Scene & Heard: NRA at the IOP

Photographers surrounded the stage, wielding cameras like semi-automatics. The occasional campus cop made rounds through the crowd. I was sandwiched between two strangers in the back of the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum. Trapped in my folding chair, I was an easy target. If the large and bulky-dressed man next to me had a gun, exit would be impossible.

Luckily, I was not the target. During last Wednesday’s forum at the Institute of Politics, all of the photographers’ guns were pointed at NRA President David Keene.

I can’t say that I support the NRA; guns (even water guns) give me nightmares. But I’m starting to see why Keene supports the Bill of Rights. He probably could have used a gun to defend himself, or the right to remain silent.

Throughout his conversation with John King and subsequent Q&A session with Harvard students, Keene was attacked from every angle. Students fired questions like snipers strategically placed around the stage, on the stairs of the forum room, and balconies. I’m pretty sure some students were hiding out under the stage, just to make sure all bases were covered.

Students used public opinion statistics, past inconsistencies, and words like “propaganda” and “completely inappropriate.” They appealed to our founding fathers; would they still support an unrestrained Second Amendment in a world of assault rifles? Keene tried to defend himself by referencing problems with mental illness and the occasional deer-hunting anecdote. Those defenses did little to dismantle the palpable fury.

When moderator John King asked the audience who supported the idea that no one should be able to own a gun, hundreds of hands shot into the air. In another state, Keene might have been crowned a hero, a man protecting our fundamental rights. Not here. To us, he was the man responsible for promoting armed guards in schools, hassling Congress, and making it easier for gun-related violence to continue.

When I told my dad that I was going to see the president of the National Rifle Association, he asked me to go easy on him—to say something nice, compliment his glasses. “He is going to face a lot of flack,” my dad said, and I thought, rightfully so.

As I sat in the JFK forum room that was filled with animosity, I was comforted by the fact that my classmates were unarmed. They could do enough damage with their words alone.