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I Know You Wayne LaPierre

In 1976 I was a young political science professor at Colgate College in Hamilton, New York.  I was teaching a class on Contemporary Political Thought which had a two-day section on gun control. I wanted to find a guest speaker who could present the "other side" in a thoughtful way - to give the students all the arguments that hold water philosophically. A colleague in the political science department had gone to one of the colleges in Cambridge, England and recommended a classmate of his who worked for the National Rifle Association.  My colleague assured me that he would give a talk to my class that was informative and focused on the philosophical issues involved, so I agreed to have him come to my class to speak.  After all, I thought, if you can't trust a colleague in your own department, who can you trust?

A much younger Wayne LaPierre showed up and delivered a remarkably simplistic, misleading, uninformative, stump speech to my class.  He blasted anyone who didn't agree with his extreme position on guns, gave us no education on the finer points of the Constitution, debunked all the research we had covered in class about gun violence with one dismissive stroke, then ended with a the now well-known assertion that if guns are regulated, only the "bad guys" will have guns.

So much for a thoughtful review of the right-to-own-a-gun position. I told the class we would debrief the next day and stormed into the office of my colleague, where I uncharacteristically lost my temper. I argued that LaPierre had hijacked my class by posing as a teacher and acting as a lobbyist.  In retrospect, I also blame myself for my naivete.

I was a young, female, untenured professor.  My anger was amusing to them. My argument that they had conspired to violate my classroom brought smirks. Then they invited me to lunch.

I have followed Wayne LaPierre's career ever since.  He has been extremely consistent in his anti-intellectualism and fanaticism, which has benefited him, given his salary of almost $1 million at the NRA.  Perhaps I should not admit how much I enjoyed watching the ridicule of his pathetic "press conference" following the killing of twenty small children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut. He simply was not up to the job, even by NRA standards.  Just as he was not in 1976.

October, 2013