Do Not Stop Politics In The Wake of Tragedy

In the wake of a tragedy, while your thoughts and prayers turn toward the victims and their families, everything else feels petty. Both candidates have suspended their jabs over jobs and outsourcing temporarily, which is the right move. The issues dominating this presidential election have no place at this time and should move to the back burner.

But this is not the time to stop talking politics altogether. Whenever a democracy stops the political discussion, democracy stops.

The NRA has not released a barrage of statements on this tragedy yet, but looking back over the last several similar incidents, we can chart the language they will use.

NRA-ILA statement in response to the Virginia Tech shootings that claimed the lives of 32:

Exploiting Tragedy — Again

Almost immediately following the horrific shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech, the anti-gun machine was revving into overdrive.  Anti-gun politicians and gun control groups were having a field day jostling for an opportunity at any available microphone or in front of any camera.

Amid the frenzy, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine made a statement that seemed to fall mostly on deaf ears.  He said, “People who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and make it, you know, their political hobby horse to ride, I’ve got nothing but loathing for them. To those who want to, you know, try to make this into some little crusade, you know, I say take that elsewhere. Let this community deal with grieving individuals and be sensitive to those needs.”

NRA-ILA statement in response to the accidental shooting of two Washington schoolchildren by a classmate:

Washington: Anti-Gun Senators Attempt to Exploit Tragedy

Anti-gun state Senator Adam Kline (D-37) and two other state Senators have introduced Senate Bill 6628, an unnecessary firearm storage bill, in an attempt to exploit the recent tragic shooting at a Bremerton elementary school.

Additionally, call Senator Adam Kline TODAY in his Capitol office at (360) 786-7688 and let him know, respectfully, that you are appalled at his exploitation of the little girl in this recent tragic incident to further his gun control agenda.  Ask each of your family and friends to also call Senator Kline so he will get the message loud and clear that law-abiding firearm owners are tired of his shameless attacks on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms!

Expect the NRA to call it “exploitative,” “loathsome,” “appalling,” or otherwise “unseemly” for anyone to discuss petty political issues like gun control in the wake of a tragedy where someone launched a shooting spree armed with a military assault rifle that we legally allow average people to buy from the corner store.

These ad hominem attacks are designed to shame America from discussing the politics of gun use. If discussion itself is reduced to exploitation, then issues can be shunted aside and the status quo the NRA has diligently created will go unquestioned. The blanket derision of politics is a calculated political move by those with an interest in preventing self-reflection and change. It’s sad that the script being played out before our eyes is unchanged from the script employed 5 years ago.

Don’t think the NRA is really this callous about gun tragedy? Well their first response to the Aurora shootings was to tweet, “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” They have since said that the tweet was sent before learning of the shootings, but that doesn’t cut it. How, in the Internet era, does the multi-million dollar gun lobby not have a Google alert set for outbreaks of gun violence? The fact that the NRA was not the first entity to learn of the attacks is a testament to how little regard they have for gun violence.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could get this in the hands of terror cell members?” — Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice-President

The NRA may, if pressed, remind America that they do not endorse psychopaths like the shooter in this case, but rather law-abiding gun owners. There are millions of law-abiding gun owners in America, but make no mistake, the NRA, backed by gun manufacturers hankering for increased sales, seeks to arm those that most Americans would find dangerous. For instance, the NRA is actively working to make sure those on the federal government’s terrorism watch list are allowed to buy guns. In Texas, the NRA pursued a lawsuit to protect the rights of 18-year-old James D’Cruz, whose Facebook page includes rational comments like “There is no redemption, There is no forgiveness. I will stare into your eyes as I pull the trigger and laugh as you hit the ground with your last, pathetic breath.”

Those guys seem like the right recruits for a “well-regulated Militia,” right?

The most cynical appeal that the NRA will raise is this one, lifted from the response to the Virginia Tech shooting:

As NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre recently said, “We’ve been debating gun control in this country for decades now.  What does it hurt to pause for a few days in the midst of a tragedy to let the families of the victims grieve in peace, without being turned into a poster child either for gun rights or gun control?  The answer, frankly, is it doesn’t hurt anyone.  Sure, you might not get to appear on national television to promote your agenda, but there’s a time and a place for that.”

LaPierre is not naive, but he hopes the American public is. He knows full well the consequences of waiting until the shock and horror over this event dies down. With advertiser-driven news outlets, the news cycle will move on to the next issue and crowd out anyone seeking to raise awareness of the scope of gun violence or question the impact of the gun use laws the NRA has developed. This only compounds the tragedy by placing America in a holding pattern awaiting the next incident. To give a modern update to a legal maxim dating to the Magna Carta, “a media response delayed is a media response denied.”

Do not mistake me as suggesting a knee-jerk reaction in the face of crisis. Overreaction to tragedy leads to abominations like the Patriot Act. Or the new movie theater ban of costumes. At least that policy includes a ban on fake weapons — which makes sense — but what exactly does banning a Hufflepuff robe accomplish? Slytherin I get…you never know when those guys are going to go Death-Eater on you.

But ignoring the call upon citizens and government to discuss, analyze and respond to a crisis begs the question “what is democracy even about, if not some measure of responsiveness?”

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