Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, addressed a packed ballroom at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday morning, where he staked out a terrifying new position for his pro-gun rights group: The NRA, LaPierre insisted, is essentially a police force.
“We’re one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the United States if you look at our membership. And we’re proud of that,” LaPierre told CPAC attendees, after a rambling preamble about the greatness of guns.
“Everywhere I go, I get a police officer coming up to me, thanking me, saying ‘I’m a member of your organization. Keep up what you’re doing,’” he continued.
In some respects, LaPierre’s comments aren’t all that surprising; it’s not too hard to draw a straight line from cops to guns to the nation’s top gun lobby. But the overt framing of the NRA as a pseudo-law enforcement agency is a terrifying development. Essentially, LaPierre contents, his well-funded, private lobbying group speaks with a moral and legal authority on par with the police.
LaPierre wasn’t finished. Next, he pivoted to praising the “tens of thousands” of “decent, honorable” employees at the FBI.
“But,” he added, “as we’ve learned in the recent months, even the FBI is not free of its own corruption and its own unethical agents.”
I can understand a few bad apples in an organization as large at the FBI, but what’s hard to understand is why no one at the FBI stood up and called BS on its rogue leadership.
I mean, really, where was the systemic resistance and repulsion that should protect every powerful institution that serves us? The lowest ranking marine knows to resist an unlawful order. The rank and file in every powerful institution must police its own leadership. But still, too much of today’s Washington no one speaks out. No one challenges authority. Everyone keeps their mouths closed and their heads down, and that’s exactly how socialistic societies function
Take a step back, and the picture LaPierre is attempting to paint becomes clear. Not only is the NRA a de-facto “law enforcement organization” in his mind, but now he’s urging rogue FBI agents to consider a mutiny against their leadership—all in the interest of fighting “socialistic societies.”
The NRA, at its core, has always been an organization built to raise money and protect the interests of gun manufacturers and owners: that and nothing else. Any lip service about “rights” and “freedoms” is all in the service of its ultimate its raison d’être. But with LaPierre’s CPAC comments, the moral bankruptcy of group, which survives by downplaying the real human cost of unchecked gun violence, has taken a step in a dangerous direction—one in which the NRA seeks to trade its massive lobbying clout for institutional authority over the lives of everyone, not just its members.
And that should scare the shit out of you.