Living in the NRA's `hellish world'

The destructive sweep of Hurricane Sandy was such that it took some days for outside relief agencies and the news media to arrive in force in southern Brooklyn, where I live. During that time, relief efforts sprang up locally through houses of worship and neighborhood organizations, providing emergency food, shelter, clothing and supplies. It was a time when the community came together, aided by police, firefighters and ambulance workers - a moment to be proud of, really. After news reports spread word of the devastation the hurricane had caused in this part of the city, help poured in from the outside.Leave it to the National Rifle Association to view this through a lens more distorted than a Coney Island funhouse mirror. NRA executive Wayne LaPierre wrote a column - really a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction - about this that was wrong and self-serving:

No wonder Americans are buying guns in record numbers right now, while they still can and before their choice about which firearm is right for their family is taken away forever.After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.Anti-gun New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had already done everything he could to prevent law-abiding New Yorkers from owning guns, and he has made sure that no ordinary citizen will ever be allowed to carry a gun.

It is true that there was an uptick in burglaries since so many homes were abandoned, and that quite a few people lived in soaked, unheated buildings so that they would not be unoccupied. But, as the New York Daily News reports, crime was down. There was some looting initially in Coney Island, but police quickly stepped in and made arrests. Early news reports turned out to have exaggerated the looting. The NYPD maintained order.The work of the police would have been immeasurably more difficult and dangerous if LaPierre had his way and had armed every citizen with the firearm of his or her choice. That, indeed, would have made for a "hellish world."

Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses. 

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