The NRA: if it's guns or freedom, we'll have guns, thank you

Paul Wells on the gun lobby's response to the Newtown shooting

The National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre at a press conference on Dec. 21, 2012 in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

It’s hard to know where to begin making sense of the NRA’s news conference this morning, in which the leading U.S. gun lobby called for a massive federal program, run by President Barack Obama and his socialist hordes, to finance a constant armed state presence in every neighbourhood in America. I’d have thought conservatives would be against that sort of thing. How will your Arm-a-Care officer get to your neighbourhood school? In a black helicopter?

There is a kind of logic in Wayne Lapierre’s argument. It’s not as though the nearly half-million armed men and women who would flood America’s 98,000 public schools — here I figure two shifts of two snipers each for each school — would be the first firearms a virginal American public ever saw. To quote Lapierre:

Think about it. We care about our money, so we protect our banks with armed guards. American airports, office buildings, power plants, courthouses — even sports stadiums — are all protected by armed security.

We care about the President, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by armed Capitol Police officers.

Yet when it comes to the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family — our children — we as a society leave them utterly defenseless, and the monsters and predators of this world know it and exploit it. That must change now!

Lapierre’s logic would be bulletproof, so to speak, if U.S. airports, office buildings, courthouses and Presidents had a spotless record free from armed assault. Or if the correlation between armed protection and safety in any of those venues, worldwide, were clear. But, yes, since America is already armed to the teeth, fully arming the teeth does make a kind of sense, if one is in a generous mood.

There remain questions of practicality. Depending on salary levels, adding that next layer of protection would cost perhaps $20 billion. It would leave movie theatres unprotected, so add another few billion to cover those. Music venues, etc. Amateur sporting events, and so on. Now, Asa Hutchinson, who joined Lapierre at the NRA newser, said this could all be done with volunteers, which is a relief. And of course none of those armed school-patrol volunteers would come from the ranks of the “unknown number of genuine monsters” whom Lapierre said “walk among us every day.” Because that would be unpleasant.

Incidentally, what happens when a school has its marching band and three teams offsite, but most students remain in the building? Maybe we should have at least a half-dozen guards per shift per school. Nothing’s too good for the most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family!

To protect against the possibility that a new Obama-funded schoolyard army twice the size of the Iraq occupation force at its largest might turn against the American people, beginning in its schoolyards, a counter-revolutionary force comprising citizen militias in every town will have to be swiftly organized. A secretariat, perhaps occupying a new office tower in Maryland (protected by armed guards) will have to maintain and monitor the new national database of the mentally ill that Lapierre demanded. Because freedom demands national databases to track every American’s mental state! Since mental health can improve or deteriorate rapidly, perhaps the database should be updated monthly. Just to be on the safe side, maybe roving armed volunteers should be permitted to enter homes at random to perform mental-health audits. Don’t like it? But think of the children!

It’s been widely pointed out that while Lapierre was holding his news conference, there was a shooting in Pennsylvania that left four dead, including the shooter. This one actually went the way Lapierre hopes can be imported into schools: After the gunman had shot a few people, police in body armour showed up and the alleged perpetrator died in the resulting firefight. What’s not to like about a proper, fairly-balanced firefight in the hallways of your local school?

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