Carl Hiaasen | In My Opinion

Carl Hiaasen: NRA’s task is to frighten, sell more guns

The National Rifle Association wants to give me a “heavy-duty” duffel bag.

It’s a nice one, too — roomy enough for an AR-15 and maybe a half-dozen 30-round clips. Stitched on the side is a bold-looking NRA patch.

The bag is mine if I pay $25 and join up.

Like most gun owners in this country, I’m not an NRA member. It’s possible that Wayne LaPierre got my name off a mailing list from catalogs that sell hunting gear.

LaPierre is the NRA’s perpetually apoplectic “executive vice president.” You see him on TV preaching against gun control, practically levitating with paranoia. He signed the letter that arrived with the nifty duffel-bag offer.

One thing about Wayne, he likes to underline. He’s also fond of bold-face type, and of capitalizing important words. This rises to a fever pitch when he’s writing about “anti-gun members of Congress”:

And they will not stop until they BAN hundreds of commonly owned firearms, PROHIBIT private transfers of firearms, CLOSE gun shops and shows, and DESTROY your freedom to defend yourself, your home and your loved ones.

Here’s another beauty:

Remember, gun ban politicians and their media allies are on the attack. And the future of your freedom is at stake.

LaPierre might seem like an under-medicated whack job, but he’s just acting. His job is to frighten people, and to sell more guns.

Major firearms manufacturers such as Smith &Wesson and Beretta have given millions of dollars to the NRA. Sturm & Ruger donated a dollar from every gun sale to the organization from May 2011 to May 2012, raising $1.25 million.

This isn’t mentioned in Wayne’s letter. He calls the NRA a “grassroots membership organization,” when in reality it’s a cold-hearted lobby for the gun industry.

And the industry definitely gets its money’s worth. The push in Congress to revive the ban an assault rifles is dead and other modest reforms are in trouble, in spite of the nation’s horror at the massacres in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn.

The NRA scares politicians far more than it scares the average citizen. The senators who are now wimping out on broader background checks for gun buyers aren’t afraid for our Second Amendment rights; they’re afraid the NRA will bankroll their opponents in the next election.

Republicans cower most reliably, but spineless Democrats are in no short supply. A push to federally limit the capacity of ammo magazines to a mere 10 bullets is foundering strictly because the NRA opposes it.

Hunters and sport shooters don’t need 30 rounds to hit what they’re aiming at, but mass murderers, gang bangers and cop killers love those big macho clips.

Buying bullets online is another convenience that the NRA is fighting to preserve. It’s how a disturbed University of Central Florida student, James Seevakumaran, compiled the arsenal that he intended to use against fellow dorm residents last month. (He killed himself during preparations, after his roommate called the police.)

The NRA wasn’t always quite so loony. It once supported comprehensive background checks on gun purchases, and even took a position against guns being carried in public schools.

Now the group has swung 180 degrees, in sneering opposition to public sentiment. Polls show 90 percent of American favor background checks on all firearms sales, including those at local gun shows, which are currently unregulated.

LaPierre insists that background checks will lead to a “national gun registry,” which will then lead to mass confiscation of firearms by the government.

Oh sure. The same government that can’t afford to deliver mail on Saturdays is poised to send armed agents to every single house in the country to search for weapons.

The notion is ridiculous, and Wayne’s well aware of it. The NRA isn’t aiming for the mainstream support. The fringe is what they’re after — the spooked-out guys who were lining up to buy assault rifles after the mass shooting in Newtown.

By the way, those 20 murdered children and six murdered adults aren’t mentioned anywhere in LaPierre’s rousing membership letter. I double-checked all the underlined sentences and boldfaced paragraphs.

Not a single word, capitalized or otherwise, about how some crackpot with a Bushmaster fired 154 rounds in less than five minutes, turning a schoolhouse into a slaughterhouse.

His name was Adam Lanza, and he already owned a duffel bag. Investigators who opened it found 50 .22-caliber bullets, ear protection, binoculars, paper targets and two NRA certificates, one each for the killer and his mother.

The organization says they were not card-carrying members. Lanza shot his mom before he drove to Sandy Hook Elementary.

His duffel bag didn’t have an NRA logo, but maybe next time.

There’s always a next time.

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