The NRA’s Moral Equivalence

Wayne LaPierre sees no difference between gun-control advocates and Osama Bin Laden.

How crazy is Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association? Crazy enough, apparently, to compare Andrew McKelvey, the CEO who founded Americans for Gun Safety, to Osama Bin Laden. Americans for Gun Safety is a fairly moderate new gun-control group that has the temerity to favor closing the loophole that allows gun-show buyers to avoid the background checks required (under the 1993 Brady Bill) of people who buy guns in stores. Here’s what LaPierre said in an April 27 speech at the NRA’s annual convention in Reno, Nev. (To see the video, click here, select “video archives,” and look for “I’ll Fight For Freedom: Wayne LaPierre at the 2002 NRA Annual Meeting, April 27-28, 2002.”):

You know, when you think about it, Andrew McKelvey and Americans for Gun Safety, they represent a whole new kind of enemy. They’re just the visible side of a shadowy network of extremist social guerrillas, fueled by anonymous wealth, sophisticated research, free media access, and high-dollar consultants. You know, terrorism against freedom isn’t just [inaudible] with bombs and box-cutters. Anti-freedom elitists in academia, the media, rich foundations, and government, can do permanent damage to individual freedom just as real as an insurrection or coup. Together, they form a sort of Taliban, an intolerant coalition of fanatics that shelter the anti-freedom alliance, so that it can thrive and it can grow. … In fact, Andrew McKelvey’s network kind of operates and sounds a lot like Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda. An extremist billionaire with a political agenda, subverting honest diplomacy, using personal wealth to train and deploy activists, looking for vulnerabilities to attack, fomenting fear for political gain, and funding an ongoing campaign to hijack your freedom and take a box-cutter to the Constitution of the United States. That’s political terrorism. That’s political terrorism, and it’s a far greater threat to your freedom than any foreign force.

Even more astonishing than LaPierre’s remarks is the fact that Republican strategist Mike Murphy defended them last night on CNN’s Crossfire:

What counts is the gun control issue, not whatever anybody’s saying to a crowd to get some applause from one point of view or another. And the fact is the Democrats made the political mistake of being out of touch with the country on the second amendment, on the right of people and sportsman, and citizens to use guns in a law-abiding manner.

Republicans, of course, are not the only people who say outrageous things; as Tucker Carlson noted on that same Crossfire program, Rep. Cynthia McKinney recently flung at George W. Bush the ugly and unfounded charge that he knew in advance of, and acceded in, the Sept. 11 attacks. But when Carlson asked Murphy’s counterpart on the program, Democratic consultant Bob Shrum, what he thought of McKinney’s accusation, Shrum called it “lunatic” and “completely wrong.” Chatterbox hereby invites a nationally prominent Republican—any nationally prominent Republican—to state that LaPierre’s remarks were “lunatic” and “completely wrong.” (McCain, who is sponsoring a bill to close the loophole, is not eligible on the grounds that Chatterbox doesn’t think he’s a Republican.)