When we hear the word terrorism, among the first images we likely visualize are the Twin Towers and a bearded Osama bin Laden. 3,000 Americans died on September 11, 2001. Osama is dead, but the war on terror continues. Close to 5,000 American soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with hundreds of thousands of non-Americans. More than a trillion dollars have been spent in an unending campaign. Such is America’s resolve when faced with terror and threat.
Threats to America are still alive, and at least one has another guise. Could it be time to include a new image when visualizing terror? The figure taking shape wears suit and tie and has no beard. It’s an image of Wayne La Pierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice-president and spokesperson.
Osama bin Laden didn’t fly planes into the Twin Towers. Perhaps he never actually killed with his own hands at all, but is certainly recognized as killer and terrorist. Bin Laden was a facilitator – someone who provided the means and inspiration for others to execute. La Pierre may never have killed with his own hands either, but he’s complicit in providing the means for others. So is it hyperbole to label La Pierre a terrorist? Why should it be? As an advocate of NRA intransigence, he’s an active facilitator to murder. The mouthpiece of the arms and ammunition industry, La Pierre is implicated in the slaying of 161,000 Americans killed since 2002. Every year, nearly 12,000 Americans are murdered with guns. That’s the equivalent of four 9-11’s each year – one every three months. Think about it. Fourteen years ago we suffered the first 9-11 and are still addressing it. Since then, every ninety days, year after year, another 3,000 Americans are attacked and killed, yet we do nothing. Actually it’s worse than nothing – we help promote it. We even vote for it.
The NRA has lost its way, and if it ever had a soul, that’s gone too. Formed more than a hundred years ago, its original objective was to provide training in marksmanship. It was an organization for training youths and adults in good soldiering, hunting, and sporting practice. The group remained as such for decades, but nearly fifty years ago, primarily as reaction to the 1968 Gun Control Act, the NRA began to evolve into a potent political machine.
Today, the NRA has about 5 million dues-paying members. The organization receives additional financial support from the arms and ammunition industry. They assist the NRA’s several politically active lobby groups. Probably no one on the outside has precise knowledge of funding details, but political clout indicates the amount is considerable. It’s a 12 billion dollar a year industry – they can afford to be generous. If the NRA has sold its soul, the arms and ammo manufacturers now own it.
All attempts to control and regulate an industry gone rogue are resisted. It’s reminiscent of the tobacco cartel in our not too distant past. Perhaps you’re old enough to remember when most homes had ashtrays in every room. Celebrities, athletes, and even doctors extolled the benefits of inhaled smoke. Today the NRA and the arms industry promote the healthy scenario of guns placed in every home and carried on every person. It’s coupled with an image of bravery and freedom. Purveyors may sell it as patriotism, but to the industry, it’s all about the money.
Most Americans favor more stringent gun regulation – even NRA members are sympathetic to more regulation (nearly 75%). The NRA hierarchy opposes meaningful oversight. They’ve sided with the arms and ammunition industry and the money. Why not? – twelve billion dollars a year provides an affluent lifestyle for scores of gun executives, at least one well known lobbyist, and still has surplus to assist the campaigns of obliging politicians.
Recently, La Pierre was invited to Washington at the request of our president. Trump thanked him for the NRA’s help in procuring the votes aiding his election. Not only that – they reportedly discussed how best to use NRA influence to assure confirmation of the latest Supreme Court judge. Imagine: A man who helped facilitate the murder of more than 160,000 Americans was thanked by an American president – and then asked to assist in seating a Supreme Court Justice!
On that single strange day, about 30 more Americans were murdered with guns. Of that number, probably at least two were wives shot and killed by deranged spouses.
Shortly after their meeting, our president acted to rescind a bill providing oversight of gun ownership by the mentally ill – those receiving social security checks due to their recognized impairment and those legally recognized as unable to handle their own financial affairs.
Over the course of two weeks in February, the country was in turmoil over the attempted roll-out of new travel and immigration restrictions – reforms declared necessary to make America safe. Elected government officials were beginning the process of knocking on doors, separating parents from the lives of their children. For lack of a piece of paper, non-citizens posed an imminent threat to true Americans. In that same time-span, Citizen Wayne La Pierre helped facilitate the real murder of nearly 450 Americans. He sat with the President while doing so.
In an April address to the annual NRA convention in Atlanta, President Trump declared the end to an eight year assault on 2nd amendment rights. Incredibly, during the eight years of siege, recipients of those rights were still able to murder about 96,000 Americans.
Somehow the President makes it right in his head. Wayne La Pierre makes it right in his head, as do the gun makers who support him. All the NRA members who send in forty dollars a year make it right in their heads, along with all of us who vote for our legislators – we all make it right. Everything is alright.
Somewhere, a child sits on the top step of her porch, watching the antics of her siblings. It happens without warning, like a clap of thunder. It enters just below her left eye. Her life and everything she might have become are already over as the projectile passes through the right side of her skull. She’s gone, and no one can make it right again. The bullet comes to rest in the hearts of those who love her, and that can’t be made right again either. Nothing will ever be alright again.
If we truly wish to make America safe, shouldn’t we look towards an actual source of danger – the pervasive violence facilitated by an unregulated industry? Isn’t that the threat taunting us – the one we should face?
We build walls to make America safe. We dismantle families to make America strong. In their hour of greatest need, we turn our backs on the dispossessed to make America great again. Perhaps we prefer the choreography of fighting imaginary dragons. What valiant and courageous knights we’ve become! We somehow claim valor in facing such threats, while in our midst is a real dragon. We don’t fight that one. We feed our children to it.
On our streets and in our homes – twelve thousand murders every year, another 9-11 holocaust every three months, over and over without redress. In the White House, Wayne La Pierre is embraced and saluted by our president. Such is American resolve when faced with terror and threat.