From an Obama target to aliens to Sarah Palin chewing tobacco, the event was full of rage and things to be outraged about
Wondering if you missed anything at the National Rifle Association’s 2013 Annual Meeting? I poured through the news and video so that you don’t have to. Here were the top 10 “best” moments:
1. You could buy a “zombie” Obama to shoot at. It even bleeds! Probably because he doesn’t want a visit from the Secret Service, the vendor calls the life-sized dummy the “Rocky” model, but was less than coy about the, er, target audience: “Let’s just say I gave my Republican father one for Christmas.” The NRA asked the seller to remove the item from the booth after scads of attention and complaints, but Buzzfeedreports that the model is still for sale – and that other, similar models (including a vampire Obama) are on the convention floor.
2. Noted prop comic and reality show aspirant Sarah Palin brought her overly literal political commentary to the stage by brandishing a can of chewing tobacco, a response to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s push to ban the display of tobacco products in stores. The unspoken parallel to gun rights is obvious, because nothing screams “a product proven to be safe for children and not lethal at all” like tobacco. Palin also stretched her vocabulary into some old-timey condemnation for effect, riling the crowd with a recitation of acronyms for news organization that “one day they will think themselves accursed that they were not in this fight with us”. Faux Biblical pronouncements go over well with that crowd. (See also: Beck, Glenn)
3. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre argued that the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings “proves” the NRA’s pet truism about the efficacy of good guys versus bad guys, because “good guys with guns stopped terrorists with guns”. LaPierre is apparently unaware that the Obama administration has not (yet!) called for the disarmament of professional law enforcement agents. In a less patently misguided, but still puzzling statement, he posed the rhetorical questions, “How many Bostonians wish they had a gun two weeks ago? How many other Americans now ponder that life-or-death question?”
But LaPierre’s imaginative paranoia does not in fact extend to the population at large. Despite a record number of mass shootings and devastating terrorist attacks in the past 10 years, Americans have not responded by arming themselves. Gun ownership in general is, in fact,down by almost 10% since the 1970s, and down a surprising (if you think like LaPierre) 20% among men. LaPierre is probably just making assumptions based on the company he keeps, because it’s true that the gun owners that remain now arm themselves with greater and greater firepower: 20% of the nation’s firearm owners now own 65% of its guns. (Fun fact! The US, with 5% of the world’s population, now owns 50 percent of all guns.)
4. If you thought the zombie Obama target was ugly, take a look at the purses that were on sale. No, really. They are designed to hold “concealed carry” weapons, presumably effective because no one in their right mind would want to steal them.
5. There was a “Youth Day”. With the headlines about a five-year-old using a gun marketed as “My First Rifle” barely faded, the NRA invited attendees to “[s]hare the excitement with spectacular displays and fun-filled events for the entire family”. The grade schoolers present shared the organization’s attitude towards the products that have caused thedeaths of more American children in two years than the very tragic US military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I like guns because guns are fun,” said 9-year-old Kaykay Mace.
6. Speaking of kids, you know where a great place to store your gun might be? Your kids’ room!
7. The group welcomed incoming president Jim Porter, an Alabama attorney whose history of explosive rhetoric stands to push the NRA into, in the words of one critic, “full crazy”. Skeptics may not believe there room left on the insanity spectrum, but Porter has done his best to amplify the organization’s existing enmity to Obama and other gun control advocates, all while displaying the kind of unadulterated enthusiasm for killing machines that creeps out average Americans. In 2011, he proudly characterized the NRA’s victories as “[getting] all the pigs squealing,” boasting, “You know we’re doin’ the right thing when we have them so worked up.” Later that year, he bemoaned having to sit through the administrative business of the NRA just yards away from real-live guns being sold: “I get a little antsy when we’re in there at the actual meeting. I want to get out and go to the store and play with all the toys like everybody else.”
More recently, he referred to Obama as a “fake president” and advocated arming and training civilians with “standard military firearms”, “so when [“when” – ed. note] they have to fight for their country, they’re ready to do it.” Also he believes that gun rights are just part of a larger “culture war“, so there’s that.
8. The introductory video for speaker Rick Perry included a Ted Nugent soundtrack that featured footage of him “laying waste to a perfectly good farm egg”. (Perry likened the shoe to a “hole in one”.) In a related video in which he promoted citizen ownership for assault weapons, Perry pointed out that such weapons are useful for taking out wild animals; telling a skeptical reporter, “You obviously have not been around…a feral hog.” Or wild eggs.
9. Glenn Beck gave the event’s keynote speech. At just under two hours, it was a wealth of material ripe for criticism and debunking, not to mention simple mockery, such as his earnest appraisal that “guns have lifted people out of poverty” and his rousing last act, which urged the gun-advocacy group to “follow in the footsteps” of Gandhi. He also let loose with a metaphor regarding the “full armor of God” astonishing for its cohesiveness, if not its imagery:
[W]e will fight by strapping on the full armor of God. We will stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit.
It sounds pretty fearsome – and very Biblical – until you remember that Beck’s “helmet of salvation” is made of tin foil. While my knowledge of scripture might be subpar, I think it’s fair to say this not just because Beck is very much on board with Porters when-not-if scenario involving a militarized citizen resistance, but because of the allies he names in his fight to pre-emptively arm that resistance: “We will work side-by-side with white, black, Hispanic, Native Americans” and “off-planet-ers”. I was not aware of any policy to disarm the aliens, though I thought that was usually the plan.
10. Guns. Guns galore. You probably assumed this. But did you have in mind a gold-plated handgun? Or a triple-barrel shotgun that can shoot multiple calibers? What about pink guns – for the ladies! They can put them in the bra that comes with a holster. Speaking of ladies: No convention of phallic symbol-fetishizers would be complete without gun porn.