Dana Milbank, Published February 02 2013
Milbank: NRA goons, LaPierre turned logic on its headWayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s chief executive, arrived for his hearing on Capitol Hill in the organization’s trademark fashion: violently.
When he and his colleagues stepped off the elevator in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Wednesday morning and found TV cameras waiting in the hallway, LaPierre’s bodyguards swung into action. One of them, in blatant violation of congressional rules, bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked.
“You don’t have jurisdiction here!” a cameraman protested as an NRA goon pushed him against a wall. After the melee, congressional officials informed the NRA officials that, in the halls of Congress, they had to follow congressional procedures, which prohibit manhandling.
From beginning to end, LaPierre’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a study in vainglory. The written testimony he submitted to Congress came with a biography describing him as a “Renaissance man,” a “skilled hunter,” and an “acclaimed speaker and political force of nature” as he preserved freedom.
After his decades with the group, LaPierre is the public face of the NRA, and the man gun control advocates most love to hate. His unsmiling manner, his snarling statements and even his memorable name are from villainy central casting.
Usually, LaPierre comes out the victor in these tangles, and on Wednesday he was so confident of another win that he boldly declared that the NRA would oppose the most innocuous of proposals to reduce gun violence: criminal background checks.
Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., reminded LaPierre that the NRA once supported checks with “no loopholes anywhere, for anyone.” So does the NRA favor closing the “gun-show loophole” that allows people to avoid background checks?
“We do not,” LaPierre replied.
His reasoning, as always, is that existing gun laws aren’t being enforced, but he seems to have pulled the evidence out of his gun barrel. “Out of more than 76,000 firearms purchases supposedly denied by the federal instant check system, only 62 were referred for prosecution,” LaPierre declared in his opening statement.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., looked up the actual statistic. “In 2012 more than 11,700 defendants were charged with federal gun crimes,” Whitehouse said, “a lot more than 62.”
LaPierre had been caught. “So those – the 62, senator, statistic, was for Chicago alone,” he clarified, a salient fact omitted from his original testimony.
The NRA chief made all the well-known arguments against gun laws; he reminded senators that the founders didn’t want Americans to “live under tyranny,” and he agreed with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that the proposed ban on assault weapons merely targets “cosmetic features” of guns. LaPierre also added the novel idea that people may need guns if they are “abandoned by their government if a tornado hits, if a hurricane hits.”
Most people don’t have such apocalyptic paranoia. But LaPierre’s job is to stir up the active minority of people who are frightened and resentful. “If you’re in the elite, you get bodyguards,” he told the senators. “You get high-cap mags with semiautomatics protecting this whole Capitol. The titans of industry get the bodyguards.” He said it’s only “the hard-working, law-abiding, taxpaying American that we’re going to make the least capable of defending themselves.”
Minutes after that denunciation of the well-protected elites, LaPierre rejoined his bodyguards, who were waiting in a back room.
Milbank’s email is email@example.com.