Opinion: Bring me your fire and brimstone

WASHINGTON — Oh, for God’s sake.

What else can one say about the week after Florida’s high school massacre? Funerals for the 17 students and faculty were barely begun before rhetoric on the right descended into indecency.

FULL COVERAGE: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Much of it came from the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a gathering of the extreme right who snack on brimstone. Speaking to the mostly young crowd, politicians and officials from the National Rifle Association went ballistic over recent talk of gun control. Low points included characterizing the media as loving mass shootings and as wanting to advance its socialist agenda.

Is this really the best we can do? I ask this not as a member of the media but as someone who: grew up with guns; lives in a house with guns; knows how to shoot and is good at it; doesn’t object to hunting for food; has friends in the NRA. 

I’ve weathered my share of gun spookiness, in other words, with the result that I’m neither anti-gun, nor a socialist. I do not, however, feel the need to pose in pictures wearing a tight-fitting dress and heels, while holding my very own AR-15, as NRA spokesvixen Dana Loesch does on the cover of her book. 

A few highlights from the lectern:

Loesch, who gained prominence as a “conservative” radio host, projected a she-devil in Prada when she pointed to members of the media and said, “Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many of the legacy media in the back.”

I once managed to cross the storm-tossed Strait of Gibraltar with my stomach intact, but this vile idiocy is too much.

Crying white mothers? Loesch explained that black mothers are crying every day and “you don’t see town halls for them,” she said. Obviously, Loesch was making oblique reference to Chicago — a pro-gun talking point that finds its way to my email folder every day. The point: Chicago’s gun deaths by handgun far outnumber the totals by AR-15 or other semi-automatic weapons. Different story, often covered. What’s true is that school shootings seem to be the domain of white boys focused on killing their mostly white peers.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., a human bellows (useful at campfires), criticized CNN’s townhall as an “infomercial,” and said calls for new restrictions were “tiresome.” As are so many people these days. “Every time you see a horrific crime, people in the media and Democratic politicians immediately try to leap on it to advance their agenda,” which is to “(strip) the Second Amendment rights away from law-abiding citizens.”

No, actually, the media follow news. A school massacre qualifies. And, yes, people want to know more as a way of seeking solutions. But hating media is how many Republicans pass the buck. Their accusations are a distraction, the roots of which can be traced to evil. You can’t talk about freedom while also making an argument for gutting the First Amendment.

Longtime NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre cited the Democrats’ “socialist” agenda and, without irony, said, “as usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain.” Check.

Therein lies the problem in any debate these days. We’re either on the slippery slope to serfdom or everybody gets an AR-15. Surely there is sane ground in between such extremes. LaPierre may have many valid points, but when he, Loesch and others speak in tongues of hyperbole and conspiratorial incantations, they are not to be taken seriously.

When the final showdown is between the NRA and children who have just buried their friends, brothers, sisters, teachers and coach, something is deadly wrong in this country.

Writes for The Washington Post.

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