Hurricane season is coming — beware the NRA’s Bullshit.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the next hurricane season is just around the corner. Houston has not had an easy time of late with the storms of the Atlantic. Hurricane Harvey was just one of the multiple catastrophe-level storms of the last year, and most people in the city are starting to understand that the idea of a 100-year flood is mostly contingent on mankind not utterly screwing up the natural environment in those hundred years.
Colorado State University is already predicting that 2018 will be a slightly higher than average year. Currently their models show we can expect at least 14 named storms, seven of which should form hurricanes. Three or more of those are likely to be Category 3 or higher.
Just in case you missed the last go ’round, that means preparation needs to start now. Have an evacuation plan that includes a bag of essentials ready to go, a vehicle kept at 3/4 tank or above of fuel, and knowledge of the routes out of the city. Make sure that prescriptions are filled and get a few months in advance if possible. Make arrangements for your pets because a lot of puppies and kitties get displaced in storms when things get rough. If you plan on staying, invest in a stockpile of water, food, medical supplies, and, well look, ask a Doomsday Prepper. Those dudes come in mighty handy sometimes, and they are embarrassingly better organized than most of us.
Thing to not do: listen to the National Rifle Association try to sell you guns to ward off the hordes of imaginary bad guys.
During last year’s hurricane crisis, the NRA was on hand and ready to help, and by that I mean safely elsewhere and keen to separate scared people from their money. The prime suspect of this predatory bit of media were NRATV and host Grant Stinchfield. As waters and tensions rose, Stinchfield and correspondent Chuck Holton reported on all the looting that was happening, with some commentary that everyone in Houston should thank their lucky stars they were in Texas and not in one of those gun-deserts like California.
“I have covered natural disasters like this for 25 years. Always, when the storm passes, the evildoers do take to the streets. It’s already starting to happen on a limited basis in South Texas. I am hopeful, but not convinced, it won’t become more widespread,” said Stinchfield. “You need to know what we are seeing in Texas could happen in New York or California or Connecticut. Another hurricane, a massive storm, maybe even an earthquake. It could take out your city next month, next week, maybe even tomorrow. When emergency personnel are pulled in every direction, do you have access to protection? The police, as we said, can’t be everywhere. They never can. But certainly not in time like this.”
“The thugs and thieves know your vulnerability can be exploited,” he continued, stoking fear. “Thugs know Texas; they also know California and the other states trying to disarm the public. Texas has a rich history of gun ownership. In Houston, that history is most certainly serving as a deterrent.”
Reading between the lines, it’s very clear what Stinchfield and the NRA are saying: Anarchy is coming, the streets are full of dangerous others, and guns will save you. Like a lot of things the NRA says, this fantasy is self-serving and based on overblowing data.
Was there crime during Harvey? Of course there was. Crime doesn’t take disaster days off. The idea that criminals are lurking in wait for these moments of vulnerability to attack though is mostly ridiculous (and as you can guess by the use of “thugs” often highly racist in origin).
Right-wing media dangerously overhyped the narrative of widespread criminal activity during the storm. Yes, 14 people were arrested for looting during the Harvey crisis. In a city the size of Houston, that’s a number so small it barely rates as a margin of error, but programs like Fox & Friends speculated on widespread lawlessness in spite of denunciation from the Houston Police Department.
The danger from Harvey came in many forms, but roving gangs of Purge-like assailants and these were not among them. Most people roaming the streets in the aftermath were searching for basic necessities, not cashing in on a lawless holiday.
The gun industry relies on fear, and the NRA helps them spread that fear. During the Obama Administration, gun sales soared on the specters of disarmament and sweeping social change. The gun industry was practically licking its lips in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton stint in the White House to keep that gravy train rolling, only to founder as the Trump Administration left America without a convenient boogeyperson to drive sales.
In the absence of Clinton’s hypothetical gun-grab, the NRA deployed its media to scare Houstonians. Anyone who has happened to overhear someone complaining about Katrina refugees knows that there is no lack of gullible reactionaries in the city ready to arm their anxieties away.
So, during this hurricane season, let’s prepare spiritually, mentally and civically in addition to materially. Be aware that there is an entity whose entire raison d’etre is to make us buy more weapons. The easiest way to do that is to spread a rumor there are wolves at the door and help is cut off by disaster. They are not performing a public service. They are advertising. It’s a medicine show telling you their semi-automatic nostrum will cure your rickets, bad humors and discombobulations.
The real cure is community. As another white-knuckle summer approaches, think on how not only you can be safe, but extend that safety to others. Get to know the people around you, offer advice and receive it in turn, and most of all remember that we’re Houston strong. Folks surrounded by aid, light and life don’t stock arsenals against their neighbors.
Don’t think the NRA doesn’t know that. That’s why they do their best to keep people alone and ready to draw on the first stranger. We fell for it in 2017. Let’s not do it again.