Monday marked three years since 20 first-grade schoolchildren and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut were shot dead by a mentally ill gunman who, until he pulled the trigger for the first time to kill his own mother, was just exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms.
That right has contributed to a multi-generational national public health emergency in which more than 1.5 million Americans have been killed by guns since 1968. That’s more people than live in Philadelphia, San Diego, Dallas or San Francisco. It’s more than the number of American troops killed in every war this nation has ever fought. It is a staggering figure that defies logic or understanding. Yet the right to bear arms is more fiercely championed than ever before by the National Rifle Association despite the deaths at Sandy Hook and every other one of the countless other shootings that claim more than 30,000 American lives year after year after bloody, bullet-riddled year.
In fact, the NRA and its shameless CEO (yes, CEO; the business of death is very big business indeed) Wayne LaPierre didn’t even wait until all of the children of Newtown were buried before calling on Americans to respond to out-of-control gun violence by buying more guns.
Some would call that tone-deaf. The NRA calls it business as usual. When your business is promoting the interests of the merchants of death by scaring ordinary Americans into thinking there are demons at their doors so that they’ll arm themselves to the teeth, basic human decency gets thrown to the wind in service of windfall profits.
That’s how the sickening spectacle of Sandy Hook survivors seeing NRA propaganda on Fox News during prime time programming came to pass on Monday. Fox, which according to media watchdog group Media Matters didn’t even report on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre until 3:30 p.m. EST, aired “Demons At Our Door,” a chilling, almost desperate NRA appeal to freedom-loving Americans’ irrational yet pervasive fear of Muslim terrorists, during Hannity last night.
“You and I didn’t choose to be targets,” an emotional LaPierre says at the beginning of the minute-long ad as ominous choral music plays in the background, “but innocents like us will continue to be slaughtered in concert halls, sports stadiums, restaurants and airplanes. No amount of bloodshed will ever satisfy the demons among us.”
“No target is too intimate or too sacred for these monsters” who “dream of inflicting more damage, more suffering, more terror,” asserts LaPierre. “They will come to where we worship, where we educate and where we live,” he promises. “But when evil knocks on our doors, Americans have a power no other people on the planet share, the full-throated right to defend our families and ourselves with our Second Amendment. Let fate decide if mercy is offered to the demons at our doors. I’m the National Rifle Association of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
For the record, more Americans have been killed on US soil by right-wing extremists, who are infinitely more likely to be members of the National Rifle Association than of any radical Islamist group, or even by lightning strikes or falling icicles, than by Muslim terrorists since 9/11. Meanwhile, on any given day, 92 Americans are killed by guns.
But set aside facts for now and consider the sheer callousness of airing a pro-gun scare ad that could be viewed by Sandy Hook survivors, victims’ loved ones, and others affected by gun violence on the anniversary of one of the most heinous gun crimes ever committed.
“It’s repugnant,” said Ladd Everitt, communications director at the Washington, DC-based Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV). “It’s not surprising, though. We’re used to having speech about guns every day on Fox News that’s repugnant. Their interest is obviously in promoting the gun industry at whatever cost.”
Indeed, the NRA has decided that the lives of the millions of Americans killed by guns, including many thousands of children like the ones mercilessly slaughtered at Sandy Hook, are worth less than an archaic and warped ‘right’ to possess weapons of mass destruction including pistols, shotguns, semiautomatic assault rifles, submachine guns, machine guns, flamethrowers, grenade launchers, anti-tank guns and other “hunting and self-defense tools.”
The NRA has long since jettisoned any pretense of decency when it comes to regard for the millions of victims of gun violence.
“There’s no one left in America who thinks the NRA gives a damn about gun violence victims,” Everitt told Digital Journal.
John J. Donohue III, an economist and law professor at Stanford University, was also not surprised by Monday’s ad.
“The NRA is a profit making enterprise and its leaders know that the anniversary of such a horrible mass shooting will elevate attention to gun issues, so it is not surprising that they would try to take advantage of that opportunity for their own purposes, despite the insensitivity of that behavior,” Donohue told Digital Journal via email. “Since the organization seems indifferent to the social costs that its positions inflict on the country, its callous attitude to the suffering inflicted by gun violence would seem to be a requirement for the NRA business model.”
It’s not just anti-NRA campaigners and academic experts who found Monday’s ad repulsive. It didn’t take long for your correspondent to come across people willing to express their disgust at what the NRA is doing. Because this is an op-ed piece, I decided to start with the woman sitting next to me, my partner of seven years, who watched the NRA ad with me wearing a look of shocked disbelief on her usually placid face.
“Wayne LaPierre is the demon at my door,” Wakako Uritani, a San Francisco-based litigation attorney, fumed. “Here’s a man who is preying upon the fears and insecurities of a nation on the anniversary of a terrible tragedy so he can defend and promote an ancient law that’s responsible for so much death and suffering.”
Uritani added that it’s “ridiculous” to show San Francisco in the NRA ad, a city that has overwhelmingly rejected guns. The last gun store there recently closed, much to the public’s delight.
“I’m so scared for where we are heading,” said Marnie Frandano, a state social worker and mother of two from Marlboro, New Jersey. “If I didn’t have 50/50 custody with my kids’ dad I would take them and leave the country.”
“My hope is for a future when ‘shelter in place’ drills for my kids are not the norm,” Frandano added.
Of course, the NRA will tell you that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun. But if there are less guns, it naturally follows that there will be less gun violence. You don’t need academic research to understand this; just look at countries where there were repeated mass shootings—Australia comes to mind—leading to stringent gun control laws which virtually eliminated such shootings while dramatically reducing all gun crime. In our Australian example, gun murders plummeted 60 percent, armed robberies fell by 35 percent and there was even a 74 percent plunge in gun suicides.
“One thing you can say without any equivocation is that the claims that the NRA makes—that if you got rid of guns the criminals will run wild—have been widely disproved by the Australian experience,” noted Donohue.
But facts, it seems, matter as little to the NRA and to Fox News as the lives of Sandy Hook victims or the emotional wellbeing of shooting survivors and others subjected to Monday’s ad. Meanwhile, another child was shot and killed as the NRA made a killing capitalizing on fears of the next demon at our doors, while millions of Americans were too scared of Muslims or of blacks or of a black Muslim president grabbing their guns, or too busy shopping or watching football or The Voice, to notice that guns, the real demons, have already gotten inside too many of our doors.
The NRA declined to comment when contacted about this article.