plowed ahead with an abbreviated version of its annual meeting in Denver -- despite desperate pleas from Colorado students and citizens and the mayor of Denver that the group move or postpone it.
And whether it's students slaughtered in their schools or the murder of African Americans at rates that seem almost inconceivable, nothing will ruin the NRA's pro-gun good times. The organization's reaction is as predictable as it is callous: it ignores the collateral damage of its actions, packs up its guns, wraps itself up in its Gadsden flag, and moves on to the next town.
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