Is it wrong for NRA to drag Obama's daughters into gun-control fight?

Amid discussion in Washington of new gun-control measures, the NRA releases an online ad that cites the Secret Service protection of Sasha and Malia Obama as an example of how President Obama is a 'hypocrite' on guns.

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Is it wrong for the National Rifle Association to drag President Obama’s daughters into the gun-control fight? That question comes up because the big gun-rights lobby group issued an ad this week that brings up Sasha and Malia and their (armed) Secret Service protection as an example of how Mr. Obama is a “hypocrite” on guns.

The 30-second ad is not subtle. It starts with a generic shot of kids playing and the quick statement, “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?”

It goes on to question why Obama is skeptical about armed guards at schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools. Then it segues briefly into fiscal issues – saying that the president demands the rich pay their “fair share of taxes” – before shifting back to its kicker, “He is just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”

“Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours,” it concludes, after a quick shot of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, gun-control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and David Gregory of NBC News, protected by a couple of armed guys in SWAT outfits.

(Mr. Gregory is in there due to a show where he questioned the need for high-capacity ammo magazines and pushed the limits of D.C. law to display one.)

We’d say this is a polarizing ad that won’t change any minds or votes. What it will do is inflame opponents, while perhaps rallying supporters to the NRA’s side and winning donations at a time when some gun owners are worried about possible upcoming government actions.

Actually, “inflame opponents” might be underplaying it. “Make them apoplectic” might be more accurate. As the respected Ron Fournier of National Journal writes Wednesday, “The ad is indisputably misleading, and is arguably a dangerous appeal to the base instincts of gun-rights activists.”

There’s a good reason the president’s family has armed protection, after all: Unlike most people in America, they are the subject of constant and credible death threats. Their protection consists not of an armed school guard but highly trained teams of agents who practice constantly and know when to act and, perhaps more important, when not to react.

As maverick conservative David Frum points out in The Daily Beast, the NRA’s guard-in-every-school idea would require about 150,000 armed guards to protect 75 million students for 200 days a year. It is easy to envision the mistakes that could occur just because of the scale of this coverage and the fact that these guards would not be Secret Service-level trained.

Plus, schools are far from the only place where mass shootings occur.

“Second: even if the idea were a good one, the NRA’s sneering references to the president’s family are beyond the pale,” Mr. Frum writes.

Obama and his family have long been charged with “uppityism,” says Frum, meaning the NRA’s ad verges on using racially coded language.

“This latest attack ad looks to many like only one more attempt to enflame an ancient American wound,” according to Frum.

The NRA has said it has gained 250,000 more members in recent weeks as Washington has discussed new gun-control measures, and this new ad may be aimed more at keeping that rolling than at actually affecting policy. On the NRA’s website, the new ad is surrounded by bids to “sign up to stand and fight” and “sign up for the latest updates here.”

This is standard Washington procedure for many big interest groups: Take advantage of controversy to keep the group itself as big and wealthy as possible.

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