The NRA’s Missed Opportunity, Post-Sandy Hook

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders there have been numerous debates nationwide about more facets and variations (and micro variations) of the incident.  More variations than can be discussed here.

However, on December 21, 2012, Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association CEO, read a prepared statement joining a Nation’s horror and outrage over the massacre, and offering condolences to the grieving parents.  This portion of the statement was expected, on cue and no surprise to anyone.  What did surprise many Americans was LaPierre introducing the NRA’s long-term answer to school violence – National School Shield Emergency Response Program.  Seemed simple enough.  Good guys with guns in place to stop bad guys with guns.  But there was more than surprise; there was hotly expressed anger from not just left leaning citizens, politicians and media.  Some citizens that might identify themselves as moderate or even ambivalent about firearms were now angry.

I expected some of the anger, since frankly there is a certain segment of America that loathes the NRA.  But I was surprised that the anger was so widespread, so long lasting and so vocal.  Why the outrage?

After all, the NRA was simply suggesting that an armed presence at environments where our most vulnerable national assets congregate could prevent future tragedies.  Peace officers or armed school officials at schools.  To a gun owner and career law enforcement officer like me, LaPierre’s statement made perfect sense.  To so many of my friends, family and peers the plan simply made good sense.

After listening to the complaints about National School Shield proposal, it appeared so many of these angry citizens are simply angry about guns.  There could be no amount of NRA appeasement to calm the angry hordes and their metaphoric pitchforks – metaphoric for now.  The NRA simply should have kept the initial statement focused on support for the Newtown, CT. community and the families dragged into this nightmare.

Subsequent statements soon thereafter could have focused on well-aimed digs at officials politicizing the incident, shone the light on the poor accountability of the mental health care system, an entertainment industry that profits from bloodshed, etc.  In such a subsequent statement, there would have been no surprise and these ancillary topics would not have watered down the statement of condolences.  And finally, a separate statement introducing the National School Shield proposal could have been made.

The single December 21st statement encompassing so much information was too much and too soon for most palates.  The NRA statement gave the appearance of an organization trying to quickly to distance itself from a bad situation and absolve itself of all responsibility.  And both points are correct.  No organization like the NRA that is as beloved by its members as it is reviled be the Left wants to be associated with a watershed moment like Sandy Hook.  And in no way can any reasonable person associate the crimes of Adam Lanza with the NRA.

One of the Left’s current leaders, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is credited with the political advice, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  And in the aftermath of Sandy Hook the gun grabbing liberals activated quickly, smartly and with a sense of purpose.  Not so with the NRA.

The NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre is nationally perceived as the spokesman for all gun owners, though the actual member rolls would dispel that perception (an estimated 4 million members in a nation of about 100 million gun owners).  However, perception is reality.  And in this case the organizational mismanagement of this crisis – a crisis not of the NRA’s making, was allowed to go to waste.  It leaves the NRA in a position as the bad guy with guns.  And this leaves all law abiding gun owners in a position as bad guys (and gals) with guns.

You were way off target LaPierre – You need to check your political windage and elevation before squeezing off the next statement.

National Rifle Association

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California Teachers like Murderous Outlaws, but not Bushmaster Rifles

The idea behind a private group of investors directing their investment agent to move their money is not foreign, illegal, or even odd.  Investors will at times instruct agents to move money to back companies whose values match their own, or conversely, avoid companies whose values are counter to the investment group.  It is as American as the free market system we rely upon.  I would never pretend otherwise.

In the wake of the tragic Sandy Hook mass killing, it is this monetary muscle that is being flexed by the California State Teachers Retirement System, or CSTRS.  In fact, that muscle is moving a very weighty $500 million from Freedom Group, the company that owns Bushmaster.  As we all know now, the Sandy Hook murderer – I won’t repeat the monster’s name – used a Bushmaster rifle to kill twenty young school children and a handful of very brave, but unarmed teachers.[i]

CSTRS released a statement explaining the decision to pull away from Freedom Group was made in conjunction with their investment agent, Cerebus Capital Management.  The teacher’s retirement group also pointed out their investment policy is more than simply getting the most bang for their buck, but for, “their social, human, and environmental impacts as well.”  How noble.[ii]

Which takes us to the Alisal Union School District in Salinas, California.  Salinas is a little blue-collar town in the Central Coast region and home to about 153,000.  On December 5, 2012, the school board unanimously voted to name a new school after early Californian Tiburcio Vasquez.  Who is Tiburcio?  Depends on whom you ask.  To school district Superintendent John Ramirez, Tiburcio was a revolutionary.[iii]

But delving into the library of the University of Southern California paints a different picture of this early California Robin Hood.  Tiburcio is thought to have been California’s most notorious bandit (and that’s saying something!) who committed his first crime at age 14 by stabbing a constable.  Stabbing a cop.  Tiburcio went on to a life of crime robbing, pillaging and committing at least two known murders for which he was hanged.[iv]

To be fair to Alisal USD, other public buildings are named after Tiburcio, to include health centers in nearby Union City and Hayward.  To a host of Californians of Mexican descent, Tiburcio was not a criminal, but as Superintendent Ramirez described a revolutionary.  And to read the USC library entry, Tiburcio was swashbuckling, handsome man that was particularly loved by the ladies.  What’s not to admire?  Other than the murders, robberies and assaults on law enforcement officers.

That isn’t the point.  The point is California teachers and educators sending mixed messages.  When running the risk of being outted as gun investors on the national stage and within the storied pages of the Wall Street Journal, they yank a half-billion dollars from a company that produces currently legal firearms and employs numerous Americans.  Of course that is their choice and to be honest, I really do not begrudge them of that move.  Having retirement dollars in another California pension system (CalPERS), me complaining would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

But in the little blue collar community of Salinas, the teachers had an opportunity to select any number of courageous, wonderful and precious national treasures of Mexican-American descent to name that school after.  They chose a man of disputed character, in short, an outlaw.

In fact, how about naming the school after another early Californian of Mexican-American descent whose character was not in question?  Namely Monterey County Sheriff’s Deputy Joaquin de la Torre.  Deputy de la Torre and two fellow deputies were killed in 1855 while arresting a murderer.   Now that is a real swashbuckler and hero.  A story of real men working for the community – not against it.[v]

After Sandy Hook, wouldn’t it be nice if we looked to legitimate heroes for our children to look up to?  Naming a school after a killer hanged for his crimes, but pulling funds out of an American business to save face, is more than poor decision making.  It is hypocrisy.

The CSTRS decision had little to do with what’s right, and everything to do with, “What’s right for our wallets?”  Let’s not give an apple to these teachers too soon.

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