“Have a blessed day,” the chatbot told me on the NRA website
Yes, the NRA is still hosting the convention – and only a mourning drive away from Uvalde – but hey, there are deposits and dinner reservations to think about, and of course appearances to keep up with. I cannot give in to enemies.
“Join us . . . for a Texas-size celebration of freedom, guns, and the NRA! the website cries.
I visited the NRA site because I was curious how the pro-gun group would handle the second deadliest school shooting on record, beyond releasing the statement of obligatory prayers, which I hope for them, they started buying in bulk.
The statement, which I first encountered on Twitter, expressed the “sincere sympathies” and “greetings” of the NRA[d] the courage of school officials, first responders and others who offered their support and services.
But because he also promised to “reflect on these events” as they come together in the same state as the carnage itself, I thought maybe that “reflective” would be reflected on his webpage .
I browsed the site, but hmm. . . .
I’ve come across headlines, some boastful, others more in the “shown them” category:
“Meet NRA Instructor Rick Ector, The Left’s Worst Nightmare.”
“NRA Reaches Historic Milestone as 25 States Recognize Constitutional Portage.”
There were also membership solicitations. “Our rights are under attack like never before,” it read. “Join today.”
And a bit of light humor. “Shotgun Choke Explained Simply,” reads a link. “(No math, I promise.)”
Finally, I came across the “prayers” statement, but the only way to see it from the general homepage was to click on this upbeat promotion for “14 Acres of Weapons and Equipment”.
Oh wait, what is this? It was an NRA bot eager to chat. Caitlin was her name.
“Why doesn’t the NRA care about children being killed with assault rifles?” I typed (immature, I admit) into the message box.
“School safety is a complex problem with no single, simple solution,” Caitlin explained.
Caitlin introduced me to the “NRA School Shield” program, which I learned “empowers” leaders to make schools more “safe.”
“Children are priceless,” raves the group, which has donated millions of dollars to politicians, on its website. “That’s why we don’t charge schools for NRA School Shield training.”
OH MY GOD! So generous!
I was getting an education, but in today’s world, even bots probably have productivity numbers to hit, and soon Caitlin was kicking things off.
“Have a blessed day,” she said.
Earlier in the day, wondering if local gun stores had seen the heightened interest that always seems to follow mass killings, I called several stores in Massachusetts.
Alas, no owner or manager was there to answer my call, but an employee shared his perspective on the shooting, in which an 18-year-old used an AR-15 to kill 21 people.
“It had nothing to do with guns,” he explained.
While waiting for the reminders, which I knew weren’t coming, I thought of another company in Massachusetts that is also seeing a surge in interest after the mass shootings.
It’s called Bullet Blocker and sells, among other depressing items, bulletproof backpacks for children and a “shelter-in-place” kit that includes sealed water bags and, worryingly, duct tape.
The shelter-in-place kit is one of the company’s staples, marketing manager Michael Curran told me. Duct tape can be used for anything – to bandage a wound, he said, or to cover the window of a classroom door, or the gap between the door and the floor, so that a shooter cannot see inside.
“It’s a nice thing to have,” he says.
The NRA also sells merchandise. Bestsellers include a portable target stand; hearing protection (you wouldn’t want to be injured by a gun); and, for the ladies, a $199.95 American Hobo Concealed Handbag.
The bag had a review, left by someone named “Mom”.
“Love my red hobo bag,” mom wrote in her five-star review.
“I’ve had it for several years now. It’s been holding up really well. I’ve been known to be tough on things and it still looks almost as good as when I got it. I keep my Glock 19 in it.
The review was about the bag, but in truth, I couldn’t help but think of the review: “Mom”. And from there it was only a step to other moms, the 19 who lost their children in Tuesday’s shooting and the two women who died. They were also mothers. Once.