Cities without landmarks
Niagara Falls, U.S./Canada
It must be terrifying to be Wayne LaPierre, the man who has led the NRA for the past two decades. For years he has shared his nightmares and fears of daily living with us — a worldview of paralyzing paranoia, where terrorists, bad weather and Latin American gangsters lurk behind every corner, ready to prey on unarmed citizens.
“Latin American drug gangs have invaded every city of significant size in the United States. Phoenix is already one of the kidnapping capitals of the world,” he explains in his latest expression of anguish, an Op-Ed published in the Daily Caller yesterday. “And though the states on the U.S./Mexico border may be the first places in the nation to suffer from cartel violence, by no means are they the last.”
“Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Riots. Terrorists. Gangs. Lone criminals,” he continues. “These are perils we are sure to face — not just maybe. It’s not paranoia to buy a gun. It’s survival.”
While the world has always been an impossibly forbidding place, LaPierre continues, our socialist president has made it it worse, naturally: “When the next terrorist attack comes, the Obama administration won’t accept responsibility. Instead, it will do what it does every time: blame a scapegoat and count on Obama’s ‘mainstream’ media enablers to go along.”
And finally, the solution: “No wonder Americans are buying guns in record numbers right now, while they still can and before their choice about which firearm is right for their family is taken away forever.”
(What LaPierre should really be worried about is a faulty “shift” button on his keyboard, as he inexplicably failed to capitalize the name of his organization here: “Now, an even stronger nra is the only chance gun owners have to withstand the coming siege.”)
This frightful fretting is nothing new for LaPierre.
When the NRA head appeared on Fox News Sunday earlier this month, he told host Chris Wallace, “My gosh, in the shadow of where we are sitting now, gangs are out there in Washington, D.C. You can buy drugs. You can buy guns. They are trafficking in 13-year-old girls. And our government is letting them!”
At his much-lampooned press conference after the Newtown massacre he said, “The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn’t planning his attack on a school, he’s already identified at this very moment?”
This is bread and butter LaPierre, seeded in the paranoid high crime days of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when politicians feared the rise of a generation of crack-addicted “superpredators” and when anyone aspiring to have a voice in the national public policy debate had to be “tough on crime.”
And if it wasn’t criminals, it was government you should fear, LaPierre has repeatedly warned over the past 25 years. Three months after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, when more than 160 federal employees were murdered, LaPierre went on “Meet the Press” and warned that federal law enforcement agents, in “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms,” were out to “attack law-abiding citizens.”
That prompted former President George H.W. Bush to publicly revoke his lifetime membership to the NRA in a sharply worded letter published in the New York Times.
Eventually, everyone else moved past the heady ’90s paranoia of inner-city crime and black helicopters — LaPierre did not.
Violent crime is now at a two-decade low and urban centers are seeing a revival unlike any time in the past 100 years. But LaPierre chooses to ignore that. And he chooses to ignore the fact that most gun violence is suicide, while most homicide is inflicted by people who know each other (usually scorned lovers, angry relatives and criminals in dispute) — hardened criminals preying on innocents is relatively rare.
For instance, in his Daily Caller Op-Ed, LaPierre writes hyperbolically: “After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”
In fact, crime dropped in New York City during Hurricane Sandy, with murders plummeting a whopping 86 percent over the same period in 2011 and overall crime down 27 percent. There was a single homicide on the Monday before the storm hit, then none for the next five days.
“After a natural disaster or large-scale catastrophe like 9/11, we see conventional crime come down,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne explained. “A lot of people are indoors. Taverns are closed. You have less people out late at night and getting into disputes.”
While conditions after storm were hellish in places, there were also plenty of beautiful stories of cooperation and altruism and small acts of random kindness: Sandwich shop owners staying open 24 hours a day to serve people with no food, some giving it away for free; a hotel manager turning away marathoners to give shelter to victims; people running extension cords out their window so strangers could charge their cellphones for free; a doctor giving free healthcare to victims, etc.
LaPierre chooses to ignore all of this and see the world as nothing but a cold and scary place where you can’t trust anyone and only lethal force can protect you. Too bad for him.
Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.More Alex Seitz-Wald.
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