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The NRA preempts Obama

The President is unveiling his gun control agenda this morning, but Politico reports on this ad that the NRA released to get the PR jump on the crafty Prez. This should work well:

Actually, it may well work. I wouldn't underestimate the power of the NRA and the public's fascination with possessing heavy duty weaponry.From the ad:

"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" a narrator asks. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security."

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Are the presidents kids more important than yours? a narrator asks. Does your family regularly get anonymous death threats? This should be obvious, but the NRA clearly does not expect people to connect the dots here.

A seriously creepy ad. It makes me worry for the Presidents safety.

I am fascinated by this new turn in pro-gun thinking, the idea that gun-free zones are the real problem. By this logic (if you want to call it that), we must take for granted that aspiring mass killers will actually carry out their plans to kill a lot of strangers in a public place, and that this will happen several times each year. That's a given, nothing to be done about it. Part of living in America. The solution is not to stop said killers before they amass their weaponry, or before they get obsessed with using guns for their intended purpose. We just have to make sure everyone else is packing heat and can shoot back when the time comes. I can see why the desperation to deflect attention from guns themselves has led to this reductio ad absurdum. I just can't see why it would appeal to anyone sane. I certainly can't understand any parent looking at the "gun-free zone" sign outside their child's school and thinking it's a bad thing.

I wonder if the NRA will also get behind Secret Service protection for all of us -- hey, if it's good enough for the President...And they'll have to say how they'll pay for it all, no? The ad is striking, I think, in that it combines anti-tax rhetoric with the pro-gun message. Apple and oranges. That makes propaganda.

I think Greg Merkin has correctly identified the major disconnect in the NRA ad. I'm still waiting (vainly hoping?) for moderate members of the NRA to step forward and challenge the organization's leadership about its strident and uncompromising response to the Newtown tragedy. Surely there must be some NRA members willing to criticize the leadership and to call out the firearms commercial interests financing the NRA's PR campaign?

While no right thinking person would deny the Obama children Secret Service protection, is not the President's argument a bit weakened since his daughters attend a school which maintains armed guards (presumably whether or not his daughters are there)? While I am no fan of the NRA, they certainly did alight (and also make hay of) an aspect of his family's background that weakens his argument. (And I am completely against the idea of armed guards in all schools)

Anthony: How many parents receive death threats on a regular basis?

While I wouldn't underestimate the NRA's power, I wouldn't overestimate it either. In my experience, there are a lot of people---including gun owners---who have a gut level disapproval of the tactic of going after a politician's kids. For many people, that holds true regardless of party, issue or ideology. They didn't like people going after Sarah Palin's kids and they're not going to like the NRA going after Obama's kids.

My impression is that most of the armed guards currently on duty in schools were put there originally to protect the children from other children. I imagine this would not apply in a school, like the Obamas' which presents a target rich environment for kidnappers as well as mass murderers.Against a mass murderer with an assault weapon, a security guard armed with a pistol is as much a candidate for first victim as he is for protector. None of this can be expected to impress people who have several guns to protect their homes and families when Obama sends the 101st Airborne Division to disarm them.

Also: the argument against the NRA's "armed guards in every school" proposal is not "no school should ever have an armed guard." There are many that do; schools with high-profile students like the president's girls may have a very good reason to employ one. It's "the lesson of this latest school shooting cannot be that school shootings are a totally normal thing that we should expect will happen in every school."And, as David points out, it's not as though this is a serious position: the government should pay for armed guards for everyone, everywhere, but also the government is a tyrant that wants to raise your taxes. The NRA's strategy is just throwing a lot of distracting/inflammatory talking points into the air, to keep people from sustaining a serious discussion about reasonable gun regulations.

The NRA seems also to be expert in "brand synergy." Kids in gun-free zones endangered? There's a fix for that: "NRA: Practice Range," the video game released Sunday on Apple's App Store - marketed as featuring "nine true-to-life firearms." From LA Times update of story: "The game was originally classified for users ages 4 and up, but has been reclassified as suitable for those 12 and older. A warning says the game displays 'Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence.' No need for the armed guards once the kids are trained, desensitized, and, of course, carrying/concealing. Still waiting to hear how the messaging squares with NRA's recent call to evaluate violence in video games, but why let cognitive dissonance get in the way now?

While I understand that certain realities may require the Sidwell Friends School to maintain an armed security staff, I nevertheless can't be anything but saddened about the presence of weapons in a school founded by Quakers and run according to Quaker principles.

Quakers live in the real world, too. (Interesting to examine the Civil War enlistment records for Helt, Vermillion County, Indiana, a hotbed of Quakerism. As in every one of our country's wars, many Friends took up arms in defense of their country. To imagine a Friends' school should not protect a President's children from harm is unrealistic.) A seriously creepy ad. It makes me worry for the Presidents safety.I worried about Clinton every day of his presidency. The hatred fomented by the radio shows, etc., was terrifying. But it's on a whole new level, now. Those who lie and exaggerate about the President, including bishops, editors, commentators, etc., etc. share the responsibility for the new level of contempt, hatred, etc. It seems obvious that the haters hope someone will take up the challenge to "stop" the President.

How many parents receive death threats on a regular basis?That is not relevant. If armed personnel are better able to protect children than non-armed personnel--and it seems like thats being conceded here--then we should protect, the best way we know how, all our children. No?

Mark Proska: No. All our children are not in danger. For this reason, we do not need to protect all our children.

Grant,Maybe I did not make myself clear. Are there armed guards at the Obama girls school because they are present there? If Yes, then of course this makes perfect sense. They are the daughters of one of the most important people on earth (and also unfortunately someone who is the object of death threats), so if the guards are there for their protection, then of course this makes sense. My question was whether there were armed guards at their school BEFORE the Obama girls went there. If there were, then I think this is something worth noting. I am asking a serious question here with no edge.AA

When I taught at Gonzaga in Washington, DC, there were armed guards at the school, even when there were not sons of high-profile persons currently attending the school. So my point is simply this. If the president sends his daughters to a school that has had armed guards for some time (and there have not necessarily been children there of high-profile parents), this point, albeit somewhat minor, can easily into the hands of the NRA and they actually might have a small edge here (emphasis on SMALL). Might this point be conceded? I say this with great humility and no sarcasm and would appreciate the same in any responses

Anthony, I don't know why there were armed guards at Gonzaga -- I know many "inner city" schools do that because of crime concerns, whether among the student body or because of outside threats. Schools like Gonzaga also have to do that because they have no power to eliminate the threats, e.g. by passing gun restrictions. As for Sidwell friends, it does not have Secret Service protection when qualifying political progeny are not enrolled, so I don't think the NRA has even the smallest advantage here. In any event, their larger point, about putting armed guards in all schools, is patently absurd so I don't know that any advantage they gain on the Obama attack would register in the balance sheet of logic. Then again, they're not going for logic!

BTW, Texas (of course) Gov. Rick Perry continues the crazy:

Gov. Rick Perry released the following statement regarding President Obama's executive actions:"The Vice President's committee was appointed in response to the tragedy at Newtown, but very few of his recommendations have anything to do with what happened there."Guns require a finger to pull the trigger. The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror."There is evil prowling in the world - it shows up in our movies, video games and online fascinations, and finds its way into vulnerable hearts and minds. As a free people, let us choose what kind of people we will be. Laws, the only redoubt of secularism, will not suffice. Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help. Above all, let us pray for our children."In fact, the piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children, disgusts me, personally. The second amendment to the Constitution is a basic right of free people and cannot be nor will it be abridged by the executive power of this or any other president."

Thanks for the clarification, David. I just didn't know if the school had armed guards before the Secret Service were there for the president's daughters. Now that this is clear, I find the point by the NEA COMPLETELY without merit

Actually, Anthony, I often find points by the NEA completely without merit ... But I almost ALWAYS find the NRA's point without merit!Really, I think more guns in schools is not the answer when the easy answer is to remove assault weapons from the mix. More guns just means more gun battles, and the cost of trying to wage that arms race is absurd. As experts point out, there are several entrances to many schools, and kids come and go on buses and on class trips. It's just impossible practically speaking, and fiscally. The easy and constitutional answer is to eliminate the threat rather than build higher walls and bigger bombs. So say I.

I just spent 2 weeks with a lot of people who are not citizens of the US. The subject of the US obsession with guns inevitably came up. I don't think the most people in the US realize how blood-thirsty and virtually insane this country looks to most of the rest of the world. A deification of gun rights enumerated about 200 years ago in different times and under different circumstances that bear no semblance to the reality of the US today is nothing short of bearing witness to false gods. This change of emphasis on the meaning of the 2nd amendment is a recent phenomenon (2001 on) with prior SCOTUS thought favoring the collective right ("well ordered militia") as opposed to the individual right that Heller (2008) codified into law.No other enumerated rights (freedom of religion, speech or assembly) are without restrictions. (I don't know if redress of grievances is restricted or not. Maybe in case of martial law?) There is no reason that the "right" to bear arms cannot and should not be restricted.When the number of gun deaths is expected to EXCEED the number of auto-related deaths by 2015 (http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/gun-deaths-set-outstrip-car-fataliti...) America has gone beyond the pale. The 2nd Amendment, as currently interpreted, in highly detrimental to the safety and good order of this country and needs to be either repealed or severly reinterpreted via amendment.

I don't know if they carry guns or not, but Sidwell Friends School has a Security department staffed by eleven people. Seven members of the staff have the title "Special Police Office". Sidwell is currently looking to hire another SPO. This position requires a "SPO license". https://www.sidwell.edu/directories/index.aspx?FirstName=&LastName=&Depa...

Frank, that is not surprising given the high profile of the school. Most schools that I know of have some form of security. Never mind the guns -- they don't want strangers walking away with a kid or a custody battle kidnapping or something. It's pretty much standard operating procedure.

All our children are not in danger.Thomas FarrellReally? Can you let me know which ones are not? On December 13, 2012, would you have said the children in Sandy Hook Elementary were among those not in danger?

As a Canadian, I must say that every day I become more and more thankful that we made an effort to not be American 200 years ago. I think as a group you are inventive, artistic, scientific, religious, business minded.....and completely mad. Very few people want to ask the question, why does this only happen to this degree in America?I read somewhere today that if you keep a gun in the home it is 42 times more likely that it will be used for a suicide than to defend yourself against an intruder. Where is the logic?

Gerelyn --The hatred has gotten so bad that every time I turn on a TV news program I pray that the worst hasn't happened. But what can be done about the mass hatred-hyteria that has demonized both the President and the government? The haters' fear is apparently quite real and strong. How to change them?

A Sidwell grad tells the Dish about the school's security deatils:http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2013/01/the-nras-attack-ad-backf...

St. Albans and Sidwell have never had armed guards on campus. At Sidwell, this claim is particularly noxious, as it is a Quaker school. There was a great deal of uproar within the Sidwell community as to how to address the security needs of the President and his daughter against the school's core value of nonviolence. An accommodation was made, but for the most part, Agents did not accompany Chelsea to classes, and were not visible on campus. A detail sat in an SUV in the parking lot, another monitored what happened in the building in an office with CCTV. While I am sure they were armed, it was not obvious, so the claim of "armed guards" is ridiculous. Indeed, the greatest controversy arose in preparations for the final meeting for worship for graduating seniors and their families. President Clinton was in attendance, but the Secret Service agreed to keep all weapons outside the room in which the meeting was held. Sidwell's own "Special Police Officers" are simply security guards that you'd find at any school. They are not armed with guns, nor do they have access to guns (whether this is because of DC's restrictive gun laws, the school's Quaker values or a recognition that arming people increases the likelihood of negative outcomes, I'm unsure). There are eleven of them because they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I'd expect that no more than four including supervisors would be on duty at any given time, and that's to protect a campus of 5th through 12th graders, approximately 800 students.

I don't understand why it's OK to have guns on a non-violence campus if they just aren't seen.

What are people thinking? Do they want to see police armed with even more deadly weapons to combat the horrific ones carried by extremists? Do they believe weapons capable of up to 100 shots without reloading will result in fewer casualties? Do they really think some idiot will shoot back and endanger all those innocent bystanders? Are we into some kind of siege mentality that sees terrorists, rapists, burglars and an eventual government take-over as an everyday threat?

The NRA vicious ad just demonstrates how immoral that agency is. "An evil can't stand discussion. What kills the skunk is the publicity its gives itself." Abraham Lincoln's description of slaveholders' hysterical reaction to the possibility of emancipation applies to that ad.

I GUESS THE NRA IS REALLY LOSING IT'S SIGHTS ON WHAT REALLY MATTERS HERE.TO WAYNE BOY IF YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR 100 SHOT DRUM YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SHOOT YOUR DEER DEAD. AS FOE PROTECTION OF THE PRESIDENT AND FAMILY: ALL PRESIDENTS GET OR RECEIVED PROTECTION WHILE IN OFFICE AND OUT. THAT INCLUDED THEIR FAMILY AS WELL. BUT THE NRA BEING A REPUBLICAN ENTITY ONLY ATTACKS DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTS. DOES WAYNE HAVE BODY GUARDS TO PROTECT HIM ALSO? HOW MANY MORE NUT CASES ARE THE NRA GOING TO DEFEND? IF YOU BUY A HANDGUN AT A GUN SHOW THEN UNDERGO THE BACKGROUND CHECK. OR MAYBE WAYNE AND COMPANY WOULD RATHER SEE THESE CRAZIES OUT THERE SO THAT THEY CAN KEEP MAKING THE ARGUMENT THAT AMERICA NEEDS MORE GUNS TO PROTECT AGAINST SUCH ACTIONS? EITHER WAY,THE NRA IS OUT OF STEP WITH THE REST OF AMERICA AND MOST LAW ABIDING CITIZENS. AND BTW: YES, I WAS A HUNTER UNTIL I WAS NO LONGER ALLOWED TO HUNT BY MY DOCTORS. I USED AN 8MM OR A 7MM. GREAT SHOOTING FIREARMS.

The NRA suggestion that the answer to gun violence is more guns is absurd on its face, and pretty much proves that the organization is controlled, not by members, but by the arms industry. It's MONEY, folks. And sports commentator Frank Deford suggested immediately after the Newtown massacre that gun control would only happen when NRA members themselves join in demanding it. I don't believe for a minute that most NRA officials actually believe the nonsense they peddle. There may be a few who do, and they are the ones who need the mental health treatment being suggested. After all, paranoia is a mental disorder.It's worth noting that George H. W. Bush cancelled his membership in the NRA many years ago. I'm guessing he saw it being taken over by fanatics like the "from my cold dead hands" president who in fact did suffer from Alzheimer's, if I'm not mistaken.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.