CPAC Diary: Wayne LaPierre's "Mental Health" Chutzpah

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 15 2013 3:48 PM

CPAC Diary: Wayne LaPierre's "Mental Health" Chutzpah

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, leaves after he delivered remarks during the second day of the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) March 15, 2013 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In recent years, before Newtown, the Wayne LaPierre speech at CPAC was a curiosity -- a reminiscence of the bygone days when the NRA was under siege. Ben Smith captured it well in 2010, from a time when Barack Obama was uninterested in gun control and House Democrats were panicking about the comic GOP wave.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

He's spent the bulk of his address playing clips of himself and of President Bill Clinton from the 1990s, cracking "girlfriend" jokes about Clinton and attacking Attorney General Eric Holder for ... his role in the Clinton years, to a chorus of boos.
"If you think that’s all ancient history, I’m going to tell you it’s still going on today," LaPierre said, before cutting to a clip not of President Barack Obama but of Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

LaPierre's speech today was also preceded by a clip of Rendell. It was part of a montage, clips of Democrats and MSNBC hosts calling LaPierre "evil" and "crazy." Wayne was back, baby! Sure, all of the clips were attacks on LaPierre's post-Newtown speech, and his argument that ONLY guns in schools could save children, which LaPierre has stopped obsessing about. But the point was portraying LaPierre as a heroic figure telling a truth that all the wrong people hated. Those people favored "a placebo called 'universal' background checks."

A check that will always be far from universal, will never make our schools or streets safer, and will only serve as universal registration of lawful gun owners — the real goal they've been pushing for decades. Criminals won't participate and the records of the mentally ill will never ever be part of the check. With all the HIPAA laws and patient privacy issues, the monsters of Tucson, Aurora, Newtown -- those names will never be in the system. And those killers really are crazy!
The very advocates and politicians behind this new universal scheme have fought -- behind the scenes, for two decades -- to prevent mental health records from being added to the check system. Their check only includes good, law-abiding people like you and me. That's what they're after -- the names of good, decent people who happen to own a firearm to go into a federal database for universal registration of every lawful gun owner in America.

This was an amazing example of projection, and the CRAZY WAYNE Act was flamboyant enough to put most people off the scent. In the last decade, the NRA has only co-operated with one legislative response to a mass shooting -- the  The NCIS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007. The price for bringing the NRA on board, and not whipping Blue Dog Democrats to kill the bill, was to take the "mentally ill" tag away from anyone "rehabilitated through any procedure available under law" and to enact a "Relief from Disabilities" reform. The latter reform allowed people classified as mentally ill, and unable to buy guns, to get their rights back with more ease. And there was one more NRA win: States were allowed to restore gun rights to people who fell under the ban on their own terms, with legislation.

Now look back to LaPierre:

Criminals won't participate and the records of the mentally ill will never ever be part of the check. With all the HIPAA laws and patient privacy issues, the monsters of Tucson, Aurora, Newtown -- those names will never be in the system.

This is six years after LaPierre worked to make it easier for the mentally ill "crazy killers" to get their gun rights restored. Industrial-grade chutzpah.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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