Wayne LaPierre’s Bizarre NRA Press Conference
Viewers watching the press conference of the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre this morning, the organization’s first response to the horrific killings in Newtown last week, were left with one key question, is he on drugs or am I?
The answer both for LaPierre and likely the vast majority of people watching cable news networks at 11AM was no. Instead, LaPierre had embarked on what was perhaps one of the most surreal moments in recent American history, one that made Karl Rove’s election night meltdown seem mildly off-putting.
LaPierre opened his press conference by announcing that it wasn’t actually a press conference. He wouldn’t take any questions and in fact, the organization did not plan on responding to press inquiries until Monday (although LaPierre is appearing on Meet The Press on Sunday). But the way he said it magnified the strangeness, “”This is the beginning of a serious conversation. We won’t be taking any questions.”
However, he didn’t hesitate to point his finger at the real villains responsible for violence in American life, video games, movies and music video. He said:
Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?
Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.
Without pausing to note that Mortal Kombat and Natural Born Killers were dated references during the Columbine killings or that music videos are increasingly obsolete. Even Kindergarten Killer, which LaPierre cited as the ultimate provocation to Newtown, is a ten-year-old flash game that isn’t terribly gory, it’s just dull and low-rent. (It also features the player fighting a school building full of armed children)
For LaPierre, this was just a bridge to denounce media coverage of gun control, which, in his mind, is used to distract attention from the fact that the media is really at fault because it peddles violence. He proclaimed
Too many in our national media … their corporate owners … and their stockholders … act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators. Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws and fill the national debate with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away.
LaPierre eventually offered his solution to school shootings was an armed policeman at every school, he was unclear on whether it would be real police, volunteers or something in between, to protect from mass shootings. It was a point on which it would have been helpful to ask questions but LaPierre wasn’t doing that. (Although the speech was interrupted by protestors at several points).
The result was that LaPierre deeply damaged his case and his organization’s case in the coming debate on gun control. By refusing to take questions (and ignoring Terry Moran of ABC when he tried to interject in a pause that occurred when a protestor was being removed) the NRA was represented simply by LaPierre’s bellicose and off-key statement. Its gaps and those in a follow up statement by former Arkansas congressman Asa Hutchinson, were filled in by disbelief at a spectacle.
Normally, when someone announces they are holding a press conference, they take questions. If not, the statement is usually brief, to the point and relatively anodyne. After all, why raise questions that you cannot or will not answer? LaPierre refused to take questions and delivered a long, detailed and deeply controversial speech in which he essentially said the answer to Newtown was more guns and fewer video games. The result was an embarrassing spectacle that will do deep damage to the NRA and those Americans who support its expansive view of gun rights.
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