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‘Have a blessed day,’ the chatbot on the NRA website told me

I visited the NRA’s site because I was curious about how the pro-gun group would handle the massacre in Texas.

An attendee examines a firearm at a booth during the National Rifle Association convention in Dallas, May 4, 2018.TAMIR KALIFA/NYT

Desperate for a respite from the pain, I turned off the radio, silenced Twitter, and, to my surprise, rather quickly found a place where the horror of this week’s school massacre almost didn’t seem to exist.

Where is this Valhalla? Why, it’s right at your fingertips, at There, all is still red-white-and-happy, and why shouldn’t it be. The 2022 convention is Friday, and it’s time to party!

Or, as the promo on the website boasts: “14 Acres of Guns and Gear.”

Yes, the NRA is still holding the convention — and just a mourning’s drive from Uvalde — but hey, there are deposits and dinner reservations to think of, and of course appearances to keep up. Can’t cave to the haters.


“Join us . . . for a Texas-sized celebration of freedom, firearms and the NRA!” the website cries.

I visited the NRA’s site because I was curious about how the pro-gun group would handle the second-deadliest school shooting on record, beyond issuing the obligatory prayers statement, which I hope for their sake they have started buying in bulk.

The statement, which I first encountered on Twitter, expressed the NRA’s “deepest sympathies” and “salute[d] the courage of school officials, first responders and others who offered their support and services.”

But because it also promised to “reflect on these events” while they’re gathered in the very same state as the carnage itself, I figured maybe this “reflection” would be reflected on its webpage.

I navigated around the site, but hmm. . . .

I encountered headlines, some boastful, others more in the “we showed them” category:

“Meet NRA Instructor Rick Ector, The Left’s Worst Nightmare.”

“NRA Achieves Historic Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Carry.”

There were also membership solicitations. “Our rights are under attack like never before,” one read. “Join today.”


And a little light gun humor. “Shotgun Choke Explained Simply,” one link read. “(No Math, We Promise.)”


Finally, I came upon the “prayers” statement, but the only way to see it from the general homepage was by clicking through that upbeat promo for the “14 acres of guns and gear.”

Oh, wait, what’s this? It was an NRA bot eager to chat. Caitlin was her name.

“Why does the NRA not care that children are being killed with assault rifles?” I typed (immaturely, I admit) into the message box.

“School security is a complex issue with no simple, single solution,” Caitlin explained.

Caitlin introduced me to the “NRA School Shield” program, which, I’ve learned, “empowers” leaders to make schools more “secure.”

“Children are priceless,” the group, which has donated millions of dollars to politicians, gushes on its site. “That’s why we don’t charge schools for NRA School Shield training.”

OMG! So generous!

I was getting an education, but in today’s world, even bots probably have productivity numbers to hit, and soon Caitlin gave me the brush-off.

“Have a blessed day,” she said.

Earlier in the day, wondering whether local gun shops had seen the increased interest that seems to always follow slaughters, I called several Massachusetts shops.

Alas no owners or managers were around to take my call, but one employee shared his insights into the shooting, in which an 18-year-old used an AR-15-style weapon to kill 21 people.

“This had nothing to do with guns,” he explained.


While awaiting callbacks, which I sensed, correctly, would not come, I thought about another business in Massachusetts that also sees an uptick in interest after mass shootings.

It’s called Bullet Blocker, and it sells, among other depressing items, bulletproof backpacks for children, and a “shelter-in-place” kit that includes sealed bags of water and, ominously, duct tape.

The shelter-in-place kit is one of the company’s staple items, Michael Curran the marketing manager, told me. The duct tape can be used for anything — to bandage a wound, he said, or to cover the window in a classroom door, or the space between the door and the floor, so a shooter can’t see in.

“It’s something nice to have,” he said.

The NRA also sells merch. Bestsellers include a portable target stand; hearing protection (you wouldn’t want to be harmed by a gun); and, for the ladies, a $199.95 American Hobo Concealed Carry Handbag.

The bag had one review, left by someone named “mom.”

“I love my Red hobo bag,” mom wrote in her five-star review.

“I have had it for several years now. It holds up very well. I’m known for being rough on stuff and it still looks almost as good as it did when I got it. I keep my Glock 19 in it.”

The review was about the bag, but in truth, I couldn’t stop thinking about the reviewer: “mom.” And from there it was a short leap over to other moms, the 19 who lost their children in Tuesday’s shooting, and the two women who died. They, too, were mom. Once.


Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her @bethteitell.