Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany
Weapons Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
By Christian Wernicke
Translated By Ron Argentati
17 January 2013
Edited by Victoria Denholm
Germany - Süddeutsche Zeitung - Original Article (German)
Always smiling, silver hair and trendy eyeglasses: many think National Rifle Association president David Keene is a puppet of highly paid officials. But despite the fact that he's not responsible for the far-right turn the NRA has taken over the years, he fights tooth and nail for the gun lobby.
Keene personifies the friendly face of the American gun lobby. The silver mane of hair, the ready smile and the designer eyeglasses lend him a likeable air. Add to that the sonorous speaking voice the 67-year-old has learned to use while giving his pitch: the right of all Americans to own guns, including paramilitary assault rifles. Keene comes off as easygoing, even nice, as he tells his audience things about President Obama like, “So make no mistake about it, overall this is an anti-gun agenda pushed by an … anti-gun administration.”
Some people underestimate Keene. The unsuspecting think that the NRA chief who serves his 4.2 million members without getting paid is little more than a figurehead, a puppet of the highly paid officials who actually run the NRA. Until the mid-1970s, the NRA was considered just an innocent, non-political gun club. Then it was taken over by a group of right-wingers led by Wayne LaPierre, who transformed the organization into a powerful fighting force for the Republicans. Ever since it was instrumental in helping George W. Bush win the White House in 2000, it has acquired an almost mystical reputation.
Keene didn't create this new, far-right NRA. However, with the May 2011 appointment of this educated man — his home library contains some 4,000 books — the NRA achieved the pinnacle of its development: After nearly five decades, it finally landed an always-ready, well-connected and deeply conservative activist.
Keene's career began in the liberal camp. At the beginning of the 1960s, this son of a Midwestern labor union couple was first attracted to John F. Kennedy. But then he discovered and studied classic conservatism. He later went on to campaign for Republican presidential candidates. He had access to the White House as early as the Richard Nixon years and headed the American Conservative Union for nearly 25 years, along the way changing the old boy's club into a political force and thereby earning praise from prominent Republicans. He lost his position in 2011 because he irked conservatives by inviting gay rights organizations to their conferences.
Keene is a weapons wolf in sheep's clothing, fighting fiercely for the NRA with every propaganda method at his disposal. There's only one sore point he is reluctant to discuss: In 2002, his son, David, did prison time for shooting at another driver. He just missed his target. His father commented, “You break the law, you pay the price.”
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