I got 23 guns in the mail on Tuesday. Three shotguns, eight handguns, eight hunting rifles and four assault rifles, emblazoned all over the front and back of a large glossy yellow envelope from Fairfax, Virginia. Scattered in between the pictures of weapons were some ATVs, a dead buffalo, a dead elk, a shiny pile of unused bullets, and the following declarations:
ANNOUNCING AN EXCITING NRA SWEEPSTAKES
WINNER TAKE ALL GRAND PRIZE!
NEW GUNS! BIGGER PRIZES! MORE WAYS YOU CAN WIN!
YOUR OFFICIAL ENTRY IS ENCLOSED
How I came to be in possession of this incredible bit of correspondence has everything to do with the quality of magazines to be found in hospital waiting rooms. I spent a fair portion of June in those rooms, dealing with the aftermath of a health emergency. My reading choices ranged from periodicals like Better Throw Rugs & Window Treatments to Sconces Today to Your Lawn Sucks Quarterly, and the news-related magazines all thought Trump might win the 2016 New Hampshire primary.
One day, however, I found an up-to-date copy of Field & Stream, one of the most popular hunting/fishing/camping magazines. Having filled my quota of stories about spoons and clever potpourri, I dove right in … and came across one of the most well-written, eloquent articles on the defense of public land I’ve ever read.
Sure, the authors wanted to save that land from mining and drilling mainly so they could keep hunting and fishing in still-pristine protected lands — but the writers accurately made the Republican land-grabbers sound like the Barbary Pirates, and more to the point, the activists described in the story were winning the fight in ways left-leaning environmentalists simply can’t. The GOP listens to gun people, and the gun people were saying “No.”
I seem to have joined a club that would never have me as a member.
So, in the spirit of weird comradeship, I dropped ten bucks on a yearly subscription to Field & Stream. Hey, I live in rural New Hampshire. The wise animal adapts to his surroundings.
Tuesday saw the Lotsa Guns NRA Sweepstakes envelope hit my PO Box. On Wednesday night, I got a fundraising call from the Republican National Committee. Methinks my new pals at Field & Stream peddled my papers to the National Rifle Association and the Republican Party. Thanks to some crummy reading choices in sickrooms, I seem to have joined a club that would never have me as a member.
Opening the seal, one imagines a whiff of cordite and freedom. The first enclosure is much like the outside of the envelope, festooned with exciting proclamations about the sweepstakes opportunities here at my fingertips. Exclamation point usage is, pardon the pun, quite liberal. First Prize: 12 guns, or come kill an elk! Second Prize: 9 guns, or come kill a bison! Third Prize: 7 guns, or come kill a bear! It continues on a sliding scale like this — fewer guns, quail and chickadee hunts — to the tenth prize, which is a very small red flashlight that would totally be lethal if you dropped it on someone from a tall building.
Then comes the special exhortation: “Please enter as soon as you can!” it shouts. “Because this sweepstakes also includes a very special Early Entry Bonus Prize — a top-of-the-line LaRue Tactical rifle and 7,200 rounds of ammo!”
What a country, right? There I was, minding my own business on a Tuesday afternoon, and the postal service brought me a letter seeking to give me — not sell, give — the means to kill every living soul in my small town three times over. Having this capability is a moral imperative, you see, because as NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre explained in the letter I got with all this, the world is a doomed zombie bonfire and we’re all kindling.
The world is a doomed zombie bonfire and we’re all kindling.
“You and I know our enemies are not going away if we lay down our arms now,” it reads. “They have more resolve than ever. And they’re promising to fight on and never surrender. Again, you don’t have to join NRA to enter the sweepstakes. It won’t improve your chances of winning. But your NRA membership will definitely improve your chances of holding the line against those who would like nothing more than to destroy your freedom. Standing together under the NRA banner is the best guarantee for the long-term survival of our freedom, our heritage and our American way of life.”
Ah, yes, the gilded buzzword: “heritage.” What are the fruits of this heritage? Colonialism, white supremacy, fear and rage, all wound together to facilitate a national bloodbath that has killed more people than smallpox. Mr. LaPierre would have his followers believe in a horde of liberal gun-grabbing brigands looming over the horizon, just waiting for the right time to strike. Five years ago, 20 children and 6 staff members were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School with a gun very much like the one Mr. LaPierre wants to give me today. The fact that I received this gun-swaddled sweepstakes mailer in the first place is proof positive that nothing, but nothing, has changed.
Last Sunday, a group of friends gathered at a house in Plano, Texas, to watch football together. According to reports, the estranged husband of one of the guests showed up uninvited, there was an angry verbal altercation, and then he started shooting. When it was all over, nine people were dead including the wife of the gunman. The gunman himself was killed by police.
Hurricane Harvey was over by then, Irma was in full swing, and the news media almost completely ignored yet another story of mass gun carnage. These events have become commonplace to the point of near-invisibility. It is also worthwhile to note, given the NRA’s long history of racial scaremongering, that this latest gun massacre — like most large-scale acts of gun violence in the US — was perpetrated by a white man.
The news media almost completely ignored yet another story of mass gun carnage.
“The last time I saw her was at my sister’s wedding,” wrote a friend of one of the victims, “which she attended with the man who would kill her. I must have met him. It is so difficult to believe this is real; it is impossible to understand that it is common.”
Imagine what the Plano shooter might have accomplished had he won Mr. LaPierre’s LaRue Tactical Rifle and those 7,200 rounds of ammunition. Someone, somewhere is going to win that stuff sooner or later, and we are somehow supposed to feel safer and more free because of it.
I cancelled my Field & Stream subscription. It’s a fine publication, I suppose. I’m just not comfortable with the company I’m suddenly keeping.