The one surprising thing at the National Rifle Association’s press conference Friday was that the nation’s largest gun lobby didn’t call for more time to reflect on the Newtown, Conn. shootings. Time has usually been on the NRA’s side — the longer between a mass shooting and a political response to it, the better for folks who want to see gun control off the table.
But the NRA wants to act now, with group vice president Wayne LaPierre calling on Congress to put armed guards in schools by the time students across the country return from their winter breaks. With that stance, the NRA is conceding one small thing to President Obama and Democrats — America demands action on Newtown now. That means the discussion about a response will come while the memory of Newtown is still fresh.
LaPierre tried to push off the discussion of other policy changes, but the focus of the press conference was on the NRA’s new national program to train and arm school staff. That program will begin soon, and LaPierre wants Congress to put guards in schools right away.
“There’ll be time for talk and debate later,” LaPierre said. “This is the time, this is the day for decisive action.”
Democrats have also been arguing for swift action, albeit in the form of a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and other gun control measures. Obama said this week he wants to roll out ideas to curb gun violence during his State of the Union address in January. The NRA made it clear Friday it’s not about to have that conversation.
But the NRA is ready to see the government have a conversation about what to do after Newtown, and do it now. That could weaken their hand against gun control advocates, who have argued that political shifts mean the debate could take a long time and the NRA will still win it. But gun control supporters likely need the raw emotion created by Newtown to help drive moderate politicians to turn on groups like the NRA and vote for new gun regulations. And that means a need for speed.