The Magazine

Target: NRA

Caught in the media’s crosshairs.

May 20, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 34 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic Wire wrote an even more preposterous account of the convention, illustrated with unflattering animated GIFs and conjuring the image of watching Sarah Palin “barf.” Noted Reeve: “Several speakers devoted part of their speeches to media criticism, saying the big bad MSM had been mean to them. .  .  . ‘Acronyms,’ Sarah Palin said, like MSNBC, CBS, ABC, ‘one day they will think themselves accursed that they were not in this fight with us.’ ” If that hick Moosetown mayor doesn’t think much of the media, it might be because when she quotes Shakespeare it flies over the heads of writers at one of America’s oldest journalism outlets.

Reeve wasn’t wrong in noting that “our terrible media” was the unofficial theme of the NRA convention. “God forbid that anyone says anything the media elitists don’t want to hear. Those in the media, yeah, you know what I’m talking about, they think they know better than we do. They think they’re smarter than we are,” NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said a few hours before Palin took the stage. “During the past few months the media’s engaged in a vicious effort to attack the Second Amendment and demonize lawful American gun owners.”

If the media really cared about passing additional gun control measures, it might behoove them to dial back their contempt. Even though new gun regulations failed in the Senate, a number of Republicans in politically perilous positions, such as Arizona senator Jeff Flake, have made it known they’re still very willing to consider expanding background checks and other new gun restrictions.

But as West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin, one of the primary drivers of a recent Senate bill to expand background checks, told the Atlantic last week, the strident posture of gun control advocates is doing more harm than good. He insists “there’s a lot the NRA likes in [the Toomey-Manchin gun] bill.” By contrast, he’s made it clear President Obama and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to shame the NRA and gun control opponents have been counterproductive to getting gun legislation passed.

“If you were in a state such as West Virginia or North Dakota or Arkansas, which is a rural state and it’s mostly gone red in national elections, how would you approach that? Would you say, ‘I’m going to beat Joe Manchin up because he didn’t vote the way he should have?’ ” Manchin told the Atlantic’s David Graham. “Or would you say, ‘I’m going to appeal to law-abiding gun owners in the state,’ and give me enough support from my constituents that I don’t have to do hand-to-hand combat with?”

If Manchin wants the gun control crowd to start appealing to law-abiding gun owners, he’s got his work cut out for him. The night before he bemoaned the inability to forge a consensus on new gun measures, his Senate colleague, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show and said the following: “The Second Amendment is not an absolute right, not a God-given right, it has always had conditions upon it like the First Amendment has. The idea that the Second Amendment was put in there in order to allow citizens to fight their government is insane. .  .  . The Second Amendment is not designed to allow the citizenry to arm itself against the government.”

A United States senator went on national TV and denied the plain historical fact of armed rebellion of citizens against an unjust government as the reason for America’s founding, not to mention the clear justification of the Second Amendment. And if you don’t trust a guy like Chris Murphy not to infringe on your constitutional rights, well, clearly you’re “insane.” True to her commitment as a media watchdog, Rachel Maddow forged ahead, uncritical of what Murphy said.

So long as the media and gun control advocates keep brandishing their ignorance, demonizing the opposition, and treating the NRA as a fringe special interest as opposed to one of the nation’s largest and most enthusiastically supported grassroots groups, creating compromise and passing any new gun control measures in Washington seems unlikely. This may compound the vitriol in an already tense gun debate, but for now the NRA is all too happy to offer its critics some cheese with their whine.

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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