You are hereAlterNet: Guns, Paranoia and Obama Assassination Jokes: Inside the NRA's Annual Convention

AlterNet: Guns, Paranoia and Obama Assassination Jokes: Inside the NRA's Annual Convention

In recent years, the NRA's leadership has expertly cultivated a very profitable hatred and paranoia among its membership.

-By Alexander Zaitchik

April 18, 2012- ST. LOUIS -- The hotel minibus had barely left the airport when the guy to my left dropped the Obama assassination joke.

There were eight of us on our way to the National Rifle Association's annual convention downtown, rolling past a domino-row of highway billboards advertising the event's "Acres of Guns and Gear." The banter suggested the minibus crew was microcosmic of the NRA's claimed four million members, more than 70,000 of whom made the election-year pilgrimage. There was a soft-spoken father from Long Island and his teenage daughter headed to the University of Akron on a Division-I marksmanship scholarship. There were retired New Hampshire hunters from NRA families going back generations. There was a Russian immigrant whose only hobby is fully automatic machine guns.

And there was a professional Second Amendment extremist named Stephen Burke. An Endowment Life Member of the NRA and an attorney from Springfield, Massachusetts, Burke specializes in getting guns into the hands of ex-cons whose licenses have been revoked or downgraded for criminal activity.

Burke is a loud and boastful retired lance corporal who displays a photo of himself with NRA Executive Vice President & CEO Wayne LaPierre on his professional website. The only thing he abhors more than gun control is silence. When a conversation about former New York Governor George Pataki's pro-gun record entered a lull, he asked the group what sounded like an American history riddle or piece of trivia: "What do Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama have in common?"

The collective intelligence of the minibus was stumped. After a few beats, he delivered the answer: "Nothing. Yet."



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