Posted by Thomas Nephew on 20th December 2012
I’ve rarely been as upset by an event as by the Newtown killings; the only similar thing I can think of right now is 9/11. On learning of the massacre on Friday, I’d thrown my papers at my computer screen, walked out of the office about for a minute, came back, angrily typed “FUCK THE GOD DAMNED NRA” on my Facebook page, hesitated for a moment, and posted it.
Deciding to go
Amid a variety of responses (mostly positive), one friend supplied some more coherent words to go with the sentiment:
“It’s like with the weather and global warming: We can’t say for certain that the NRA’s tooth-and-nail opposition to any sort of reasonable gun regulation anytime anywhere led directly to this particular incident. But we CAN say for certain that the NRA’s tooth-and-nail opposition to any sort of reasonable gun regulation anytime anywhere makes incidents like this one much more likely to happen. So, yes: FUCK THE GOD DAMNED NRA.”
That’s it. This country has half the world’s firearms and 80% of the gun deaths among the 23 richest countries. Either we’re genetically crazier and meaner than anywhere else, or something else is going on. I think it’s the militancy of the NRA, a combination lobbyist/chamber of gun commerce organization that helps make owning even the most absurdly overpowered gun seem virtuous to zealots, and that helps oppose even the most minimal of regulations.
So when I saw there was a plan to march to a DC office of the NRA, I felt like I had to join it or feel like I’d let myself down, even if it was during work hours. I did so despite some misgivings: would this event become Exhibit X in gun advocates’ case that they’re the ones being persecuted? Might it be better to just ignore the NRA and take our signs and demands elsewhere? I decided I was overthinking it — especially once I saw the online gun nut hordes descend on the Facebook event page, sneering, jeering, and (I think) strongly suggesting to anyone else “wow, Adam Lanza probably thought all of this crazy stuff too.”
I ducked out of work at 11:30*, and arrived at the gathering place at New Jersey and D Street, SE around noon — a few blocks from the Capitol Building, with its “in session” light on.
Three short videos: (1) demonstration, (2) interview with demonstrator
Deb Morris, (3) interview with demonstrator Mary Ester; all 3 play
automatically in sequence. Or click a link for a single video.
I found a crowd of maybe a couple hundred people and what seemed like a couple of dozen newspeople and professional cameramen and -women. (As ever, everybody had a camera or smart phone and was busily snapping pictures or recording the scene.)
An organizer reminded the crowd, perhaps unnecessarily, that “this is a solemn occasion,” and urged us not to get into confrontations with any counterprotesters.We then took the short, two block walk to the NRA Federal Affairs Division at 410 1st St SE — apparently in the same building as the popular “Bullfeathers” pub. Either the “Shame on the NRA!” chant felt a little too confrontational at first, or I’m not the only one who just doesn’t like chanting in unison in the first place. But then a guy who turned out to be a Republican media consultant leaned out of his office window above a neighboring Subway store, and yelled “Arm the teachers!” After that most of us were just fine with “Shame on the NRA.”
The rally itself was a little awkwardly staged, but served the purpose of learning just what the NRA’s many absurd legislative priorities and views are. Organizers read each item in the 2012 NRA House Candidate Survey to the crowd — each paired with the name and age of one of the little victims in Newtown — and then we all answered together “NO we disagree about [lengthy NRA candidate survey position]! Shame on the NRA!” Since some of the items ran to forty words, this made for a slightly tedious demonstration experience, but whatever. Here are the crowd responses prompted by the organizers, numbered to correspond to the NRA survey:
- I disagree with the NRA and would support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale or transfer of semi-automatic firearms and ammunition magazines capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition.
- I disagree with the NRA and oppose national Right-to-Carry reciprocity legislation.
- I believe that all firearms transactions — including private transfers between non-licensees, such as family members and friends — should be federally regulated, and I support additional legislation to require the federal government to approve all private firearms transfers.
- (NRA item skipped in rally list: Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco firearms sales reporting requirements in Southwestern states)
- I disagree with the NRA and believe imported firearms should be treated differently than identical American manufactured firearms.
- No, I disagree with the NRA [that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms and that it applies to all Americans regardless of where they live in the United States.] **
- I disagree with the NRA and oppose protection from disclosure of firearms trace data.
- I disagree with the NRA. All firearms should be banned.**