This is the fifth installment of "NRA vs. USA", a series by Douglas Anthony Cooper dealing with gun control and the Newtown Massacre. Part One, "This is What You Take to a Gun Fight" is here. Part Two, "Walking in the Shoes of Our Slain Children" is here. Part Three, "A Proven Way to End the Gun Slaughter: Will We Fight For it?" is here. Part Four, "Guns? Mental Health? Really? Let's Talk About Psychopaths" is here.
Do you care as much about your children as owners care about their guns? That's an offensive question, isn't it. Please. It's an exercise in tasteless hyperbole -- either that or I know nothing about the bond between parent and child. I'm not being serious, right? Of course you care.
Then what have you done?
Yes, I'm asking this ugly question in all sincerity. We know what they've done to insure the safety of their guns in the wake of the Newtown massacre. I'll provide details in a moment, although I'm sure you already have some sense of this: Members of the NRA demonstrate their concern in the same way after every mass shooting, whether the victims are first-graders or teens or adults. They care, I assure you.
So what have you done to match their efforts, since December 14?
List the precise steps that you have taken, personally, as a parent, to make sure that your own children will not be gunned down in the classroom. It's been almost three weeks since twenty children, aged six and seven, were slaughtered in a town considered one of the safest in America, judging by its gun laws (which are utterly worthless, clearly, but without peer in the nation).
If you're not insulted by this article yet, then you're not reading closely.
Twenty days have passed. You could have spent at least, say, half an hour during each of them, following up on numerous proposals discussed immediately following the massacre. That's less time than it takes to make dinner for your children.
If you have indeed put a great deal of time into addressing this monstrous situation, then I apologize. This is not directed at you. The rest of you, however -- and I can prove that you are legion -- should perhaps ask yourselves this: What exactly is the point of living in one of the greatest nations in history -- arguably the most free -- if you can't personally do a damn thing to keep your family safe from thugs with semi-automatics?
Are you proud of your Constitution? Why? Because you genuinely believe it was written to protect assault rifles, not children?
I can point to a graph that demonstrates how bored you have become of this issue, relative to citizens who believe that the Constitution was written for them, not you. Dylan Byers at Politico has published a post entitled, "'Gun control' doesn't survive Christmas". In it, he has graphed the "number of mentions of the term 'gun control' in the news, according to Nexis". I urge you to examine this visual argument, and ask yourself whether it accords with your own passion here.
This chart tells us that you (or perhaps not you, but everyone else you know?) expressed your deepest outrage around December 19th. That was when you decided that you were mad as hell, and weren't going to take it any more. By December 22nd you were, at best, a bit put out. On December 25th, sure -- you had another Child to think about, so it's natural that you'd put aside your concern for the twenty massacred children at Sandy Hook Elementary School. (If it were Good Friday, you'd perhaps have been more philosophical.)
By January 2nd you were officially bored of the whole business.
Now, what have they done?
Well, this news report from six days ago has not been substantiated -- it is based on an anonymous source -- but tell me honestly that you don't believe it. I expect that you, like me, would be amazed if it weren't true:
(Fox News reporter James Rosen) tweeted that a source told him that new membership for the NRA has surged to "roughly 8,000 new registrations" per day since the Newtown massacre. Later, Rosen tweeted the source claims the organization has received a surge in both individual contributions and average donation amounts.
The unnamed source was well-placed to know this: He was "within the National Rifle Association". (I assume it was a "he". Don't you?)
Or perhaps you believe that the gun lust peaked at approximately the same time as parents' concern for their children: on December 19th. That they, like you, have forgotten about this issue. If you believe this (and you don't), I suggest you read the comments beneath yesterday's piece on Politico. Typical are the following excerpts:
I think people figured out how the media likes to blow up these relatively rare shootings to bolster their ratings and web traffic. Passing knee-jerk legislation in the heat of the moment has never been a good idea.
To which a reader responds, "I couldn't agree more."
Someone else offers:
HAHA...deal with it Politico. You're not going to extinguish our rights so easily. In fact, if gun sales are any measure, y'all are screwed. Just picked up another "assault rifle" the other day! The weird thing is it just sits there. It hasn't killed anyone, or even threatened me yet.
Oh, there are bleats and protestations from parent-like people here and there in the comments, but nothing comes close to the absolute conviction displayed in the arrogance of that last comment.
And, crucially, nothing suggests that the mass of people who care about their children has taken action that corresponds in any way to the energy and symbolism of what this man has done. He took the initiative. He went out and purchased an assault rifle after the massacre of twenty children. And what did you do?
Of course, it was easy for him to take action: All he had to do is wander into a Walmart (where the weapon used by Adam Lanza to gun down those children in Sandy Hook Elementary School has long been available, along with cribs and car seats and strollers). Whereas you would have had to do something out of the ordinary.
It doesn't bother you that he puts "assault rifle" in quotation marks, to suggest that real men would describe Lanza's weapon as something less? Isn't it a touch annoying that he did not have to go out of his way to do what he likes to do -- purchase weaponry -- whereas you'd be required not only to disturb your routine, but to change your life a bit and wrestle with new ideas?
Those new ideas are out there, by the way. In fact, all you really have to do is choose one, and put some effort into it.
One friend, for instance, urged me to support the "One Million Child March". This is a proposal to take a million children to Washington, in order to put a face on this concern, the way that India has responded publicly to the gang rape in New Delhi.
It's worth looking at the situation in India, by the way. The vicious homicidal rape in New Delhi was two days after the Newtown massacre. They've had two fewer days to accomplish something, and what they've accomplished makes the American effort look, frankly, a bit underwhelming. The word "pathetic" comes to mind.
Don't fool yourself: Social mores repressing women in India are at least as intransigent as the American fetish for a certain special interpretation of the Second Amendment. The right to rape women is in fact legally enshrined in that country, as long as you restrict your activities to conflict zones: Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, has pointed out that the "Armed Forces Special Powers Act" allows soldiers to rape women with impunity. Rape is protected in India the way that guns are in America, which is to say not simply by laws, but by legislators:
In the 2009 parliamentary elections, India's political parties fielded 6 candidates charged with rape while 34 candidates were awaiting trial for crimes against women. In the state assemblies, 42 members had rape or associated charges against them at the time of their election. In all, according to a recent report published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, India has over 300 such politicians in power.
That is what women are up against in India. They face obstacles no less daunting than an odious gun lobby and an obsolete clause in the American Constitution. And yet -- I'll put money on this -- after these escalating protests, laws are going to be enforced, and laws are going to change. I guarantee it won't be as easy to rape women to death with rusted iron bars. Not in India.
Yes, something is going to happen in India, as opposed to the nothing that is going to happen in America.
Note that I do not intend to equate legal gun owners to rapists. The comparison is child slaughter to rape; the equation is the cultural conditions that enable both.
I have proposed my own rather obvious solution: that a national anti-gun lobby be founded to match the NRA, dollar for dollar, tactic for tactic, so that they can no longer subvert the electoral process. It would model itself precisely on the NRA: It would emulate their every gesture. This would involve parents -- the ones who care about their children -- donating at least as much to such an organization as members of the NRA do to their cherished lobby. An annual membership in the NRA costs $35. You wouldn't kick in thirty-five bucks to battle this repulsive organization?
That unnamed source within the NRA suggested that individual contributions and donations may have exceeded mere membership fees since the massacre.
So, let's see: You might be called upon to offer a bit more than $35 to the national lobby I've proposed. A quick unscientific examination of Walmart's online catalog reveals that a good car seat for a toddler is a bit over a hundred dollars. Would you be willing to contribute the price of, say, a "Safety 1st Convertible Car Seat"? The "Alpha Omega Elite Caroline" model, which appears something of a bargain at $112.99?
Good strollers -- the fashionable models, vaguely high-tech, which seem all the rage these days -- are more in the line of $150. This one seems nice: the "Go-Go Babyz Urban Advantage Stroller" in "Vista Blue". $159.99, and you can order it online.
Would you be willing to pony up an amount in the range of what you'd pay for a Go-Go Babyz stroller, to ensure that your child, when he or she emerges from the toddler stage, doesn't get gunned down in first grade?
It's a simple concept: a lobbying group that spends just as much money electing anti-gun candidates as the NRA does on their own chosen representatives. Organizations a bit like what I'm suggesting already exist: The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence is the best-known. In 2012, their PAC (Political Action Committee) contributed $3018 to federal candidates.
The National Rifle Association's PAC showed greater largesse in this department. In 2012 they spent a total of $10,765,834 on general elections. Their affiliate, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (501c) spent $7,448,013 on federal elections. The National Rifle Association (501c) spent $682,595 on communications related to federal elections.
Do I have to put this in further perspective? The National Rifle Association, according to a Fortune survey of lobbies in 1999, was "considered the most influential by lawmakers and congressional staffers -- the capital insiders closest to the lobbying action". When other groups were added to the survey -- trade association executives, other lobbyists -- the NRA tied for second, after the Association of Retired Persons (AARP). This survey's a bit old, but disturbingly pertinent: The NRA achieved this rank, despite it being "the worst year in memory for mass shootings". Nineteen ninety-nine, when this survey was taken, was the year of the Columbine massacre.
So, yes, there's some call for the lobby I have in mind. In fact, let's be blunt: Without an organization of this nature, gun-control advocates have no hope. None. Parents who wish their children free from the threat of guns will lose. Just as they have always lost.
Women in India -- who rightly if bitterly call themselves second-class citizens -- will accomplish more than parents opposed to guns in America -- who for some reason never refer to themselves that way.
Oh hell, what do I know. I don't even have children. Perhaps I do after all misunderstand the bond between parent and child. I'm just a writer, trying hard to be all edgy and ironic, whereas you have responsibilities here. How can I possibly comprehend what the serious business of parenting is all about? I should go mind my own less-pressing business.
And yet I won't. I've churned out some fifteen thousand irritating words since the massacre. I've called in personal favors in an attempt to get my proposal onto the desk of Mayor Bloomberg in New York (one of the few people in this situation with demonstrated backbone). This attempt has been miserably unsuccessful, and will almost certainly remain so: I'm thousands of miles from Manhattan, and even when I lived there I didn't pal around with Hizzoner.
Arguably, I don't even have the right to say what I'm saying here. America in its generosity has honored me with a green card, but I'm not a citizen. I happen to be deeply in awe of the nation and all that it stands for, but critics will have a point: What right to I have to care about six- and seven-year-olds in a small New England town?
Some critics have already suggested that I am an "elitist". This constitutes elitism, apparently: caring more about other people's children than gun-lovers care about their hobby. I'm a soft and citified member of the chattering classes; I don't know what it's like out there in the world where guns matter.
Call me out of touch, but even when I lolled half-asleep in the shallows of Manhattan, I always had the sense that parents in every state in the Union cared equally about their children. I still believe this.
While we're reading comments from irrelevant writers who have no business commenting on the present situation, I suppose it's time to dig up the customary passage from that Irish poet. I've said before that I'm waiting for the day that I can mothball this Yeats quotation forever. That Day, I'm afraid, is not likely to come this side of the Judgment.
Following the Newtown massacre, it's appropriate to quote more than the usual two lines, which (although profound) have been heard too often, and are in danger of gliding by unnoticed like a cliché:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.