The NRA's ABCs

By Williams, Patricia J. | The Nation, August 10, 1998 | Go to article overview

The NRA's ABCs


Williams, Patricia J., The Nation


"I don't do nice" says Charlton Heston, who, as newly elected president of the National Rifle Association, appears in exceptionally fine form these days. The resonant voice, so expressive of the People's outrage, the crinkly eyes, the angular jaw, the stern paternalism--it's great stuff. I don't think anyone could play the crusty curmudgeon gone dewy with patriotic sentiment better, with tare possible exception of Ronald Reagan. It's a tribute to the power of central casting, really. They do great spin over at the NRA, and whoever that speechwriter is, it's Oscar time for sure.

In Britain, when those children in Dunblane were massacred by gunfire, the populace rose at once and insisted upon passage of just about the toughest gun-control law of any industrialized nation. When the same thing happens in the United States, repeatedly, we are saved from such a tyrannical fate by the wise grace of the NRA's propaganda-meisters. They set the record straight, they do. Guns are innocent as butter knives; it's people who kill. It takes a Magnum to stop a moose. Bad people have too many guns, so good people need to stock up. Massacres occur not: became too many are armed but too few. Gun control for bad people is a good thing but only so long as the government doesn't mistake a good person for a bad person, which it almost always does. The Constitution guarantees a chicken in every pot and a missile launcher in every garage. A concealed weapon in every pocket! Free ammo for every teacher! Target practice for every inner-city mother! Fresh-air militia camp for every boy and girl!

Now, I'm used to being on the wrong side of popular political opinion, but I could tell I was way, way out of the loop when some public schools in Philadelphia, once the Quaker city of brotherly love, hosted an NRA-sponsored program of gun safety and violence prevention. Call me a weapons prude, but I swear I don't understand how we Americans can be so skittish about safe-sex education and yet be so amazingly calm about the introduction of safe-gun education. Doesn't it say something worrisome about us as a people that guns have become as commonplace a hazard as the kitchen stove? Don't play with those matches, cherub. Look both ways before you cross the street. And don't put Daddy's bullets in your mouth.

So for the purpose of general cultural catch-up, I've been trying to imagine what the NRA's idea of a lesson plan for good gun values might look like. After all, this would be a Heston-inspired adventure in education. Herewith my worst nightmare.

LESSON ONE: THE CANONICAL SAYINGS OF CHAIRMAN CHUCK (ALL QUOTATIONS GUARANTEED REAL)

Religion in the Schools. "Now Moses is here to set the record straight."

Crisis Management. "It's hard for me to accept that a guy says, `I'm going to kill that S.O.B., but dam, I have this five-day waiting period.' He probably still wants to kill him after five days. …

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