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The NRA Spelling Bee

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An interesting ad appeared not long ago. Taped to the front doors of some central Florida businesses (including at least one popular family restaurant), it advertised NRA certification. Notable among the copious misspellings was the word "responsablity."

Sometimes accident can be more apropos than plan, and error can create a metaphor the size of a cannon. Either way, this one's bound to leave some citizens more convinced of what they had long suspected concerning a certain organization's knowledge of a word it shoves to the forefront of its every lofty-sounding defense.

Granted, most NRA members are smarter — and at least better spellers — than the nit who posted the ads, and a lot of NRA people have a lot of education and a lot of brains. I know one. He's no slouch in the mind department, and he is a responsible person. Notably, he had his son playing with deadly weapons before the boy was out of elementary school, but the boy grew up without ever attempting to turn his town into Columbine.

Nevertheless, the outrageous figures for murder in America go hand-in-hand with handgun-in-hand, and a most ignorant rendering of a very important word coming from guns' biggest proponent is an irony too poignant to miss.

The ad offers other gems from the NRA spelling bee when it touts the official "certifcate" that graduating gunners receive, and provides information on payment of enrollment "fess." But we all know what the big word is here, and while the spelling may be telling, it is far from the worst of the abuse.

Still, the oddly childish misplacement of the letters is intriguing. Maybe it comes from a word too often being shoved into battle. Maybe it has done too much duty as the Second Amendment's flack jacket to keep itself together.

Maybe word power has taken on its own volition, and a powerful word has tried to scramble itself in order to hide from people who keep fondling it indiscriminately.

In the hands of people who consider any and every firearm sacred, who think even automatic assault weapons are "responsable," it's little wonder that words get shot full of holes. It's too bad people wind up likewise.

Of course, computers don't abuse words; people do.

In this case, the abuse comes from people many of whom fight as unfair any attempt to impose any waiting period, any background check on any potential gun owner, any licensing of any gun seller at any gun show, any delay or condition applied to the right of any citizen to own any firearm any time, any place and by any lawful means that he or she wishes to do so.

"Responsablity," indeed.

This "responsable" bunch also remains opposed to a minimum age for gun ownership. Sure, it's "responsable" to tell a 12-year-old there’ll be no driving Mom's SUV quite yet. Hey, someone could get hurt.

There’ll be no drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, either, and absolutely none of that voting and full adult citizenship stuff. Without doubt, that would be "irresponsable.” After all, mature judgment is a few years off yet, and some of these things could be matters of life and death.

But the Second Amendment means business with handguns and hair-trigger assault rifles today. Happy backyard pics of the kid playing with Daddy’s big ol’ gun, fresh-squeezed lemonade in one hand and a thirty-ought-six in the other? Come on, ain’t it cute?

Talk about young guns. The quick and the dead is more like it.

Of course, the "poor little handgun that could" is blameless. At least the NRA is right about that. The blame rests squarely on the shoulders of all "responsable" persons who ever shot off their pie-holes about the right to give their kids deadly weapons for Christmas before they have mastered any of the more socially significant requisites of adulthood.

Some self-described adults give kids guns before they (the parents or the kids) even know the spelling of a very important word, let alone the deeper implications of its 21st-century employment in the context of an 18th-century need.

And that, good people, spells trouble.

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About David Brothers

  • An amusing piece. Wish you’d had the presence of mind to take a digital photo of the flyer to illustrate it. Always nice to have that kind of first-hand reference material.

    Just so you know, NRA certification is handled on a very decentralized basis, so there’s virtually no connection between the illiterate author of the flyer and the NRA itself except that he took their instructor course, which was not a course in proper English spelling.

    As for the thrust of your argument, that gun owners are basically irredeemably stupid (despite your protestations that you’re not really saying that), it doesn’t bear up. The truth is that you don’t need to be a great intellectual to be a responsible gun user. It’s not rocket science, and there’s no direct relationship between spelling ability and good sense.

    Parents have been teaching their kids to use guns and not injure themselves or others for centuries and it has generally worked out pretty well. On the frontier, where literacy was low and gun use was an essential skill the lack of literacy didn’t disable the young gun user. In fact, even today, I’d guess that the most responsible gun users are those who are least educated. Working class hunters may not be great spellers, but they know and respect their guns and use them responsibly – regardless of Barack Obama’s elitist disdain for them.

    And the point you miss here is that the NRA course the flyer was for teaches responsible gun use. It’s not the people who take the NRA course who are contributing to the culture of gun violence – statistics show that a very different demographic is involved in the vast majority of gun violence.

    The irony is that the people who can’t spell and who take this course aren’t the ones you need to worry about in the first place. I’d be a lot more worried about the ones who can spell but who aren’t part of the traditional population of traditional gun users where understanding of guns is passed down from generation to generation and where NRA membership is commonplace.


  • Dave, if I get you correctly, you’re saying that the irresponsible firearms owners are the absent-minded professor types whose last words tend to be along the lines of: “Hmm, I can’t see the bullet. Does it not go into the barrel until you pull the – ”


  • That’s certainly one faction. But I was thinking more in terms of the middle-class parents who bought a gun for home protection and expect the schools to raise their kids while they work two jobs and leave the kids in the hands of strangers and the TV.


  • Jep…yeah, spelled J E P


    I once gave a speach entitled “Words Have Meaning” because I love words. As a professional, I often read over business proposals submitted to me by my very well educated colleagues. I am always shocked at the glaring spelling errors and general offenses to the english language that are perpetrated by these “learned” individuals. I have even had bosses who have shocked me with their ignorance…one boss circled (in red) a word I had in one of my own submissions, and he wrote in the margin, “This is not a word.” The word was “coalesce.” Another boss reprimanded me for using the word “Consumable”, saying “a consumable is something you eat.” I was writing about the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the equipment we manufactured versus that of our competitors.

    I would prefer to receive superior instruction from a poor speller (by the way, Hemingway was a notoriously poor speller) than inferior instruction from a spelling bee champ.

    Also, both of my children received firearms on their respective first birthdays, and both will get to use them when they reach their sixth birthdays. I was born into the “Gun Culture”, with an Ivy League educated father (MBA also) and my mother holds a Masters Degree from Villanova (magna cum Laude), and guns are definately a part of our lives. So, while I understand poking fun at the stereotypical NRA member, I thought it was a cheap shot nonetheless. Cheers!

  • Apparently, Obama has it wrong as to who’s bitter….

  • Jep,

    This may also be a cheap shot, and you may also have done it deliberately…

    …but you spelled ‘speech’ wrong.

    The tire, the gasoline and the butane lighter are in the garage if you wish to self-immolate…


  • zingzing

    dreadful–jep doesn’t need to self-immolate… he’s got a gun!

  • Yes, but the ‘necklace’ seems a far more spectacular self-punishment for a very public transgression by a self-proclaimed spelling nerd.

    I should know – I am one myself!

  • Mediavenger Dave

    Thanks, all, for great comments.

    Jep also spelled “definitely” wrong, but we won’t hold it against him–as long as he doesn’t hold his guns against us!

    Dave, lots of valid points. And as I mentioned, someone close to me is an NRA guy and has one of the best minds I’ve ever known, so I know I can’t really try to use that horrendously inept flyer as evidence of NRA brainpower at large.

    As for bosses and others with shockingly bad writing skills, Jep, I share your pain–had to put up with tons of it when I did public info writing at the University of Tampa. Even had an English professor insist on putting back into his bio the most illogical sentence you can imagine. Another time, I received an absurdly inept letter from a UT grad who is a prominent Tampa attorney, and couldn’t imagine how he could ever even file a brief.

  • lysander spooner

    1] fact: firearms are inanimate objects, as are knives, bricks and beer bottles. Inanimate objects – by definition – cannot be responsible for any action, criminal or otherwise.
    2] fact: Criminals, wackos and societal predators do not, will not, and cannot be made to obey the law – any law.
    3] fact: SCOTUS has consistently ruled the police are not responsible for the safety of individual citizen. fact: In whatever numbers and however well armed, the police cannot protect me at all times.
    4] fact: Drug-dealing gangs are armed with fully-automatic weapons. fact: Cops and politicians are arming themselves and their bodyguards in an equal fashion to “level the playing field”. Since citizens are responsible for their own safety (see #3)and the police are incapable of protecting them, then it follows that citizens have the unalienable right to arm themselves with whatever is necessary to survive.
    “Foolish liberals who are trying to read the 2nd Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it’s not an individual right or that it’s too much of a public safety hazard don’t see the danger in the big picture. They’re courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don’t like.” – Alan Dershowitz (certainly no right-wing gun nut)

  • Inanimate objects used in the appropriate way on animate objects can only lead to an increase in the number of inanimate objects.

  • zingzing

    my 9th grade english teacher didn’t know that the word “offal” existed. he was also a baseball coach, and left during my 10th grade year because he invented some kind of glove… anyway, mr. willard, you were a fine man, and a wonderful teacher, and your insistence on calling tests “testes” is one of my fondest memories of 9th grade. but “offal?” come on now.

    also, my college philosophy professor couldn’t understand that “man” meant “mankind.” he thought i was a sexist. it pissed him off when i refused to clarify what i meant. so he gave me a “b.”

  • Clavos

    That’s offal, zing…

  • Mike21

    I am sure it cannot be this simple. If I read the article correctly, this notice of certification was posted on a restaurant. Are we sure, it wasn’t a National Restaurant Association certification, also abbreviated NRA?

  • Mediavenger Dave

    Well, it was about firearm training, so I certainly hope it wasn’t the other NRA. If it was, we might all be in big trouble.

  • Brace yourselves for concealed-carry pizzas and semiautomatic soufflés…

  • Clavos

    The semis are bad enough, but have you ever seen the destruction a full-auto soufflé can wreak??

  • Indeed. Your oven bears the scars years after one is unleashed. I still have nightmares…

  • Wakefield Tolbert

    So let’s see here: The ignorant spelling from this particular NRA poster pusher means……………what…….

    umm…. that this is indicative of a larger horrid situation where only ignorant chaw-chewin’ rednecks and mouth breathers pay attentino to the Second Amendment, horribly misread the freedoms implied all the way back to Jefferson and Adams, and are thus a more present danger to the commonweal than actual criminals who’d love the chance at risk free theft and rape in home invasions and park encounters?

  • Wakefield Tolbert

    I feel the shadow of Bellisiles here.

    Though to be sure, I guess gun control advocates COULD fall back on the notion that Bellisiles was merely a clever Emory Prof liar about the history guns, rather than some hick from Coweta County who like popping cans off of fences.

    The stats about gun violence can be pushed any way you like. “Gun violence” among youth generallyl indicates that someone got nailed within sight of a home. It is not indicative that outside of gangland violence that homeowners who have an old Colt are terrorizing the Hood all across the country. I think it was Samuel Samenow whose excellent work Inside the Criminal Mind demonstrated as much as could be that criminal and violent behavior stems from criminal THINKING, not objects in and of themselves. Guns certainly make killing easier. True. But notice that they are also great equalizers. No one is tougher than a .45 even if you are hell bent on murder and rape yourself. American Culture more than the gun per se has elements of excitability and legal laxity that allow for violence with little real consequence and meaningful deterrence. And we have demographic dynamics that most other nations don’t suffer with. Though to be sure in the UK and Australia home invasions are all the rage now–there’ little to fear from guns now as there are very few.

    I CAN, however, spell platyhelminthian.

    Wormlike. As this applies to most politicians.

    “We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission”

    –Ayn Rand