The nation keeps learning more about the National Rifle Association. First came the bizarre, animated press conference at which its vice president, Wayne LaPierre, insisted that “good guys” be armed to protect themselves from bad guys with guns. Then, last Sunday, NRA president David Keene blithely vowed to block all progress on gun control in Congress, as if issuing orders to an army of robot congressmen. And now comes an NRA video calling President Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for having Secret Service protection for his daughters while failing to embrace the NRA’s demand for armed guards in every school. It’s been a lesson that voters shouldn’t forget — about the extremism of the NRA’s gun advocacy; about the extent to which certain powerful lobbies have twisted feckless politicians around their fingers; and about how crass the NRA can be in attacking those who dare to defy it.
On Tuesday, Obama signed executive orders to tighten the federal background check system, beef up firearms tracing, and study gun violence through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As expected, he urged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban, require criminal background checks for all gun sales, and limit the sale of high-capacity clips. All are sensible measures that do little to disrupt any law-abiding person who wishes to buy a gun for hunting, collecting, target practice, or self-protection.
One would think the NRA might temper its tone in deference to parents who are worried about assault weapons in the wake of the Newtown massacre. A Gallup poll released on Monday found more Americans supporting tougher gun laws than at any time in a decade, and other recent polls suggest that even many gun owners disagree with the NRA’s inflexible stances. Yesterday, Obama noted the gun lobby’s frantic attempts to “gin up fear” against “any common-sense reform.” Meanwhile, the NRA was proving him right by dragging his two daughters into the debate.