Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Second life for a bad idea
The National Rifle Association has gone over the edge. That's not news. I think many of us gave up on the NRA ten years ago when they were practically defending Timothy McVey. Still, this week's outrage is an especially ugly development, even for them.
All options should be considered to prevent rampages like the Minnesota school shooting that took 10 lives — including making guns available to teachers, a top National Rifle Association leader said Friday.

"I'm not saying that that means every teacher should have a gun or not, but what I am saying is we need to look at all the options at what will truly protect the students," the NRA's first vice president, Sandra S. Froman, told The Associated Press.

Surprisingly, the NRA is not the first group to suggest this bad idea. Back during the Columbine aftermath Larry Pratt, director and founder of a group called the Gun Owners of America, made the same suggestion. His exact phrasing was, "We're saddened that there were not teachers and principals who had access to a gun, who might have been able to stop the mayhem," creating the the image of a firefight across a crowded cafeteria. GOA is a group that considers the NRA too soft on gun control.

Pratt is quite a figure on the farthest right. According to PublicEye, Pratt:
Has founded several groups that are to the right of their right-wing counterparts: English First (as opposed to U.S. English), Gun Owners of America (as opposed to the National Rifle Association), U.S. Border Control (as opposed to FAIR) and the antichoice Committee to Protect the Family. Resigned as co-chair of Pat Buchanan’s national campaign in 1996 after allegations linked him to militias and White supremacist organizations. A ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

At the time of Columbine, Pratt was ignored because it was obvious that only a complete idiot would suggest such a thing. Now the NRA has embraced his position.

There is a very ugly dynamic going on here; David Neiwert discussed it in detail in his fascism monographs. The flirtation with the extreme right conducted by the Republican Party and right wing media creates a mechanism for extremist ideas to become legitimized and transported into the mainstream public consciousness. Repetition and familiarity make the ideas sound less extreme. It's actually a two way transmission.

Radical ideas and positions are moved into the "center" during their adoption by progressively more mainstream figures while those same mainstream figures are progressively radicalized. In time the whole political spectrum moves right. When the inarticulate guy in fatigues outside his bunker says it, it's crazy. When the angry guy on the radio says it, it's wild, but not completely over the edge. When the glib white men with good haircuts say it while sitting around their table on TV, it's an idea whose time may have finally come.

But it’s still a bad idea.

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