One week after a horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the country’s top gun lobbyist called for an aggressive reaction – against people with mental illness.
“The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters,” Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and chief executive of the National Rifle Association, said in a Dec. 21, 2012, speech. The threat, LaPierre said, comes from “people so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can possibly ever comprehend them.”
In the weeks afterward, LaPierre repeatedly cited a looming menace from people he called “lunatics” and “maniacs.” A nationwide database of mentally ill people, he said, would keep guns out of dangerous hands. He also suggested indicting the mentally ill, if necessary, to force them into psychiatric treatment.
At the same time, the NRA was waging a very different battle. It was pushing state legislatures, including Georgia’s, to ensure the right of gun ownership for a group normally excluded from firearms possession: the mentally ill.
The seemingly contradictory stances illustrates the fine line that faces the NRA and other gun-rights advocates: They feel compelled to offer solutions following mass shootings, while their reason for being is to promote and expand gun rights and gun ownership.