The footage coming out of Arizona from the NRA's big convention was striking for the amount of paranoia purveyed vs. the actual cause for such fearfulness:
At its annual convention this weekend, such leaders as Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, former presidential nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney are speaking to 60,000-plus gun-rights advocates gathered in Phoenix, Arizona. Even Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana is addressing the convention in a recorded message.
"Whenever they can, wherever they can, the Democrats want to take away the rights of law abiding citizens to own and purchase a gun, a right that is guaranteed under the United States Constitution," Steele said to attendees, according to excerpts released by the Republican National Committee.
"No constitutional protection is more often ignored, distorted or disdained than the individual right to keep and bear arms," Romney will say, according to draft remarks released by his political operation.
Despite solid majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House, there has not been any push by Democratic leaders to pass major gun control legislation this year.
But gun rights advocates say they are afraid of what President Obama and his Democratic colleagues may do.
From the Reuters report:
Activism is also buoyant, with hundreds of members taking part in a grassroots workshop and breakfast in Phoenix. The NRA also launched a phone campaign firing up activists to object to legislation they say infringes on the right to bear arms.
"Right now is a pivotal time in our history with a president and a total administration that is anti-gun," said Leonard Junker, 56, a truck driver and Republican Party organizer from Tucson attending the workshop.
"I truly believe that they want to disarm us," he added.
That's the fear you hear everywhere -- and there's simply no evidence for it, other than the few shreds upon which they can seize.
But the NRA is an organization built on fear, and they use that fear to pump up those shreds into nuclear threats. Watch the interview with NRA spokeswoman Rachel Parsons above, talking about how a proposal to close the gun-show loophole -- which permits hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions to occur that would be illegal in a gun shop, and lets people who are forbidden to buy guns to do so, since no background check is required.
Parsons is trying to tell us that this somehow affects people's Second Amendment rights -- even though the only actual effect of this legislation she can claim is that the people who put on these gun shows couldn't afford to do so anymore, because they wouldn't be making as large of sums from them as what they're accustomed to. Of course, this has nothing to do with the Second Amendment.
And it's not just fear of Obama, I think, that was being sold. I was particularly struck by the number of white conservative women who are being drawn to the NRA via fearmongering, particularly in this video:
One of them is determined to get as much ammo as she can at this show. Another talks about how women are buying guns -- because they fear Obama will take them away, first, but there seems to be another fear here too: an apocalyptic fear that society will fall apart and we'll all be doing the dog-eat-dog thing like a bad Mel Gibson movie soon.
And I have to say -- having been around suburban enclaves long enough to see how thin the human connections can be in those neighborhoods -- if the world was made up of white suburbanites, this might be a reasonable fear.
The Reuters piece I linked above seems to think the NRA's appeal is only to rural gun owners:
Gun owners have long provided a pool of conservative support for the Republican Party. But continuing to court them may not help it broaden its appeal to a wider electorate.
"The NRA provides a lot of foot soldiers for Republican campaigns and so they are still critical to the conservative movement," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
"But if you think about a rejuvenated Republican Party it will not come from this reduced base, but from a broadened party capable of speaking to new constituencies," he said. "There are not a lot of suburban women who have assault rifles."
I'm not so sure that's the case any more. Because paranoia isn't just a guy thing. And the NRA is selling that by the caseload, too.