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After two horrific mass shootings, we come together as a nation to confront an urgent question: How are we going to keep Wayne LaPierre safe?
The longtime head of the National Rifle Association, it turns out, is worried sick about his personal safety in this gun culture.
After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, he and his wife bravely waited out the uproar on the pink-sand beaches of the Bahamas, part of $542,000 in private jet trips and personal items the NRA bought for him. And now, thanks to some delightful reporting by my Washington Post colleagues Carol D. Leonnig and Beth Reinhard, we know that last year’s Parkland massacre left LaPierre so fearful for his personal safety that he tried to have the NRA buy him a $6 million French-chateau-style mansion with nine bathrooms in a gated Dallas-area golf course community.
He told associates that he was worried about his safety and thought his Virginia home was too easy for potential attackers to find.
Ultimately, the financially stressed NRA didn’t buy LaPierre the mansion. That’s too bad, because, as the saying goes: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a French chateau.”
LaPierre and his wife wanted the 10,000-square-foot estate, set on a lake and built with white oak floors, “French Beaumanier limestone” (whatever that is) and “exquisite custom handcrafted wood trim” — rather than an upscale high-rise in Dallas. I am sympathetic to his thinking, because although guns don’t kill people, insufficiently fortified upscale high-rises most certainly do.
Further, the LaPierres sought to acquire a social membership at the community’s exclusive golf club; they wanted the seller’s cars and golf cart to convey; and Susan LaPierre was concerned that there was not enough space in her husband’s would-be closet. This sounds a bit precious, but consider: The golf cart almost certainly would have been up-armored after closing. And though LaPierre typically wears Italian suits purchased for him by the NRA, he needs someplace to store all that bulky body armor.
“They were just trying to find a safe house to put him in,” LeRoy Sisco, an NRA board member, told the Post. “They were just saying that they needed to get him to a safe place.”
Some will see hypocrisy in LaPierre trying to get the NRA to buy him a mansion in a gated community when the NRA, at the time of the attempted acquisition, issued a statement decrying the anti-gun “elites” who “live in gated communities.” Many will see it as ironic that LaPierre feels unsafe because of the very gun culture his policies have created.
But it’s good to know he apparently feels some of what most Americans feel: that gun violence is out of control.
There have been 254 mass shootings in the United States this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, but the back-to-back mass killings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, have people on edge. Active-shooter false alarms have caused pandemonium and injuries across the country last week.
In New York’s Times Square, motorcycle backfire caused panic and a stampede, as people screamed, cried and climbed on each other and called 911. An altercation at a Louisiana Walmart, where one man brandished a gun but didn’t fire it, caused shoppers to flee. A sign falling at a mall in Utah where a performance was underway caused somebody to yell “shots!” and police evacuated the mall amid the mayhem. Unfounded reports of an armed man at USA Today offices in McLean, Va., resulted in a swarm of heavily armed police evacuating the building while a helicopter hovered.
My 15-year-old daughter was caught up in one such panic in June. At the Capital Pride Parade in D.C., a man with a BB gun set off a stampede of hundreds of people, and falling metal barriers may have convinced others that shots had been fired. Several were injured. My daughter, separated from her group, sheltered in a hotel basement until police gave the all-clear.
She has been skittish about being in crowds since then, and understandably so. Since El Paso and Dayton, and Gilroy, and Virginia Beach and Pittsburgh, millions don’t feel safe shopping, attending festivals, going to school or houses of worship, walking the streets or going out at night. This is directly because of the madness LaPierre’s NRA has inflicted on America.
Now he knows what it feels like.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter, @Milbank.