Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
To incoming National Rifle Association President Oliver North, the NRA is under a “frontal assault” by gun safety activists. North’s plan to “counterpunch” this threat – by recruiting new NRA members from his connections in the US armed forces – sounds alarmingly like a man seeking to form an armed militia.
These outrageous comments by North make it clear the NRA leadership is scared. It senses that its usual strategy of waiting for cries for gun control reform to quiet down after a mass shooting is no longer cutting it. And, so, it’s deploying a strategy of attack, one that combines aggressive rhetoric with playing the victim card.
And the NRA may be right – Americans are not quieting down on the issue of gun control. Just look at the nationwide rallies we saw in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. Thousands across the country took to the streets to demand gun control reform from their elected leaders, and they haven’t exactly stopped demanding action. Moreover, a recent CNN poll shows an increasing number of Americans support common sense gun control measures, including universal background checks and banning the sale of high capacity gun magazines.
In other words, Americans are making it clear that they do not want to see over 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence. And they especially don’t like that, on average, 47 children and teenagers are shot each day.
Add to that gun sales have plunged during Donald Trump’s presidency (it’s been dubbed the “Trump slump”), and this doesn’t bode well for the NRA, a lobbyist for gun manufacturers.
That might explain why North, while referencing a report that vandals had splashed fake blood on the home of an NRA official in Virginia, said those championing gun safety measures may “call them[selves] activists. … They’re not activists – this is civil terrorism.”
But North’s attacks didn’t end there. North then invoked the Jim Crow era, when laws enforced racial segregation and blacks suffered horrific violence, stating, “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things – even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.”
Is North so uninformed that he doesn’t know that African-Americans and civil rights activists were brutally attacked and many even murdered in that period? Perhaps North can take a moment from whining about such self-perceived victimhood to read about those killed fighting for civil rights, including Mississippi’s NAACP leader Medgar Evers, assassinated in 1963 by a sniper, and a white ally in the civil rights struggle, the Rev. James Reeb, who in 1965 was beaten to death in Selma, Alabama.
But North isn’t the only person in the NRA leadership to make such inflammatory comments. In March, NRA board member Ted Nugent slammed the Parkland high school students who had survived the mass shooting and who have now become visible activists as not just “liars,” but also as individuals who “have no soul.” Was Nugent denounced by NRA leaders or removed from the NRA board? Nope.
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And it’s hard to escape the irony of North’s choice by the NRA. North gained notoriety for the role he played during the Iran-Contra scandal, when Ronald Reagan’s administration secretly sold US weapons to Iran and then used the proceeds to arm Nicaraguan rebels. He testified to Congress that he deserved some of the blame for shredding key evidence and deliberately misleading Congress and the public about the sale of arms. So, the man involved in exporting our gun problems overseas will now be leading the biggest gun advocacy organization in America.
Nonetheless, the NRA believes North should lead the organization. And given that some NRA leaders – just like some in Trump’s base – feel that they are victims, we can expect to see North, Nugent and others in the NRA orbit ratchet up the inflammatory and divisive rhetoric against those trying to reduce the number of people killed daily by gun violence. Sadly, at this point, the NRA’s need to sell guns seem to have outweighed its concerns regarding the value of American life.