Monday, December 17, 2012

When Silence Isn't Golden

In the still-developing national conversation about the complex issues raised by last Friday's mass murder in Newtown, CT, one constituency is oddly--I don't want to say ominously--silent: the National Rifle Association. As a long-time participant-observer in America's gun culture, I'm at a loss to account for this. Are they in some sort of denial? It's business as usual on their (very busy) web site, but their news feed carries nary a word about the school shootings. Why not? Why no acknowledgment of the story that has rightly captured the attention not simply of this nation but of the world? Why not even a note of sympathy or condolence? Inquiring minds, as they used to say, want to know. This one does, anyway.

I should make it clear where I stand re the NRA. I am not a member. I was, for a couple of years when I first started hunting and writing about it, but I dropped my membership for two reasons: One was Wayne LaPierre's notorious "jack-booted thugs" comment about Federal officers; I didn't want to belong to any organization that espoused that sort of inflammatory rhetoric. (I noted with some irony that former president George H.W. Bush cancelled his life-membership at the same time, for the same reason.) But my other reason was, actually, pro-NRA: Because on numerous occasions in various contexts I was called upon to write or speak about gun issues in which the NRA figured prominently, I reckoned I was on more solid ground on the occasions when I defended the NRA (and there were many) if I was not myself a member. I actually have a lot of friends who are NRA members. I am married to an NRA life member. I know these people are not the stereotypical gun nuts so often demonized by the Brady Bunch. I also know a lot of NRA members are becoming increasingly disillusioned with the organization.

The national Shooting Sports Foundation--headquartered in Newtown, a few miles from Sandy Hook school--immediately issued a simple statement:
“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this horrible tragedy in our community. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at this time."

Would it have been too much to ask for the NRA to do likewise?

Or does America's most powerful gun lobby figure it is above all that? Perhaps they figure it was enough to unleash board member Ted Nugent to tell the right-wing internet news site Newsmax on Sunday, in an "exclusive interview," that the real problem was that schools like Sandy Hook Elementary are gun-free zones. That the twenty 6- and 7- year- olds were killed because they were "forced into unarmed helplessness." Surely the NRA can come up with a better line than this.

Or maybe they cannot, at least not under their current leadership. Maybe this is the end of an era. And maybe that is a good thing.

Mary Zeiss Stange is the author of Woman the Hunter (Beacon Press, 1997), Gun Women (New York University Press, 2000), and most recently Hard Grass: Life on the Crazy Woman Bison Ranch (University of New Mexico Press, 2010). She also edited Heart Shots: Women Write about Hunting (Stackpole, 2003) and Stackpole Books' "Sisters of the Hunt" series of classic works about hunting by women, and has published widely on women's and environmental issues in both the commercial and academic press. A professor of Women's Studies and Religion at Skidmore College, she teaches in the gender studies, environmental studies and international affairs programs. She divides her time between her "town job" in Saratoga Springs, NY, and the bison ranch in southeastern Montana that she and her husband Doug share with six Peruvian horses, two Springer Spaniels, a tuxedo cat and various wildlife.

13 comments:

  1. "But my other reason was, actually, pro-NRA: Because on numerous occasions in various contexts I was called upon to write or speak about gun issues in which the NRA figured prominently, I reckoned I was on more solid ground on the occasions when I defended the NRA (and there were many) if I was not myself a member"

    That's pretty strange. I can only wonder what the people would have thought if they had full disclosure at the time you made your arguments.

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  2. They did have "full disclosure." I have always made my position via-a-vis the NRA perfectly clear. Perhaps I can clarify: I am not for the most part talking about my mounting "arguments," I am talking about situations--most of them at conferences or in media interviews--when I was responding to questions about the NRA position(s) on gun use, gun control, etc. It was to my advantage, as well as the NRA's (even when that was not my primary intention) to make it perfectly clear that I was not deriving any benefit from NRA.
    I am not the only scholar working in the area of firearms to take this approach. Gary Kleck, of Florida State University, is a far more prominent researcher on guns and gun crime than I ever aspired to be (as my main connection to firearms is through hunting). He has always been scrupulous in distancing himself from ANY gun rights organization. This has served him, and his scholarship, well, since his work runs against the grain of much of the more "liberally" oriented--and politically anti-gun--research driving the gun debate.

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  3. I see. thx

    You're not mentioning the NRA's FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube actions. Perhaps those actions aren't so much as silence as a statement. Seems the NRA is in a lockdown. The less said, the better for them. The conversations they are willing to have only occur in the back halls of congress.

    Not particular to just the NRA, but nothing like having a life membership to an organization that drops it's original agenda and goes off on multiple tangents. Pay as you go seems like a better way.

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  4. This from the NRA:
    "The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters -- and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again," the group said. It plans to hold "a major news conference" on Friday and both their Facebook and Twitter presences are active again.

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    1. NRA backpedaling as they realized they were to be excluded from the discussions.

      (and really why not exclude them, they were not elected)

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  5. What do you make of NRA's comments now that they've finally come out? WAPO article reports NRA is advocating putting armed police officers in every school. - http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2012/12/21/nras-wayne-lapierre-put-armed-police-officers-in-every-school/

    IMHO, I think this is a great idea. It seems that the schools that have school resource officers have fewer problems with bullying and other types of violence.

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    1. My take is there is no simple answer that will make much difference.
      The one suggestion made in a NY Times article and the PBS special on Newtown, was to take away one of the motivations for some mass killers - instant notoriety. An agreement between law enforcement, the media and the public that from now on all killers will be referred to as John Doe #, no names except in need to know situations. This seems like an action that can make a difference in a significant number of situations, is doable, cost nothing and can be implemented quickly.

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    2. Replied previously, but schools already have armed guards if they want. Columbine had one. Virginia tech an entire police force. They just can't be in multiple places at one time or be effective against armed-to-the-teeth killers.

      What the NRA is offering is basically nothing.

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  6. Actually, Virginia Tech's security police badly mishandled the situation--Instead of locking down the campus after the first two shootings, which were in a dormitory, they attributed those murders to a "lovers' quarrel" and, with a killer on the loose, refrained from issuing a campus-wide alert. Law enforcement is not always efficient or effective in crisis situations.
    That said, in certain cases armed guards--or even armed school staff--might well make sense. But it is All, and always, a matter of context. And unfortunately, when it comes to the public discourse on the gun rights issue, any sense of nuance is the first thing to get misplaced. It took, by my reckoning, less than 72 hours for the media and "pundits" to revert from their initial take--that the problem of random mass shootings involves a complex admixture of gun policies, media violence, and mental health issues--to the polarized party line agruments focusing on guns and their availability.

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    1. Sure and the Columbine guard wasn't even in the school. He was in the parking lot. While it might work in some cases, evidently it doesn't work in all. That's the point.

      What, did it take a week of silence for the NRA to come out and basically say it's got nothing to do with gun control? The media and NRA behave the same.



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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Greetings Professor Stange. Simply wanted to thank you for making your opinion and voice available to the media, as was the recent case in the New York Times article, "Rising Voice of Gun Ownership is Female" (02/10/2013). There is indeed a solid community of liberals who hunt, or collect firearms, or simply enjoy shooting. One place to find them is at The Liberal Gun Club (http://www.theliberalgunclub.com/). Perhaps one day you could stop by to say hi.

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  9. Enjoy discounted prices for outdoor supplies at https://woodburysupplies.com/

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