The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sandy Hook

December 19, 2012

At NRA museum, sadness and defiance mix



By Ian Shapira

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The child's room is filled with guns. Four rifles hang in a rack on the left wall, including one with a telescopic sight. Four more youth model weapons, along with an old issue of Combat magazine, lie on the Roy Rogers bedspread. Over the bed hangs a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, whose tail dangles next to a gun mounted on the blue walls.

Here at the National Rifle Association's museum in Northern Virginia's Fairfax County — in the "For the Fun of It" gallery — one exhibit is called "A Child's Room." And here, visitors can peer into a place uncomplicated by the massacre of first-graders: an imaginary boy's gun-adorned bedroom, circa 1952.

To understand the NRA's world view, anyone can drive about 20 miles west of Washington to the NRA's headquarters and step into the organization's National Firearms Museum. (The building is not completely defenseless: You need to get buzzed in at the entrance.)

Since last week's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 students and six adults, the indomitable lobbying behemoth has been mostly silent. It temporarily shut down its Facebook page, issued a short statement expressing shock about the mass killing, and planned a news conference for Friday.

An NRA spokesperson did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story, but the organization has long championed the rights of hunters, gun owners and collectors. A Washington Post analysis in 2010 showed that the group, with 4 million dues-paying members, had spent $74 million on campaign contributions over the previous 20 years and tens of millions more on voter education. The NRA also teaches people across the country, including children, how to shoot and handle guns safely.

Its museum, the website says, "is home to the finest firearms collection in the world. Through 15 galleries spanning more than six centuries, this spectacular showcase offers the unique opportunity to view some of America's most significant firearm treasures."

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