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Guns and Candles

The stated purpose of the NRA Candlelight Society would be: “To conduct candlelight vigils in memory of victims of gun violence whenever and wherever such vigils take place, at no charge to the community.”

A candlelight vigil outside Virginia Tech's Burruss Hall, two years after a mass shooting at the school. (Photo: Kate Wellington/Flickr/cc)

It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness. —Motto of the Christopher Society

Those who regularly read this writer’s comments would not expect to see him provide advice to Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association on ways in which they can improve their respective public images. Nonetheless. . . .

The idea presented herewith was inspired by news of the candlelight vigil that was held in honor of those killed in the shooting at the Capital Gazette’s newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland. That was the 154th mass shooting to take place in the United States in 2018, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.  In order to qualify as a mass shooting, for Gun Violence Archive purposes, four or more people, not including the perpetrator, must die.

The NRA is, of course, as deeply disturbed as the rest of us when these mass shootings occur. That is because, as the name suggests, to qualify as a mass shooting, a gun of some sort must be the means of causing the death, and each mass shooting is taken by some as reflecting badly on the NRA.

Wayne LaPierre is the director of the NRA and is as well qualified as anyone in the United States to comment on mass shootings. Mr. LaPierre is, however, a very busy man attending to affairs of the NRA, and it is neither necessary nor appropriate that he take to the national stage each time there is a mass shooting. Nonetheless, on occasion, and especially when there is a particularly egregious shooting, he may think it necessary to comment.

Following the February 14, 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, Mr. LaPierre was addressing a conservative conference. In his remarks he commented on the Parkland shooting and said the media and Washington insiders were exploiting "tragedy for political gain." He explained, "Those people have a goal to 'eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eliminate all individual freedoms. . . . The elites don’t care one whit about school children. If they truly cared, they would protect them.'"

It is, of course, reassuring and of some comfort to the families of people killed in mass shootings, to have the head of NRA, whose main purpose is to protect the rights of mass shooters to bear arms, make reassuring remarks to the bereaved. Nonetheless, sometimes the event almost seems to demand that the NRA do more. And herewith a suggestion.

Candlelight vigils almost always take place following mass shootings. Among the many candlelight vigils conducted in 2018 were those in Parkland, Florida following the murder of 17 people, the one in Santa Fe, Texas, to honor the 10 people killed in the Santa Fe High School, and the most recent one in Annapolis, Maryland. Since mass shootings always draw attention to the NRA in ways that are not favorable to that organization. I have a suggestion that would not impair the rights of NRA members to bear arms. It would show, however, that the NRA has compassion for the victims of the NRA’s senseless policies. I suggest that the NRA create a non-profit entity to be known as "The NRA Candlelight Vigil Society."

The stated purpose of the Society would be: “To conduct candlelight vigils in memory of victims of gun violence whenever and wherever such vigils take place, at no charge to the community.”

The NRA is highly creative, as demonstrated by the myriad ways it shows that guns are not responsible for the daily violence in which they make an appearance. That imagination can surely be used to create some first class Candlelight Vigils that will set new standards for those occasions. Here are a few suggestions as to what the Society could do.

It can provide speakers. Since there are many occasions for the Society to create candlelight vigils, its speakers would become experienced at participating in those events. Their comments would almost certainly be poignant since they would over time be able to determine what sorts of comments are most effective at ameliorating the great sadness of those in attendance. They might, as an incidental benefit to the NRA, be able to redirect the anger of attendees at that organization.

The society could also provide candles for vigils at greatly discounted prices or, perhaps, at no charge to the sponsors of the vigil. The candles could be inscribed with the initials “NRA” to remind attendees of the compassion being shown by that organization. (The initials would have to be placed on the candle in such a way that the flames not consume the initials. Otherwise it might be taken as a signal that the NRA, like the candle, is slowly disappearing, hardly the message the Society would want to impart at such an event.) The Society could also provide NRA flags that would be covered in black cloth to demonstrate the NRA’s sympathy for the victims of the mass shooting.

The foregoing are only a few thoughts as to how the Candlelight Vigil Society can help the NRA improve its image, at the same time helping those mourning the loss of loved ones. Mr. LaPierre will certainly come up with more. And what a comfort the presence of the Society and its participation in the vigil will be to communities that have been wounded by a mass shooting.

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Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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