As has proven to be the standard in the days following a mass shooting or other major gun violence incident in the United States, the National Rifle Association often tends to place blame, instead of ever acknowledging the role that firearms play in shootings. The organization has previously assigned culpability to the country's mental health system, as well as video games, music, and the media for fostering a culture of violence, among other things. So, in the hours after two students and a teacher were wounded by a shooter in an elementary school Wednesday afternoon, it was hardly surprising that the NRA did not immediately respond to the Townville Elementary shooting in South Carolina — and there's no reason to expect that its members will show any willingness to pursue commonsense solutions to the country's gun violence epidemic when it finally does.
The emerging details of what happened at Townville Elementary School — many of which remain opaque, although the suspect is in custody — are disturbingly reminiscent of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, during which a gunman murdered 20 first-graders and six adults. After that tragedy, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre repeated the tired line that more guns in the school would have mitigated the heartbreak.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said at a press event, according to NBC News. "With all the money in the federal budget, can’t we afford to put a police officer in every single school?"
But the "good guy with a gun" argument met its match three and a half years later, when, in June 2016, a shooter killed 49 people and injured 53 more inside an LGBT nightclub in Orlando. The fact that there was an armed, off-duty police officer in the club who did engage the shooter (and his semiautomatic weapon) did not stop this from becoming the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
But in that case, too, the NRA opted to deflect. In an op-ed published in USA Today, Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, called out President Obama and "political correctness" — i.e. efforts to keep dangerous people from owning weapons designed to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible — for making the attack possible. "They are desperate to create the illusion that they’re doing something to protect us because their policies can’t and won’t keep us safe," Cox wrote. "This transparent head-fake should scare every American, because it will do nothing to prevent the next attack."
But here's the rub: In December, six months before the nightclub attack, congressional Republicans voted down legislation that would have prevented people on terror watch lists from purchasing firearms. Omar Mateeen, the man responsible for the ambush, had previously been included on one of those lists, and Politico reported that the proposed legislation likely would have included him in the group barred from legally purchasing the weapons he used, as he did. (Predictably, considering the NRA's enormous lobbying power, subsequent efforts to pass similar legislation post-Orlando have failed as well.)
Perhaps the most egregious of the stubborn, callous responses to mass shootings throughout the United States that the NRA leveraged to promote its pro-gun agenda — from Virginia Tech to Aurora to San Bernardino — came after the murder of nine people in a black church in North Carolina in 2015. George C. Pinckney was a pastor at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as a state legislator, when he died at the hands of a white supremacist who gunned down a bible study group. In the aftermath, NRA board member Charles L. Cotton had the audacity to fault him for the tragedy.
"He voted against concealed-carry," Cotton wrote in a since-deleted post on TexasCHLForum.com, NBC News reported. "Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue."
To blame a victim of gun violence — and racism, but that's another story — for his own death and that of others is out of touch at best, and horrifically uncaring at worst. And the NRA is doing even more widespread damage in its clamoring to depict any effort to control gun in this country as a threat to the American people, especially when the evidence suggests that it would, in fact, keep us safer.
The NRA has not yet responded to the shooting in South Carolina. Regardless, it's all but certain that, when it does, it will be to endorse pumping schools with more and more guns. It will ignore that gun control control could be a viable option to reducing violence, and it will revamp its efforts to combat efforts to make guns less readily accessible to potentially dangerous people. And that will all but ensure that something like this will happen again.