When the NRA’s reaction to a brutal mass-shooting is slightly more progressive than the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, something very odd is happening. And yet, here we are.
Unlike Donald Trump, top leaders of the National Rifle Association said Sunday they don’t believe patrons at a nightclub where 49 people were killed last weekend should have been armed for self-protection.“I don’t think you should have firearms where people are drinking,” said NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre on CBS’s Face the Nation.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Chris Cox, the head of the NRA’s lobbying arm, adopted the same line. When Jonathan Karl asked Cox about whether nightclub attendees should be “armed to the teeth” in order to protect themselves, the NRA lobbyist replied, “No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms. That defies commonsense. It also defies the law. It’s not what we’re talking about here.”
But the point is, at least one person – the presidential candidate who enjoys the NRA’s formal backing – is talking about exactly that.
As USA Today’s report noted, Trump told an Arizona audience on Saturday, in reference to the victims in Orlando, “If some of those wonderful people had guns strapped right here, right to their waist, or right to their ankle, and this son of a bitch comes out and starts shooting, and one of the people in that room happened to have it and goes boom! boom! You know what, that would have been a beautiful, beautiful sight, folks.”
Trump added that he wished “we had people with the bullets going in the opposite direction – right smack between the eyes of this maniac.”
On its face, Trump’s rhetoric may have appeal to those who watch a few too many action movies, but here in the real world, Pulse had an armed guard – an off-duty police officer – at the door the night of the massacre, and it didn’t prevent the slayings.
Even putting that aside, consider the dynamic Trump is describing: in his ideal scenario, nightclub attendees in Orlando would have been carrying loaded firearms, and when a madman attacked, Pulse customers would have been ready to return fire in a crowded, poorly lit room, filled with people who’ve been drinking.
The NRA isn’t known for its moderation on the issue of gun ubiquity, but even its leaders aren’t prepared to go nearly as far as Donald Trump on this issue.
A few days ago, there were reports that suggested the GOP candidate may be eyeing a more moderate posture on guns in the wake of the Orlando murders, but given that Trump is now positioning himself to the right of the NRA, it’s time to adjust expectations accordingly.