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The reign of Wayne has driven us insane


January 9, 2013

“Aw, geez, now they’re really gonna try to take my guns...!”

As the news started to roll in from Newtown, CT, on December 14, I overheard that reaction. Maybe you overheard it, too, or maybe you said or thought it yourself. Let’s not rehash the heated discussions that followed the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary; those discussions, after all, have been repeated, practically word-for-word, so many times in recent years that we could probably repeat each side’s talking points in our sleep.

The guy whose mutterings I overheard isn’t a bad fellow, or a wild-eyed “gun nut.” He’s quite intelligent and kind-hearted. The same is true of another acquaintance of mine, who corralled me on the sidewalk a couple of days later just to make sure I understood his pro-gun viewpoints. But there’s a simple reason why one of the first responses of these otherwise reasonable men to the painful human tragedy of Newtown was to think, not just of the bereaved families or the shattered community, but of the possible consequences to their own lives, and specifically to fear the nightmare of government confiscation.

They had been conditioned, assiduously and over years, to think that way. And the man who trained them is named Wayne LaPierre.

LaPierre, as you probably know, is currently the CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and it’s most public spokesman since the resignation of former NRA President Charlton Heston. LaPierre has carried on the incendiary, fear-mongering tradition of the “new guard” that took over the NRA more than a generation ago. (For a fascinating history of the transformations that the NRA underwent during the 1970s, see www.vpc.org/nrainfo/chapter2.html.)