President Obama addressed the nation on Wednesday morning to establish a commission led by Vice President Biden on stronger gun safety laws. Gone was the passion of his address at the interfaith service in Newtown and in place we have back the above-the-fray politician.
However, one point was clear. “If we are going to change things,” he said, “it is going to take a wave of Americans … standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of our kids.”
Will Obama’s address beat the National Rife Association’s messaging strategy?
On Friday, Dec. 21, the NRA will hold its first a press conference after the Newtown, Conn., massacre—and America’s first reasonable conversation on stronger gun laws will come to an end.
Here’s the NRA messaging strategy:
Step 1: After a mass shooting of Americans, NRA officials say nothing for one week. During that week, they position NRA-supporting politicians to stake out an extreme goal of the gun lobby and claim it as one end of a reasonable argument (for example, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell said Virginia should consider “arming teachers, principals and other school staff.”)
Step 2: Finally, a week after the massacre, NRA officials hold a press conference in which they express grief, astonishment, horror, and concede that something must be done—and it ultimately involves selling more guns, not less.
So this Friday, America’s first real conversation on stronger gun laws will come to an end. NRA lobbyists will take control again and that will be that. We won’t even be finished burying the 20 first-graders and their teachers murdered at Newtown.
Is there anyone out there who would like this story to have a different ending?
If we want a different ending to the Newtown massacre, we are doing to have to do it ourselves. We are going to have to make time this Christmas to do something uncomfortable. Maybe something we haven’t done before.
I can’t tell you what to do; I can only tell you where it needs to end up — at the White House.
The message is simple: America needs stronger gun laws. By Christmas, Congress needs to 1) renew the assault weapons ban and 2) pass universal background checks on all gun purchases. It will take clear leadership from President Obama for this to happen.
For most of its history, the National Rifle Association served its 1957 motto: “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shooting for Recreation.
In the 1970s, it was taken over by far-Right Goldwater Republicans to use as their political play toy. Over the last 40 years, it has systematically defaced and distorted the Second Amendment. And it has also gotten into bed with weapons manufacturers for whom hunting rifles and sports guns are quaint side-line products.
Most people who have a membership with the NRA got it though taking a responsible gun safety course. But you don’t have to be an NRA member to be a responsible gun owner.
If you are a responsible gun owner and an NRA member, now is your time to lead. It’s time to publicly renounce the NRA. Responsible gun owners don’t need the NRA. They need strong and reasonable gun safety laws. What the NRA used to advocate on and has abandoned.
It’s time to burn your NRA membership card. Burn it. Cut it up. Shred it. And let America know: Make a video. Post it online. (If you send Sojourners a link, we’ll help spread the word.)
On Friday, we may well see the young, fit, father-of-two NRA representative Chris W. Cox express that he is “shocked, saddened, and heartbroken” over the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. He will assure us that the NRA will take substantive steps to ensure that something like this never happens again—to his kids or your kids. He’ll tout additional money for mental health services and stronger security in schools. He’ll pledge to work in a bipartisan manner with the president and members of Congress for meaningful change.
It will all be a lie. If you want a different end to this story, you have to make it happen. By Christmas.
Rose Marie Berger is author of Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood. She lives in Washington, D.C.