Collectively, they're a wondrous force of nature, spewing irrational and preposterous predictions of imminent constitutional Armageddon, resulting in nothing less than bondage for their millions of hysterical followers.
Their evangelical zeal rivals any old-fashioned tent meeting on record. The difference is that their motives are not of the spirit but in the interest of crass commercialism, and the symbol of their theocracy is not a tract like the Bible but a few lines in a document written in Philadelphia 226 years ago.
They worship those few words -- the Second Amendment -- just as fervently as they might the Deity.
Who are they? Well, if you have been paying attention, it is an easy answer. They are the leaders of the National Rifle Association, who, in their recent annual convention have been plying their vast army of supporters with a toxic liquid of fear nearly unequaled in the annals of rhetoric without the threat of arrest. Their target is first and foremost the current president of the United States, closely followed by anyone who might support common sense in the distribution of the deadly weapons that bring billions of dollars into the coffers of the interests they really serve: the manufacturers and sellers of guns.
They have been doing quite well, despite a body of negative messages sent by a series of mass murderers who have wreaked havoc from movie theaters to grade schools. The business of selling death has never been better, and the defeat of even the simplest and least destructive of federal gun-control proposals has given NRA leaders an increased sense of power. Membership is up.
Considering the recent record with Congress and all that money reaching the pockets of the gun industry, the full-metal-jacket boys should be crowing a bit rather than inciting their members to do better. But wait a minute. While the Congress has been intimidated into submission, a number of states haven't, producing tougher gun laws than anything proposed at the federal level. Oh-oh, get to the powder house!
The chief acolyte of the gun cult is Wayne La Pierre, who strangely enough looks more like mild-mannered Clark Kent than he does Superman (who he just may be on this issue). He says things like, "We are in the midst of a once-in-a-generation fight for everything we care about," as he urges the cheering throngs to take up arms at the voting booths in next year's mid-term elections.
"Everything we care about" seems to imply that weapons and the utterly unfettered access to them are the only things NRA members care about: not life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness beyond an AK-47 or 9 mm handgun.
"How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?" asked La Pierre, the NRA's executive vice president. That caused one wag to remark, "All those who weren't running like hell and still had their legs."
It apparently didn't occur to old La Pierre that at that time, no one had a clue who put the bombs there. A lot of innocent people would have been shot. It's the same kind of faulty reasoning when NRA leaders say none of the gun restrictions would have prevented this or that tragedy. How do they know? As for their strategy at the polls, here's the problem for anyone who stops to think for a moment. This is strictly a one-issue matter with the shoot-first crowd. It is all that matters. A lawmaker can be "right" for a gun owner about every other issue from taxes to immigration to foreign policy. But if the lawmaker says maybe we ought to consider some measure, the NRA hits him with a bazooka loaded with money and propaganda, and the voter shouts, "Off with his head!"
So here's the deal: If you wish to buy into this irrationality and join the ranks of those who sleep better knowing there are guys out there like old Wayne La Pierre holding off the Mongol hordes about to invade, there is little anyone can do about it except move to a more civilized country and let you have the place.