Last night, if you were watching the Super Bowl in the Washington, D.C., area, you saw a rather powerful ad on gun policy in the break coming out of halftime. The spot, sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, urges policymakers to approve a universal background check, and features "America, the Beautiful" against the backdrop of young children.
About 12 hours earlier, Americans could see the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre on "Fox News Sunday," making a very different kind of argument.
"I make the same thing during the campaign, when he said to people I will not take away your rifle, shotgun, handgun. They leafletted the country with flyers like this, 'Obama is not going to take your gun, Obama is going to protect gun rights.' And, now, he's trying to take away all three."
For the record, there is nothing in President Obama's proposals to prevent gun violence that "takes away" Americans rifles, shotguns, and handguns. LaPierre presumably knows this, but told viewers the opposite anyway.
And therein lies the problem: the policy debate has become increasingly strained because one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington relies on arguments based on evidence the organization has simply made up.
LaPierre also argued, for example, that every school child in America faces the same kind of threats as the president's children. That's plainly false -- even Chris Wallace told him he was being "ridiculous" -- but the NRA spokesperson doesn't mind making arguments like these with a straight face.
On universal background checks, which the NRA used to support before it's complete radicalization, LaPierre added that administration officials will "turn this universal check on the law-abiding into a universal registry of law-abiding people."
When Wallace noted that officials "absolutely do not" want such a registry, and no one has ever proposed such a thing, LaPierre concluded, "You cannot trust these" people.
It was an important argument from the NRA. In LaPierre's mind, it doesn't matter what officials say their position is, and it doesn't matter what policymakers include in legislation. What really matters is the paranoid imagination of Wayne LaPierre -- who apparently can read minds and ascertain what Democrats secretly have in mind.
And to a certain degree, that's between the NRA and its membership. If LaPierre wants to make stuff up, he's free to do so. If he wants to spend his time coming up with bizarre, paranoid scenarios, that's his choice. If the NRA wants to try to scare the bejesus out of its supporters with hyperbolic nonsense, a fool and his money are easily parted.
But in this case, LaPierre expects federal law in the United States to reflect his deceptive rants and overactive imagination, which is far more difficult to swallow.
Towards the end of the interview, the NRA spokesperson added, "I think the majority of the American public sees through this and want the current laws enforced. They don't want more laws imposed on what is only going to be the law-abiding and they see that how little all of this has to do with keeping our kids safe."