"Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals." Is this the dystopian future America is heading toward? Or the fevered visions of a paranoid crank? Readers of "Stand and Fight," a new article penned by National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, may be forgiven for concluding the latter. LaPierre's column, published by The Daily Caller, weaves horrors of every stripe to craft a tapestry of pure nightmare, which is then used, of course, to encourage Americans "to buy more guns than ever."
In LaPierre's world, "Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States." President Obama is eagerly waiting for the next terrorist attack on the homeland so he can "unleash a tsunami of gun control." The country's finances are so bad that in the future there may not be "enough money to pay for police protection." In fact, we may be on the cusp of "Euro-style debt riots." And most disturbingly, the U.S. may soon become like England, "where some of the nation's outstanding rifle competitors keep their hobby a dark secret from their neighbors for fear of social disapproval."
"After Hurricane Sandy," LaPierre writes, "we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn." As a resident of this godforsaken neighborhood of tree-lined blocks and brownstones — where residents were more likely to pitch in together to help Sandy victims than walk in fear of the night — I find this a tad unconvincing, though perhaps I'm the type of sucker who fails to see the potential threats behind every baby pram and tattooed barista.
LaPierre is not a sucker of any kind. Every gun-toting "lover of freedom" is encouraged to join the NRA's "four-year communications and resistance movement," as if the country's most powerful gun lobby were a guerrilla group hiding out in the hills. "It's not paranoia to buy a gun," LaPierre writes. "It's survival."
LaPierre's unhinged screed has naturally come under criticism from both the left and right. Joe Scarborough, the conservative commentator on MSNBC, has blasted the piece for its "racial overtones" and "post-apocalyptic" fear-mongering. David Plouffe, one of the architects of Obama's two winning presidential campaigns, tweeted, "Every GOPer should read and decide if this delusional person will call the shots."
As many analysts have pointed out, the NRA has long relied on paranoid tropes in its advertising and fundraising drives. But at a rare moment when gun violence is in the national spotlight, and when sane gun-rights advocates and moderate hunting groups want to put their best arguments forward, it can only be self-defeating for the head of the country's preeminent gun group to embody, time and again, the stereotype of a crazed gun fanatic. LaPierre has been publicly chastised on Fox News for his incendiary comments, while even a senior lobbyist for the NRA has said a recent ad calling out President Obama's daughters was "ill-advised."
At this rate, it may be just a matter of time, as Lydia Depillis recently suggested at The New Republic, before the media and lawmakers begin paying more "attention to the legions of hunters whom LaPierre doesn't represent."