WASHINGTON -- We're a little overwrought now.
The National Rifle Association understands that. It's as patient with us as a husband with a tremulous pregnant wife prone to crying jags.
This is just a passing meltdown. We'll get ourselves back under control soon and things will return to normal.
For decades, when the public has grown more sympathetic to gun control after an attempted assassination or a spike in gun murders or a harrowing school shooting, Wayne LaPierre and his fellow NRA officials have hunkered down to wait for the "emotional period" or "hysteria," as they call it, to pass.
They rule in the back rooms on Capitol Hill and rein in panicked senators and congressmen who fret that they should support some measly legislation to pretend they are not pawns of the gun lobby.
They defend anyone owning anything with a trigger, reiterating that military-style semi-automatics are just uglier hunting guns.
While there were more heartbreaking funerals in Newtown, Conn., with long hearses carrying small bodies, Mr. LaPierre stepped to the microphone in Washington on Friday to present the latest variation of his Orwellian creed: Guns don't kill people. Media kill people.
"Rather than face their own moral failings," he said in high dudgeon, "the media demonize gun owners, amplify their cries for more laws, and fill the national media with misinformation and dishonest thinking that only delay meaningful action, and all but guarantee that the next atrocity is only a news cycle away."
So it's our fault.
Mr. LaPierre, who literally trembles when the omnipotent gun lobby is under siege, went ballistic painting a threatening picture of the dystopia that awaits if we don't protect our schools from guns by putting guns in schools.
"The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters," he said. "People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them. They walk among us every single day, and does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?"
How many more copycat killers, he asked ominously, are waiting in the wings for their moment of fame?
On the day that 6-year-old Olivia Engel, who was going to play an angel in her church's Nativity play, was buried, Mr. LaPierre heinously cloaked his refusal to consider any remedies to gun violence -- not even better background checks -- as tender concern for the 20 "little kids" shot in cold blood.
He kicked around the old whipping boy, violent video games, even though plenty of his 4 million members no doubt play violent video games. And he repeated his old saw: "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Guns don't kill people. Guns save people.
The press conference, where the press was not allowed to ask questions, played like an insane parody: a tightly wound lobbyist who earns a million or so a year by refusing to make the slightest concession on gun safety, despite repeated slaughters by deranged shooters with jaw-droppingly easy access to firearms.
Mr. LaPierre makes Charlton Heston look like Michael Moore. The NRA vice president, who once called federal agents "jackbooted government thugs," insists the solution to gun violence is putting police officers, or "armed good guys," in every one of the nation's 98,817 K-12 schools.
His logic is spurious. Hunters can have their guns without leaving Americans so vulnerable to being hunted by demented souls with assault rifles that can fire 45 rounds per minute.
And consider that in 1999 an armed sheriff's deputy policing Columbine High School exchanged fire with the shooters, and still they killed 12 other students and a teacher. Mayor Michael Bloomberg accused Mr. LaPierre of "a shameful evasion."
It's hard to believe that the NRA needed to go dark for a week after the Newtown shootings to cook up such a chuckleheaded arms race. And Mr. LaPierre made a worse case against himself than the media ever could. It's shocking that the NRA can't even fake it better.
It didn't try to mask its obdurate stance by putting forth a less harsh official -- a woman who's a mother and a hunter, for instance. Maybe it could have prompted a serious discussion about armed guards at schools if it had a less crazed presentation and less of an absolute vision that "guns are cool," as David Keene, its president, says.
The 63-year-old Mr. LaPierre and the 67-year-old Mr. Keene, a cantankerous former Bob Dole adviser whose son went to prison for shooting at another driver in a road-rage fit, seemed as out-of-touch as Mitt Romney's campaign and the rest of the white, macho Republican Party.
President Barack Obama, who should have been alarmed that his re-election inspired a boom in gun sales, seems daunted at the prospect of taking on gun lovers, having handed the matter off to Joe Biden to study. The president seems to be setting the table for defeat. If only he had the visceral outrage of a Michael Bloomberg. Who knows what could happen?
Maureen Dowd is a syndicated columnist for The New York Times.