#SandyHook Massacre: Is the NRA a Three-Headed Monster?

By Jim Allen, Editor, NuVote Reach and Examiner.com

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Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting Aftermath

Photo Credit: Reuters

In late 2008 and early 2009, I shared office space with and daily socialized, laughed, debated and broke bread with the editors of National Rifle Association’s Freedom magazine, NRA spin masters, NRA radio staff and/or other high-level NRA executives and their affiliates. The NRA’s advertising agency hired me for an unrelated energy-and-environment news network start-up, which was delayed for months, leaving me often in breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings with the NRA brain trust. I occasionally traveled with them and got to know many of them. I found them to be really decent folks and not at all to be the three-headed, gun-waving monsters they are sometimes portrayed to be. Fairly or unfairly, the NRA name will no doubt emerge prominently in upcoming news cycles. But as a political exercise, as the Sandy Hook massacre details unfold and given recent history, is it a fair question to ask about street-legal weapon-modification systems and/or super high-capacity magazines whose only purpose is to up the body count in assaults on human beings?

Many of my NRA-affiliated former associates enjoy hunting and take great pride in passing on the legacy of safe firearms use as a family tradition. That’s not my cup of tea, but, more power to them.

Even though while a college student I was trained and worked part time as armed security, at this point in my life, fear for my personal safety, or that of my family to the point of wanting to own or carry a firearm, particularly a handgun, is just not in my spirit. And, as long as there is a supermarket and I can afford to shop there, fortunately for me, I will not be out stalking and shooting my dinner.

Moreover, one of the most chilling true stories I have ever heard is a one-on-one, first-hand account of what happened on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Boulder, CO, from someone who was a student there – then a ninth grader in their first year of public school.

They and a younger sibling were in the Columbine school cafeteria when shots rang out, causing all to flee, and were in their twenties and the elder was a DC-based intern under my watch when their story was shared with me, in confidence – so I will not write further about their personal story. But the weapons they heard report and fatefully avoided were the Intratec TEC-DC9 assault pistol, Hi-Point 9mm Carbine, Savage 67H pump-action shotgun, and a Savage 311-D 12-gauge shotgun.

In light of the massacre Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, President Barack Obama, fighting back tears, may have adequately echoed the sentiments of the entire nation.

“These neighbors are our neighbors, and these children are our children, and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this – regardless of the politics,” Obama said.

In 2008, in a 5-4 ruling the US Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling in the landmark DC v David Heller case that struck down DC’s gun laws which barred the registration of handguns, required licenses for all pistols and mandated that all legal firearms must be kept unloaded and disassembled or trigger locked, saying the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to defend themselves and their homes with a firearm.

On the day the High Court ruled on Heller, I happened to end up in a room with a quietly beaming Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, who told me the ruling was “the opening salvo” in a series of planned legal challenges across the country aimed at ensuring individual gun rights, “starting with San Francisco and Chicago,” he told me.

He told me he found it to be somewhat “racist” that some believed that DC residents couldn’t be trusted to own firearms at their own discretion.

In a separate conversation that same day, NRA General Counsel Robert Dowlut told me he was “surprised” that then-DC Mayor Adrian Fenty chose to “go forward with the Heller case as a Second Amendment test case” because David Heller was a licensed special police officer who already “had a special permit to carry a handgun in Federal office buildings,” but could not legally deploy his weapon at home.

The high court’s Heller ruling did leave open the possibility of “reasonable” gun restrictions and DC officials quickly codified some of the nation’s most stringent gun laws. The modified gun laws required residents to have trigger locks, make multiple trips downtown to register the weapons, and forbad certain categories of firearms.

In 2009, when DC was closing in on getting voting rights in the House of Representatives, a gun amendment advanced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), would have repealed the District’s restrictive laws on possessing handguns and its ban on certain types of semi-automatic weapons. The bill was ultimately scuttled and the DC voting-rights debate was suspended.

In 2010, then-DC Mayor Fenty, then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) were willing to accept gun-rights provisions in order to secure a voting representative in House.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray, who was the chair of the DC City Council and a candidate for mayor at the time, did not support the DC voting rights bill that restricted the city’s ability to set its own gun control laws.

He said the gun amendment was “too high of price to pay” for securing a vote in Congress. “I do not support a bill that would have us give up our right to legislate and have us give up our gun control laws,” said Gray.

That bill was quashed. DC’s vote in the Committee of the Whole was revoked by the newly elected Republican majority in the House of Representatives, which left DC residents without any meaningful voting representation in the United States Congress.

US District Judge Ricardo Urbina upheld DC’s revised gun laws in 2010 finding that the new regulations were designed to make DC safer and did not violate the Second Amendment guarantee of a person’s right to own a gun for self-defense.

“It is beyond dispute that public safety is an important – indeed, a compelling – governmental interest,” Urbina opined.

The judge ruled that the District’s handgun registration process, which requires owners to submit fingerprints and allow police to perform ballistics tests, is constitutional, as is the ban on most semiautomatic pistols.

Robert Levy, chairman of the board at the Cato Institute, a muse of the gun-rights movement and a major figure in Heller, told NBC News, after the January 8, 2010 Gabby Giffords-related mass shooting and murder in Tucson, AZ that he saw no constitutional objection to banning the sorts of high-capacity magazines used by the Tucson shooter in his Glock 19 — one of the weapons of choice of the Virginia Tech Shooter, in addition to the Walther P22 he used to kill 32 people.

NRA-Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox in a statement following the Gabby Gifford’s-related mass shootings: “These magazines are standard equipment for self-defense handguns and other firearms owned by tens of millions of Americans.”

Except for the obvious use by the Sandy Hook shooter of high-capacity magazines to massacre 20 innocent little children, 6 of their institutional caretakers and his own mother, we have the sketchiest of details about what happened and why. In the coming days the NRA will likely become an easy political target as we try to deal with our collective grief and begin to get those answers.

We are seeing copycat tendencies, with the dark-commando-like clothing of several of these shooters, but what stands out to me more is what Cato’s Levy said about banning high-capacity magazines, designed only to kill humans. That would seem like a really good place to find some political common ground for Democrats and Republicans, for starters – in addition to requiring universal background checks.

In between my sobs today, it will be interesting to hear what my former associates at the NRA will have to say – knowing enough about them to know they likely feel as sad as I do right now. Especially since the Sandy Hook shooter apparently shot his mother in the face with one of several firearms she legally bought.

The NRA will likely reserve comment until more Sandy Hook details are confirmed.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) weighed in on Sunday.“I’m going to introduce in the Senate and the same bill will be introduced in the House, a bill to ban assault weapons. It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession. Not retroactively but prospectively. And it will ban the same for big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets. So there will be a bill. We’ve been working on it now for a year,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.

The Hill newspaper reported on its website on Friday:

The incoming chairwoman of the House Republican Conference urged caution in passing new gun laws.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), speaking in an interview with C-SPAN set to air Sunday, was asked whether it was time to review current gun laws in light of a shooting rampage in Connecticut.

“We need to find out what happened and what drove this individual to this place,” McMorris Rodgers said. “I think we have to be careful about new —suggesting new gun laws. We need to look at what drives a crazy person to do these kind of actions and make sure that we’re enforcing the laws that are currently on the books. And yes, definitely, we need to do everything possible to make sure that something like this never happens again.”

What may be “crazy” is how we talk about and treat mental illness and the mentally ill in this country. But for right now, as a father and grandfather, I am crazy with waves of grief for those families and the survivors at Sandy Hook — and I know of a great example of someone who came through Columbine, has made a great life and makes people feel good to be around them.

I have been in touch with them (the Columbine survivor) this weekend, and wouldn’t you know it, they are looking for a way to help us all deal with Sandy Hook, in between their own tears.

About Jim Allen, Founder/Editor, NuVote Reach

Currently serving as Chief Operating Officer of Alejo Media, emerging as one of Washington, D.C.’s most artistic and innovative video production and post-production media companies. Previously, as Director of News and Media Services at the American Institute of Physics, he led the creation of the InsideScience.org news platform, which includes Inside Science TV. He also previously served as Media Director, Energy NOW! and Clean Skies TV and as Special Reports Editor/Media Relations Director at The Hill newspaper. Jim has served in various executive, business development and/or programming roles for a number of media concerns including CBS Radio/Television, Radio One Inc. and the Los Angeles Times. Since 1995, he has been a contributor to the Reporters Notebook news roundtable program on NBC 4 TV, DC. He earned a music scholarship to Delaware State University, a Bachelor of Arts in English/Television Production at Virginia State University and, from 2003-2007, attended Concord University School of Law. His commendations include the Washington, DC Teachers' Union Media Relations Award and shared an American Academy of Nursing National Media Award. Jim also chairs a development task force for the faith-based, non-profit House of Help/City of Hope, founded and led by Bishop Dr. Shirley Holloway, which has provided substance abuse, mental health and continuing education programs and transitional housing for tens of thousands of homeless (and battered) women, families and men (including ex-offenders) at its shelter and treatment facilities in Washington, DC and Prince George’s and Charles Counties, MD.
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19 Responses to #SandyHook Massacre: Is the NRA a Three-Headed Monster?

  1. Generally speaking, I’m the one who’s cautioning people not to demonize folks with a different perspective. In addition, I honestly do try to understand rather than condemn.

    Just the same, though, I found myself — after this morning’s Mass — admitting to a dear friend that I believe the NRA to be one of the two truly evil political organizations in the USA today (the other being NARAL). She cautioned me, just as I’ve cautioned others.

    “It’s possible” she reminded me, “to do evil when you believe you’re doing good. And, don’t forget, the evil you see in others is in you as well.”

    It was as if my own words were coming back at me!

    Just the same, just the same, I can’t imagine myself being at ease “in breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings with the NRA brain trust”, nor would I be open to the plan of “occasionally travel[ing] with them and g[etting] to know them.” I’d also be very wary of appearances even if, as you did, “I found them to be really decent folks”.

    I commented to my friend (and she readily agreed) that the Nazis, by and large, were kind, well-mannered, generous family men who were very easy for the average person to like. Apparently, one can do evil without losing one’s capacity to be socially appealing.

    There’s more evil to be found in human organizations than there is in human persons. The evil men do is “interred with their bones” whereas the evil inside of organizations lives on and on and on. Besides, evil is easier to hide in an organization than in an individual.

    My friend and I agreed on one thing, by the end of the conversation. Being “right”, being right on “the issues”, isn’t the main thing. For most of my life, I’ve tried to thwart my political opponents with the invincible logic and brilliance of my arguments. That bus goes nowhere! These days I’m trying to make room, in my interactions with those of a different political stripe, for candor, and respect, and patience, and humility.

    Much, much, much easier said than done. At least it is for me!

    • For example, early on, I flew to OKC for a meeting at the ad agency for my news start-up and learned that this agency was the NRA’s agency and some of the people that worked on the NRA account would be working on mine. On the flight home, I was seated next to one of the meeting participants who I had hung out with socially for a few days, who turned out to be the editor in chief of Freedom mag. I had no idea until I was thumbing through the mag on the plane and discovered his name in the mag masthead.

      It was an interesting period for me of ongoing discovery and paralysis.

    • I deeply appreciate what you have shared regarding your struggles to make sense of what can only be described as the ‘stultifying.’ As a black woman, I have learned to daily remind myself that little, if anything, is simply ‘black and white.’ Often, in the discourse if the articial construct of “race,” we speak, literally, of only “blacks” and “whites” as if nothing or no one else existed, when truly, the situations, and people are so much more complex than that. I, too, have discovered something much more important ti me than being “right.” I now like to say that like my raio idol, the late Paul Harvey, what has become most important to me is the ability to share, or ferret out, “the rest of the story.” I’ve come to believe that if we must choose a “side,” an understanding of the fact that here are often so many more than two sides is vital. This is why I you had me, figuratively, boxing, weaving, and throwing punches as I tead of your struggle to engage with complexity and “win.”

      What you’ve said about ‘evil,’ organizations, and people, has moved me deeply. Only recently have I admitted that I, a black woman, have been a card-carrying member of the NRA in the past. And it was more “convenience” than anything like shame or regret that kept me from doung so. I do believe in our “right to bear arms,” but I also realize hiw trite it has become to say, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” There is truth in that statement, yes; but to deny its “triteness,” especially with regard to how it must now sound to the victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School (Dear God) is to deny its infinite and overwhelming complexities. I have started to belueve that “certainty,” in many, if not all, cases is only accomplished when one has stopled “struggling.” And as uncomfortable as it is to “struggle,” it is still, fir me, where I am most “comfortable”… All the best to you…

  2. “… what stands out to me more is what Cato’s Levy said about banning high-capacity magazines, designed only to kill humans. That would seem like a really good place to find some political common ground for Democrats and Republicans, for starters – in addition to requiring universal background checks.” Excellent point. What saddens me is any search for common ground is likely to be derailed by the grandstanding of both parties’ hard-liners.

  3. Laird Will says:

    Well spoken. The way to honor those 20 children and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook is for us to finally take a courageous gun-control stand. Thanks for visiting my blog at stopthegunsnow.org

  4. Laird Will says:

    Reblogged this on Stop the Guns Now and commented:
    No Longer Any Excuses – End the Gun Violence Now

  5. I agree with your post and some of these comments as well. I think the NRA becomes a very easy political target. Friends of mine are already posting insults on Facebook about how the NRA should “delete themselves”. (The NRA hides its Facebook page after these incidents because of the attacks they get, prompting some to assume they “deleted” their page)

    Although I do not generally favor gun-control laws, I am not opposed to certain restrictions. However, I think too much credit is given to these laws, i.e. “IF we would have had better laws, this wouldn’t have happened..etc.” I disagree completely. Connecticut was among the top 5 states with the best gun-control laws. Newtown was rated one of the safest cities. Yesterday, in California (the only state to receive 4 stars from the Brady Campaign), another gunman shot 40-odd rounds at a mall.

    If gun-control laws would stop these shootings, I would be all for them. But I don’t think it will help. Man is depraved.

  6. A lot to ponder, isn’t it? The whole issue of domestic violence is so complicated. I agree with you that it’s too simplistic to place all the blame on the NRA. However, it is their lobbying efforts which have defeated past measures to limit assault weapons to the military and police. I’m really pleased to have meet you through Word Press. Peace to you.

  7. Thank you for your following! May peace-loving minds and hearts prevail. If you need a cup of tea over which to ponder, consider supporting our mission of “sharing tea, saving lives” at Compassion Tea Company.

  8. Shayn Roby says:

    At least three CT gun laws were violated by Adam Lanza in the shooting. What most gun control advocates refuse to get is that what they are accomplishing is disarming the citizenry and making them vulnerable to attack via firearm. No citizens can legally have firearms in Mexico. The city of Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. You are more likely to get shot there than almost anywhere. Of course, that won’t stop gun control nuts from having their jacked up naive opinions. I’ve never seen little details like facts stop the Andrea Mitchells of the world from having quirky opinions no matter what the issue at hand happens to be. It’s amazing.

  9. Good post, and thanks for visiting my site. I guess I’ve become one of those hard-liners, not because I’m inflexible, I just doubt any meaningful gun control will be accomplished without starting from an extreme left position, and then eventually settling for a balanced approach. Having said that, I think the only hope is a gun-free society. As long as someone has guns, the deranged will get their hands on them. Gun enthusiasts talk about responsible gun ownership, but a person can be responsible one day, and lose his or her mind the next. Those who know these shooters are almost always shocked at what these people did. People can’t be trusted. I’ve no doubt the individuals of the NRA are mostly good guys, as I have good friends who love their guns, but organizations, as others mentioned, take on belief systems that become inflexible, just like any other label. Open minds get closed as soon as they take on a label they have to defend.

  10. judithatwood says:

    Hi, Jim. A very important post here — I certainly respect the clarity with which you present the situation. I’ve stopped by to welcome you to diabeticredemption.com.I’m very happy to have you as a reader. On my blog, I have a Friends page, where my readers have left infor about themselves and their blogs. I hope you will do the same. Welcome!

  11. bluebrightly says:

    “…banning high-capacity magazines, designed only to kill humans. That would seem like a really good place to find some political common ground for Democrats and Republicans, for starters – in addition to requiring universal background checks.” I agree – but sometimes even the most reasonable things seem like too much to hope for, don’t they? Thanks for the background about the NRA not being the “bad guys” some might think they are, etc. – and thanks for the “follow” -

  12. lagould says:

    The second amendment says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Let them have their guns. But make every person register the guns, attend annual safety courses, and be registered with the national guard, the modern-day equivalent of militias. They should have to perform the regular and on-going training that national guard members undergo, and when the country is at war, they serve in the war just as other national guard members do. Having lived in many countries that have very strict gun laws, I have been a proponent of strict gun laws in the US for decades. The court ruled differently, but they ignored the first clause of the 2nd amendment. I say push to have the 2nd amendment followed to the letter.

  13. AWC says:

    @ the antigun folks…
    Tell me more about how criminals will follow all these new laws you want passed.

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