As progressives from across the nation gathered at their annual Netroots conference, one conservative organization found itself on the lips of many speakers as enemy number one — the National Rifle Association.
While House and Senate Republicans, pro-life activists, former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Koch Brothers received their usual share of lambasting, no one had a target on its back quite like the NRA.
“The NRA isn’t [just] selling guns, they’re selling fear and mistrust of government,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said Friday at the “Not Another Newtown: Building a Movement to Prevent Gun Violence” keynote panel.
“The NRA is selling fear, mainly fear of government,” echoed Matt Gertz, deputy research director at Media Matters for America, at a panel Saturday on “Disarming the NRA: Debunking Misinformation on Guns and Gun Violence.”
Three panels at the three-day-long conference were aimed at taking down the NRA, including Friday’s keynote, when the schedule was cleared of any other events so all of the conference’s attendees could sit in on a panel about changing gun culture in America. Among the insults hurled at the NRA were that the organization doesn’t represent responsible gun owners like it says it does and it exists to lobby on behalf of gun manufacturers.
The Netroots crowd also offered no shortage of disgust for the failure of the Manchin-Toomey background check bill and said the anti-gun lobby should continue to fight despite its defeat.
“Shame on [the NRA] for what they’re doing, but shame on us if we let them roll over us,” said “Not Another Newtown” panelist Lily Eskelsen Garcia, vice president of the National Education Association.
In response to the criticism from Netroots panelists, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told Red Alert Politics progressives shouldn’t be focusing their efforts on limiting the rights of law-abiding gun owners, but on fixing the “broken mental health system” and keeping children safe.
“Well if they want to shame us, I’m not going to stop them,” Arulanandam said. “I will say the NRA unapologetically stands up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners. We’ve done so for almost a decade and a half, and we’ll continue to do so without apology.”
Glaze — whose group recently listed Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev and ex-LAPD shooter Chris Dorner among the victims of gun violence — said also claimed during the Newtown panel that 52 percent of American households had a gun in the ’70s. In 2011, he said, that number had declined to only one-third.
“Kids today, while they support freedom and less government, also kind of buy the argument about keeping people safe at the same time,” he explained. “What you’re seeing with the NRA and the other parts of the gun lobby becoming more and more radical — even as they’re rank-and-file and ordinary folks is the struggle for survival.”
He then remarked that because fewer people are purchasing guns, gun manufacturers have to sell more expensive guns such as the AR-15 to maintain their lucrative business model and the “political potency that they’re unwilling to give up.”
Of course no liberal discussion about money and conservatives is complete without the Left bringing up its other favorite fixation — the Koch Brothers. At the “Disarming the NRA” panel, panelists complained about big-money backers like the Kochs promulgating the NRA’s message. Ironically, their solution to the ‘dark money’ of the right was to get some dark money of their own.
“I hate to boil it down to money, but it doesn’t hurt,” Laura Cutilletta, a senior staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, noted.
Cutilletta then reassured pro-gun control advocates that the backing of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D) and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns campaign would help spread their message.