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Mark Olmsted Headshot

The Deep Crazy of the NRA

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Do you ever notice how the least bizarre people you meet are constantly questioning their sanity? You know the kind I mean, the ones who live wholly and safely within the confines of accepted social behavior but will offer up on a weekly basis some variation of the following:

"Am I crazy?"

"Don't mind me, I'm nuts!"

"You must think I'm out of my mind."

You never do, of course, but that doesn't stop them from regularly trying to get you to co-sign the notion that they are all kinds of wacky.

The other side of this faux-nuts syndrome are the sociopaths scarily certain they are the sanest people on the planet. Hitler is the most infamous example -- I'm fairly certain he never once nudged Josef Goebbels at a dinner party to ask: "Do you think I'm weird? Cause sometimes I think I'm really sick in the head." If you ever wonder about yourself, be reassured. The fact that you even ask is pretty much proof that you are definitely still part of the reality-based community.

I know of what I speak. I was crazy once and didn't know it. I was high on crystal meth for about a decade, sold drugs and got arrested and forged my death certificate and got arrested again and went to prison. It was the spookiest kind of crazy because -- until the shit hit the fan at the end -- I could "pass" for sane. My doctor didn't know, my family didn't know, my landlord didn't know; unlike most addicts, my bathroom was clean, my laundry was done, my refrigerator was full. Worst of all was how I convinced myself my life was entirely manageable. The truth is, you can't tell that the bullet train you're on is speeding 300 mph on the wrong track until you derail.

I thought Wayne LaPierre was the apex of gun-nuttery until The New York Times profiled the other head honcho of the NRA, David Keene. (He's the scowling white-haired man who introduced LaPierre when he proposed putting an armed officer in every school in America. ) Midway through the article came this jaw-dropping bit of information:

"Mr. Keene joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008 in a prisoners' rights campaign. He had a personal motivation: his son had been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for firing a gun at another motorist in a road-rage episode."

One can assume that The New York Times triple-checked this particular fact due to its obviously sensitive nature. Here is a gun-lobbyist who had it revealed to him in excruciating fashion that firearms carried in supposed self-defense are almost never used to such an end; that in fact a moment of impulsive anger can devastate an entire family for years when a gun is involved, even if no one is physically injured.

What did David Keene do? Faced with his road-to-Damascus moment, he doubled down on the very life's work that had just proven to be based on a bald-faced lie. That's crazy and tragic. The famous NRA bumper-sticker reads: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people." Well, guns don't go to prison, either.

Wayne LaPierre accused the mainstream media of dismissing him as crazy. He's only half-right. There's nothing about NRA-crazy we dare dismiss. It's a deep crazy. It is the craziness of millions of gun-owners who have convinced themselves -- with complete sincerity -- that wielding an instrument of mayhem is spiritually elevated rather than spiritually bankrupt. It's the craziness of confusing the Second Amendment with the Lord's Prayer. It's the craziness which tells you the symptoms of your disease are its cure.

Sadly, I have no sure formula for treating the American addiction to violence manifested so completely by the true-believing base of the NRA. But I refuse to go along with the politically correct reaction so prevalent on both sides of the aisle that defends the right to bear arms as some some kind of morally-neutral lifestyle choice. It's not. An intense attachment to guns is pathological, and that's what we need to call it, once and for all, with no apology or qualification.