Update, 12/18/12: The NRA has issued an official press release about the Newtown shooting, dispatching it via Twitter and Facebook after four days of social media silence. "We were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," it reads. The short statement makes no mention of specific gun laws or policies, though it states that “The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.” Read the full statement here.
As the country has reeled from the Newtown massacre, the National Rifle Association has been noticeably silent. Its Twitter account has been mute since Friday morning, and its Facebook page has been taken down. Its online radio program has been saying guns aren't to blame, and "sources close to the issue" tell Fox News that the NRA will speak up after "a proper period for mourning." But as of this writing, the gun rights advocacy group has yet to issue any official statement on the worst grade school shooting in US history.
Virtual silence immediately following mass shootings is the NRA's usual M.O. In 2011, following the shooting that wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, NRA president Wayne LaPierre boasted at the Conservative Political Action Conference, "Ladies and gentlemen, in the days after the tragic events in Tucson, the NRA refused to respond to the media's demands for reaction." (Italics and bold in original transcript.) Earlier, the group acknowledged its code of silence in a leaked 2006 brochure, though it also noted that it eventually might lift its self-imposed gag rule:
NRA has rightfully declined to join the debate, because no effective solution includes infringement of the Second Amendment. Although tragic, these incidents have called for no more anti-gun measures than any other crime committed with firearms. But the advent of domestic terrorism, compounded with recent high-profile school shootings, force America's gun owners to join the national discussion in a way we can no longer decline. Not because the Second Amendment is at fault, but because the Second Amendment is at risk.
But the NRA remains reluctant to join in the national discussion that immediately follows many mass shootings. We searched for the NRA's public statements following the 62 mass shootings of the past 30 years and we found few formal responses to most of them—that includes press releases or mentions on the sites of either the NRA or its lobbying wing, the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action.
When the NRA does acknowledge a shooting, it almost always does so a few days after the event.It often skips past expressing sympathy to make a political point: Gun control is definitely not the answer to preventing the next tragedy. Or as one NRA official put it shortly after a gunman killed 6 people and wounded 29 in a Stockton, California, schoolyard in 1989, "You're not going to be able to legislate crazy people sane."
Since the advent of the internet, theNRA often does not make such statements in its own name, instead citing or linking to third parties who have expressed similar sentiments. More recent examples of the NRA's record of trying to say as little as possible about mass shootings:
Accused of a sensational double murder in 1986 Miami, Trinidadian millionaire Kris Maharaj seemed destined for death row, and ended up there thanks to a conviction-hungry prosecutor and a hapless defense attorney (now a circuit court judge). This memoir, which reads like a true-crime thriller, describes how defense lawyer Clive Stafford Smith got his client off death row by uncovering brazen misconduct, both judicial (one judge actually solicited a bribe from the defendant) and prosecutorial (withholding evidence). It also turned out that the murder victims, presented in court as upright businessmen, had been laundering cash for a drug cartel, and skimming off the top. Smith's account leaves us utterly convinced of his client's innocence and delivers a powerful indictment of the system we rely on for justice.
The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in February turned a national spotlight on Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Following widespread outcry about the killing—in which George Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin allegedly in self defense—Florida Gov. Rick Scott convened a task force to evaluate the 2005 law. This week, the group came back with their report. Their conclusion? The controversial law is just fine as it is. But there's just one problem: That verdict flies in the face of much troubling evidence to the contrary.
Stand Your Ground essentially makes it legal to shoot one's way out of any situation that feels threatening: Unless law enforcement authorities can prove that's an invalid explanation from a shooter, a resulting homicide can be deemed justifiable under the law, and the shooter is immune from criminal and civil prosecution. As Mother Jones reported in June, Florida's Stand Your Ground law kicked off a wave of such legislation across the country, with 24 of them passed elsewhere since, thanks to much backing by the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The evidence to date indicates it is terrible public policy. Since the spreading of the law, multiple studies have found that Stand Your Ground laws:
are racially discriminatory—homicides involving white shooters and black victims are 11 times more likely to be deemed "justifiable" than those where the scenario is reversed.
But after six months of review, it looks like Gov. Scott's task force took little of this into account. The first recommendation in their final report is a firm endorsement of the Stand Your Ground law: "[A]ll persons have a fundamental right to stand their ground and defend themselves from attack with proportionate force in every place they have a lawful right to be and are conducting themselves in a lawful manner."
The few recommendations for change that the report offers are vague. They recommend more training for law enforcement on the meaning of self-defense laws, that the legislature better define a shooter's criminal immunity, and that it fund study of the correlation between Stand Your Ground laws and diversity variables, including race. (Nevermind that such studies on race already exist.)
Note: Two undecided House races in Arizona could send two more women to Congress. In addition, three women currently serve as non-voting delegates in the House.
Clarification: The original version of this article stated that Tammy Baldwin is the first openly gay woman elected to Congress. While this remains true, Baldwin was elected to Congress in 1999; her victory on Tuesday means she will be the first openly gay person of either gender in the Senate.
Foot-in-mouth rape commentary by Republican candidates was one of the most disturbing mini-trends of the 2012 election. And as the returns began rolling in last night, it quickly became clear that this bounty of apologies for sexual assault had paved the way for some big GOP losses. Here's a breakdown of the candidates who said absurd things about rape and paid for it at the polls.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette/ZUMAPressWho: Tom Smith, Pennsylvania Senate candidate
Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Bob Casey, who got nearly 54 percent of the vote.
Globe Photos/ ZUMAPressWho: Linda McMahon, Connecticut Senate candidate
Comments: During a debate, McMahon clarified that no Catholic hospital should be required to provide emergency contraception to rape victims, except in cases of "emergency rape."
Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Chris Murphy, who got 55 percent of the vote.
Harry E. Walker/MCT/ZUMAPressWho: Rick Berg, North Dakota Senate candidate
Comments: When asked in a TV interview whether he'd support abortion in cases of rape, Berg awkwardly evaded the question, then gave a flat-out no.
Outcome: Berg conceded to Heidi Heitkamp, who beat him by less than 3,000 votes.
Wisconsin State LegislatureWho: State Rep. Roger Rivard, running for reelection to the Wisconsin legislature
Comments: Last December, Rivard got into a discussion with a local newspaper about a case in which a 17-year old was accused of forcing sex on a 14-year-old girl. Expressing his thoughts on the case, Rivard cited a motto he'd learned from his dad: "Some girls rape easy." Or in other words, girls agree to sex and then call it rape, because that's convenient.
Outcome: Rivard lost to Democratic challenger Stephen Smith by 582 votes.
Christian Gooden/ZUMAPressWho: Todd Akin, Missouri Senate candidate
Comments: During a now-infamous TV interview in August, Akin responded to a question about his beliefs on abortion in cases of rape by saying that pregnancy from "legitimate rape" is unlikely because "the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down." In October, a 2008 video surfaced showing Akin explaining how women who aren't actually pregnant get abortions anyway.
Outcome: Lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill, who got nearly 55 percent of the vote.
Chris Bergin/MCT/ZUMAPressWho: Richard Mourdock, Indiana Senate candidate
Comments: When asked at an October debate whether abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, Mourdock said it shouldn't, because the rape and subsequent pregnancy are "something God intended."
Outcome: Defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly by nearly 150,000 votes.
Andrew Shurtleff/ZUMAPressWho: Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate and incumbent representative in Wisconsin
Comments: Where to begin? Ryan has called rape just another "method of conception," has said he's "very proud" of the forcible rape bill he cosponsored with Todd Akin, and has cast 59 votes on abortion in his career, all of them anti-choice.
Outcome: Ryan won't be heading to the White House as Mitt Romney's VP, but he did keep his House seat.