The host of the National Rifle Association's radio show reacted to the fatal shooting of two journalists in Virginia by attacking “anti-gun politicians” and “anti-gun activists” for using the tragedy to call for stronger gun laws, claiming they “politicized” it and demonstrated “a lack of shared humanity.”
But not only is the NRA hypocritical for saying gun policy debates should be off-limits after a shooting -- it has used mass shootings to call for looser gun laws -- it's also self-serving, because its political agenda benefits when potential new laws that it opposes are not debated and discussed.
The NRA's declaration that this is not the time to discuss gun policy also stands in stark contrast to comments made just hours after the shooting by the father of one of the victims, who said publicly that he will make it his life's work to convince politicians to close loopholes in gun laws.
During the morning of August 26, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, of Roanoke, Virginia's ABC affiliate station WDBJ, were gunned down while doing a live report from a recreation area. The shooter, who later that day committed suicide, was a disgruntled former co-worker. The tragedy quickly made national headlines and prompted calls for stronger gun laws and action by President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife (D).
Later that same day during an afternoon broadcast, Cam Edwards, host of the NRA radio show, Cam & Company, lashed out at people who consider this latest incident of shocking public gun violence as more evidence the nation needs stronger gun laws.
Edwards complained, “Before we know any of the details, we are seeing anti-gun politicians, anti-gun activists trying to turn this tragedy into some sort of political advantage,” and went on to characterize calls for new gun laws as “the wrong response to take here. I think it shows a lack of shared humanity.”
He went on to lament, “It has been really disheartening to see in a matter of minutes how this story became politicized,” and said, “This is a community that is absolutely heartbroken right now and you've got people who are trying to turn this tragedy into some sort of political advantage for them[selves]. I just think it's gross.”
That reaction typifies the gun group's strategy whenever a shooting captures national headlines. Hiding behind expressions of concern for the victims of the attack, the NRA condemns anyone who sees the violence as a reason to change or reform laws and accuses them of “politicizing” a tragedy.
This argument is nonsensical. As Ezra Klein explained for The Washington Post following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, saying that it's not appropriate to talk about new gun laws “is a form of politicization”:
When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don't talk about reforming our gun control laws.”
Let's be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It's just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.
With statements that attempt to police what can and can't be said following a shooting, the NRA not only seeks to shut down debate that could lead to tougher gun laws, it also purports to speak for the victims and their family members.
But no one who has been personally affected by gun violence needs the NRA to speak for them. Certainly not Parker's father, who appeared on Fox News the night his daughter was shot and made an impassioned plea for gun reform.
Noting that he had spoken by phone with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Andy Parker said: “I'm going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns,” adding that McAullife told him, “I'm right there with you”:
ANDY PARKER: And, you know, I'm not going to let this issue drop. We've got to do something about crazy people getting guns. And, you know, and the problem that you guys have is that -- and I know it's the news business and this is a big story. But next week it isn't going to be a story anymore and everybody is going to forget it. But you mark my words, my mission in life -- and I talked to the governor today. He called me and he said -- and I told him, I said, I'm going to do something, whatever it takes, to get gun legislation to shame people, to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes in background checks and making sure crazy people don't get guns. And he said, you go, I'm right there with you. So, you know, this is not the last you've heard of me. This is something that is Alison's legacy that I want to make happen.