On Friday, the American Conservative Union (ACU) will host its second-ever Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) regional event in Chicago to "take the fight for the future of America directly to President Barack Obama's backyard." Where CPAC is, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is never far behind. The NRA is not only a sponsor of the conference, but also hosting a panel entitled, "Defending Self-Defense: The Liberal's Shadow War on Second Amendment."
It must be a shadow war. Because even though Democrats control the White House and U.S. Senate (and the House as recently as 2010), the pro-gun crowd has done pretty well the past four years. In 2009, President Obama signed a provision into law that allows the carrying of firearms in National Parks. The five Justices on the Supreme Court's Conservative wing struck down handgun bans in D.C. and Chicago as unconstitutional and found -- for the first time in history -- that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. After the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by a homicidal maniac who legally purchased the high-capacity handgun used in the shooting, the NRA successfully blocked any and all attempts to prevent the next Jared Loughner from arming up.
Setbacks for pro-gunners? They've been few and far between. The Obama administration issued a new regulation in 2011 requiring gun dealers in four Southwest border states to report (not stop, mind you, just report to ATF) multiple sales of high-caliber long guns. The requirement already existed for handgun sales. And an NRA bill that would force states to recognize other states' concealed handgun permits has stalled in the Senate.
Overall, you'd think that the gun lobby would be pretty happy with this record. And, in truth, they're probably ecstatic. But public displays of gratitude and balanced policy assessments? Well, those don't sit well with the millionaires calling the shots at the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Because there's always another buck to be made -- and if there's one thing the NRA trafficks in even more than guns, it's fear. As former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman famously put it, "They [aren't] interested in actually solving problems, only in fueling perpetual crisis and controversy. That [is] how they [make] their money."
And when it comes to perpetual crisis, "nobody does it better" than NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. Today, my organization posted a brand-new video, "The NRA's Circus of Fear," which features multiple clips of LaPierre at his fearmongering best, including snippets from his (now infamous) CPAC speeches. "We have nothing to fear but the absence of fear," he announces to kick things off, and from there it's a bizarre collection of paranoia, conspiracy theories, and well, "S*** Wayne LaPierre Says."
Don't expect LaPierre and his fellow NRA leaders to let off the gas pedal anytime soon. With the November elections fast approaching, the NRA's "Circus of Fear" will be making appearances from coast to coast in an attempt to convince gun owners that "Gun Ban Obama" is out to get them. In reality, the NRA is using the gun issue to mobilize Libertarian-leaning voters to join with religious conservatives in the conservative movement. The true goal here is to "drown [government] in the bathtub," as NRA board member Grover Norquist said -- because it's hard to imagine any future president doing less to regulate the gun industry than Obama has.
The ringmaster at CPAC Chicago will be NRA president (and former ACU chairman) David Keene. Keene, like LaPierre, loves a good conspiracy. "Make no mistake about it. Barack Obama, his minions in the Justice Department, his allies in the Congress, and his friends in the media would take our guns if they could, and they will if they can," he told NRA members last year. One can only imagine what Keene's "shadow war" co-panelists at CPAC will come up with when prodded by him. They include:
• Maria Heil, National Spokesperson for the Second Amendment Sisters
* "I choose to own a gun because I am a good mother."
* "Showing children pictures of what a 9 mm round actually does to human flesh at point blank range is not the same as showing the mangled bodies of drunk drivers, or the lungs of smokers. Drinking and smoking are choices people make for themselves. Being a victim of a criminal is something that is done to you."
• Richard Pearson, the Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association
* "Without a doubt, Barack Obama has proven himself to be an enemy of the law abiding firearm owner. At the same time, Obama has proven himself to be a friend to the hardened criminal."
* "The goal of the UN is to strip our Second Amendment rights away, have all civilian owned firearms registered with a UN registry, and, ultimately, to confiscate our firearms."
• Kimberly Jo Simac, founder of Northwoods Patriots in Wisconsin and author of "With My Rifle By My Side: A Second Amendment Lesson"
* "'With My Rifle by My Side' is a story that conveys this right to children and teaches the honor and responsibility that come with the ownership and handling of guns. If America is to persist, we must stop indoctrination so contrary to the beliefs passed down to us."
* "There are definitely forces that want to get us, to get the guns out of our hands ... I think that there are people that would like to render us helpless ... We would be a lot easier to tackle if we did not have our arms."
Inquiring minds will also want to know just how much of this nonsense is endorsed by the vice-presidential hopefuls who will speak at CPAC Chicago, including governors Chris Christy and Robert McDonnell.
The NRA's "Circus of Fear" depends on misinformation and myths to generate attacks on politicians who have the gall to address the gun violence that continues to destroy families and communities every day in America. But like most demagogues, once exposed to sunlight, the power of NRA leaders to generate fear is drained. For those interested in taking a closer look at their motivations and records on a host of issues (guns being just one), please visit our website www.MeetTheNRA.org. Their war on American values is no "shadow war" -- it's being fought very much out in the open, even when NRA board member Ted Nugent isn't making headline news.