In case you missed the news—and I can’t really blame you for tuning it out—the National Rifle Association has gotten itself a new president. He’s a charming tub of a man by the name of Jim Porter, and Monday was officially his first day in his new job. But even before taking over at the N.R.A.’s headquarters, in Fairfax, Virginia, Porter clearly signalled his intentions.
Addressing the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Houston over the weekend, the sixty-four year-old Porter told the assembled firearms enthusiasts, survivalists, and Republican hangers-on that they were engaged in a “culture war” with the President, media élitists, Mayor Bloomberg, and anyone else who questioned the right of God-fearing Americans to arm themselves like members of an infantry battalion without a proper system of background checks on purchases. “This is not a battle about gun rights,” Porter declared at a breakfast meeting. “[You] here in this room are fighters for freedom. We are the protectors.”
Evidently, Porter intends to be more confrontational than his predecessor, David Keene, a soft-spoken veteran of the conservative movement, and perhaps outdo Wayne LaPierre, the N.R.A.’s executive vice-president and principal spokesman, who spearheaded the organization’s successful fight against President Obama’s gun-control proposals. In his main speech to the convention, on Saturday, Porter accused Obama, whom he’s previously labelled a “fake President,” of “meeting and plotting with the Who’s Who of the gun-ban movement, scheming to create a gun-ban bureaucracy.” And he went on:
President Barack Obama is AWOL on virtually every critical threat facing this country. He’s AWOL on border security, he’s AWOL on the deficit, he’s AWOL on national defense, he’s AWOL on terrorism. But there’s one issue where Obama is not AWOL—that’s on gun control. But there’s one thing Obama will never understand—you, me, our friends, neighbors, coworkers, colleagues, family, and the larger family of patriots who know that the Second Amendment, the freedom of our Republic, trumps the Chicago political machine and its gun-ban agenda every time. Even by the standards of an organization that counts Ted Nugent and Glenn Beck among its prominent supporters, Porter is a bit of a ham. Last June, addressing the Wallkill Rod and Gun Club, just up the Hudson from Manhattan, he reminded his audience that the N.R.A. was created in New York State, in 1871, by “some Yankee generals who didn’t like the way my Southern boys had the ability to shoot in what we call the ‘war of northern aggression.’ Now, y’all might call it the Civil War, but we call it the ‘war of northern aggression’ down South.”
As you will have surmised, Porter hails from below the Mason-Dixon line: Birmingham, Alabama, to be precise, where he worked for a local firm of attorneys who specialize in, among other things, defending gun manufacturers against lawsuits. His father, Irvine, led the N.R.A. from 1959 to 1961, when it was principally focussed on organizing and educating hunters and target shooters, and largely kept out of national politics. (In 1968, the N.R.A. supported a gun-control act that introduced a licensing system for dealers.) But Porter, in keeping with the transformation that has overtaken the N.R.A. in the past thirty-five years, portrays the organization’s role in much broader and more paranoid terms. “I am one who still feels very strongly that that is one of our greatest charges that we can have today, is to train the civilian in the use of the standard military firearm, so when they have to fight for their country they’re ready to do it,” he said in Wallkill. “Also, when they’re ready to fight tyranny, they’re ready to do it. Also, when they’re ready to fight tyranny, they have the wherewithal and the weapons to do it.”
If there was ever any suggestion that the massacres in Aurora and Newtown would tilt the N.R.A. in a more moderate direction, the elevation of Porter has quashed it.
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