Indoctrination, NRA style



Jennifer Carlson, who will begin teaching in the sociology department at the University of Toronto next fall and is a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley, has an op-ed in today's L.A. Times, "The NRA's Hidden Power." She writes that in 2010, she was certified as an NRA trainer as part of her research on gun politics, which of course makes her insights invaluable. And disquieting.

She explains in detail what it takes to get a "concealed carry" license, but more than that, she goes into the psychology of the NRA, their messages to their members, and their "key role in pushing" legislation that, of course, makes gun ownership and usage easier.

However, the eye-opener was her explanation of the psychological persuasion. Talk about indoctrination! Pot. Kettle...

Carlson said that the NRA courses actually limit firearms training. "According to law, students can fulfill the requirement by shooting fewer than 100 rounds of ammunition and spending only about two hours on the range." Thorough preparation for real-life situations and firearms handling takes a back seat to this (Note: Please have some Valium handy):

The answer is that these classes aren't just about handling guns. For Americans who perceive the world as dangerous and insecure, the NRA helps them justify their choice to carry a gun by asking students to reflect on their commitment to protecting innocent life. Here is one excerpt from the "NRA Basics of Personal Protection in the Home," used in Michigan concealed-carry training classes: "If you do defend yourself, it is important in the aftermath to remember: You are a good person.... You are a moral person. Your attacker was the one who chose a lifestyle and sequence of events that led to this encounter. You were morally justified in protecting yourself and your family. You have quite possibly saved the lives of others."

These kinds of statements serve to teach concealed carriers that their license marks them as a special citizen, someone who is willing to rise to the need to take a repugnant action — the killing of another person — in order to save innocent lives. Implicit in this is a practical message from the NRA that often gets lost in the national gun debate: You may well need to defend yourself and others. [...]

[P]ublic services, including the number of police on the streets, have been cut back in Michigan. In such contexts, the NRA is not just the no-compromise leader of the gun lobby, it is a service organization that provides people with tools for safety and protection.

While the gun control lobby is writing legislation, the NRA is providing individuals with more than rhetoric. Its power lies in its ability to tap into people's real and imagined fears to powerfully shape everyday politics related to crime, insecurity and policing in America — something gun control activists may fail to fully understand and address.

Tick... tick... tick...

You are special. You are a good citizen. You are the good guy killer. They are the bad guy killers. You are moral. Very moral. The moralest. The NRA approves. You are one of us. Be afraid. Be very afraid. There are terrible criminals out there... out there... out there. You keep us safe. Your kill is a good kill... good kill... good kill...

Tick... tick... tick...

Justifying, soothing, convincing, compelling, persuading, and messaging is what it's all about for the NRA, other than lobbying and pushing laws that profit gun manufacturers, that is. Feel safer now?

tick tick boom