After five days of what it called respectful silence — to give "time for mourning, prayer, and a full investigation of the facts" — the National Rifle Association released a statement Tuesday on the murder of 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The powerful and politically influential gun lobbying group said its members were "were shocked, saddened, and heartbroken" by the "senseless murders," and announced it will hold a "major news conference" on Friday. The most intriguing part of the brief statement, though, was the NRA's promise to "offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again." Given the gun lobby's give-no-ground history, NRA critics are skeptical. But as Marc Tracy points out in The New Republic, the NRA's formulaic statements after previous mass shootings "have been far more dismissive than this one." So just what is the NRA willing to put on the table after Sandy Hook? A few possibilities:
Maybe the NRA really is ready to compromise
Offering anything is "an astonishing about-turn" for the "normally intransigent" gun group, says Ewen MacAskill at Britain's The Guardian. So maybe the NRA's "conciliatory comment" about meaningful help is a genuine offer to soften its hard-line anti-regulation stance. The group has "never before faced such an outpouring of outrage," even from some of its members and supporters, so backing some popular gun-control measures might be good for its survival. And after Sandy Hook, says Adriana Velez at The Stir, we need "a healing and productive conversation" about gun control, and that must start at "a fresh place of trust and openness." So I choose to view "the NRA's statement as a hopeful gesture of compromise — and much-needed leadership."
The NRA won't do anything helpful
"The only 'meaningful contributions' the NRA has ever made to public safety have been malignant ones," and that won't change because of Sandy Hook, says the New York Daily News in an editorial. This is just another version of what the NRA always does after massacres — offer vaguely soothing words, then wait until the outrage dies to kneecap any legislation. "Barring the possibility that pigs start flying, look for the NRA to engage in evasions about everything other than guns that may have come into play in murdering 20 children." We can't let them shift the conversation like that. This is the start of "an epic battle to stop mass murders in the U.S.," and the NRA will fight on the wrong side until it is defeated.
The NRA will blame mental illness, not guns
Here's the prediction from one-time right-wing blogger Charles Johnson:
At the NRA presser, watch for a strong emphasis on the "mental illness" angle. They've had proxies pushing this to the media all week.
— Charles Johnson (@Green_Footballs) December 18, 2012
That sounds about right, says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. Blaming the mentally ill "worked like a charm for the gun lobby after the Virginia Tech shootings," after all. But it's likely beside the point here, says Melinda Henneberger at The Washington Post. We don't know enough about what was going on mentally or emotionally with the shooter, Adam Lanza, but neither his reported Asperger's nor any meds he was on would account for this rampage. In fact, "Asperger's isn't a mental illness at all, but a developmental disorder," a high-function form of autism, and there's no link between it and violence. "I hope we won't waste too much time arguing over whether stricter gun laws, better mental health treatment, or pushing back against violent video games is the right place to start; surely the answer is all of the above."
Or maybe the NRA will focus on violence in Hollywood
Friday's press conference is the start of the NRA's belated push back against New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and the rest of the "gun-control lobby," says James Rosen at Fox News. According to one source close to the NRA:
If we're going to have a conversation, then let's have a comprehensive conversation.... If we're going to talk about the Second Amendment, then let's also talk about the First Amendment, and Hollywood, and the video games that teach young kids how to shoot heads. If you really want to stop incidents like this, passing one more law is not going to do a damn thing. Columbine happened when? In 1999. Smack in the middle of the original assault-weapons ban.
Hey, thanks for the reminder "that the original assault weapons ban was inadequate!" says Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos. Violent movies and video games are popular around the developed world, yet the U.S. is the only country with a recent history littered with dead first-graders, moviegoers, Sikh worshippers, and all sorts of other mass-murder victims. This lack of a real argument is probably why the NRA is waiting to hold its news conference on Friday, just "in time to get buried by the holidays."