In the PR equivalent of strapping a suicide vest on, this past week – exactly one month after the Newton massacre – the NRA released a shooting game designed for ages 4 and up. Part of the challenge was shooting coffin shaped targets, with points scored at head and heart levels. And this from an organization that thinks video games are to blame for mass shootings. But the cherry on this crap sundae came when the NRA released an ad that brings the president's children square into the center of the gun debate, by alleging that President Obama is just “an elitist hypocrite” who wants to prevent regular folks from having guards at their children's schools, while his children enjoy that privilege. Aside from the fact that it is apparently not even true that there are armed guards at the first children's school, and it is certainly not true that Obama opposes guards in schools (in fact, that is part of his solution to curb gun violence), this is a disturbing move on multiple levels.
First of all, there is the obvious: the president and his (or her) family is always alloted far greater privileges than the rest of us, due, in no small measure, to the fact that their danger is increased in far greater measure because of the president's station. This is hardly unique to the Obamas, nor would protection for the Obama children be out of the ordinary. The Bush girls, Chelsea Clinton, etc., have all benefited from this protection. There are perks to the presidency – protection by the secret service, use of Air Force One, etc., etc. There are also risks – like 30 threats a day. It's absurd to suggest that the experience of the president's family is in any measure on par with the experiences of the average family; at least, until such time as the average family faces 30 death threats a day, or has access to nuclear armament codes. Thus the First Family has need of Secret Service protection, and you and I don't. That's not elitism – that's the benefit of anonymity that we enjoy – and the president and his family cannot – thus necessitating the Secret Service protection. And, remember, the president is not saying that schools cannot have armed guards if they think it is necessary (he is, in fact, pushing a means for them to acquire those guards); and his children's school does not have armed security guards. Therefore, despite the NRA's very misleading claims, the only security difference between what is available to the Obama girls and other kids is the Secret Service.
That's the “are you freaking kidding me? That's your argument?” side of it. But what about the idea of bringing little girls, who have absolutely zero power to direct policy one way or another (they're too young to vote yet!), into the middle of a debate that is so heated that comparisons to Hitler and Mao are the polite responses (unlike the threats to “start killing people”, the Alex Jones rants, the protestations that our 10,000+ gun killings a year aren't a gun problem but a “demographic problem” [read: Ann Coulter is afraid when people whose skin color is darker than hers have guns], etc.)? Tempers are flaring, and much of the discussion about gun control is already extremely emotionally charged and downright absurd; and now we're going to bring the president's kids, and their safety, into it, by outright suggesting that Obama doesn't care if “your kids” get shot (he's even working to make it more likely, good citizen, by denying them protection!) but, “elitist hypocrite” that he is, he's going to protect his own?
Aren't you angry, good citizen? The president is trying to get your kids killed by denying them the basic protections he affords his own kids!
I mean, what could possibly go wrong with pushing that message? It's not like there's already people out there who hate and fear Obama, consider him to be Hitler/Stalin/Mao/the anti-Christ, constantly talk about his alleged “anti-American” views and plans, his supposed “hatred of white people”, etc., etc. Oh wait...I forgot about Fox News. Seriously, in such a climate, with so much fear and hatred, much of it racially based, surrounding this president's every actions, who could possibly come to the conclusion that dragging the Obama girls into this, as the daughters of an “elitist hypocrite” who wants to endanger everybody else's kids but protect his own, was a good idea? I am seriously flabbergasted by this. I can only hope that this was the result of the NRA having its collective head up its collective arse, rather than trying to bully the president by focusing the debate on his kids. Because that one would be really diabolical, but, frankly, it makes a lot more sense than anything else. And I truly, sincerely hope I'm wrong on that.
Rampant insensitivity (to say nothing of hypocrisy), such as releasing a shooting game for four year olds a month after 20 kids were murdered by a shooter (and your organization painted shooting games as one of the culprits in that tragedy), combined with rhetoric that can only serve to endanger innocent children is neither a mature nor a responsible approach to the gun control debate. It does absolutely nothing to cast the NRA as a reasonable entity, or to lend credibility to its position. It only trivializes tragedy, heats already heated rhetoric to potentially dangerous levels, and makes responsible gun owners seem absurd by association. As a representative of large numbers of responsible gun owners, the NRA owes its members more than that. And as a powerful voice in this discussion, the NRA owes our country more than that.