With "Insane" Remarks, NRA Momentarily Seizes Online Attention
BY Nick Judd | Friday, December 21 2012
In a circuitous speech interrupted twice by protesters as it was broadcast live online, National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre suggested on Friday that the federal government maintain a national database of people who are mentally ill, place armed officers in every school in the United States, and regulate the depiction of violence in the video game industry.
The NRA's flagship proposal would put armed security in every school, a proposal problematic because of the long and turbulent history of school policing. Cops in schools produce an environment where juvenile misbehavior often becomes a crime. As a policy, school policing also places armed men in contact with youth who cannot fairly be held fully responsible for their own behavior, according to an extensive report from The Guardian last year, among many other reports, and may create situations in which youth with behavioral problems or mental illness find themselves in confrontations with authority that escalate into violence. The NRA proposal would also eliminate gun-free zones around schools.
LaPierre also called for pressure on video game makers, members of what he called "a callous and corrupting industry," reminiscent of the early film industry's self-censorship. While some prominent people in today's video game culture are open to talking about the often unhealthy tropes in video games, the academic literature that suggests there's a link between video game violence and aggressive behavior is shaky at best.
Declining to answer questions, and ignoring a reporter's shouted inquiry after a protester from the group Code Pink interrupted his remarks, LaPierre ceded his podium to former congressman Asa Hutchinson, who continued down the let's-militarize-kindergarten line of argument. Hutchinson also declined to answer questions.
The speech from the National Rifle Association leadership followed remarks by the president Wednesday urging an assault weapons ban and a follow-up video release Friday morning in response to petitioners on the White House's "We the People" online petitioning platform.
Members of the media online often expressed shock at LaPierre's remarks.
"This is gonna be interesting," the media critic Felix Salmon wrote on Twitter. "Every journalist on Twitter thinks Lapierre is completely insane. How many will say that in their stories?"
Adam Lanza used a legally available, semi-automatic version of an assault rifle as he killed 20 children, seven adults, and himself in Newtown, Conn. In his remarks, LaPierre criticized media portrayal of the weapon, a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle, and suggested that reporters did not "know what they were talking about."
The NRA spokesman clearly had no intention of opening any doors to blame for weapons or their accessibility to people who pose a risk to themselves or others by having them.
However, at least for the moment, the NRA remarks have seized attention online away from gun control:
NRA President David Keene concluded the Friday press event by promising that association spokespeople would begin to take questions from the press on Monday.