NRA and America: What questions should we be asking?
March 29, 2023
Content warning: This article mentions gun violence.
“Our Second Amendment is freedom’s most valuable, most cherished, most irreplaceable idea. History proves it. When you ignore the right of good people to own firearms to protect their freedom, you become the enablers of future tyrants whose regimes will destroy millions and millions of defenseless lives.”
These words from Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA), remain the general sentiment of the NRA and supporters in recent years. And yet, innocent lives continue to pay the harsh price of such expansive freedom. Just this week, three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at a Nashville elementary school on March 27. Earlier this year, in the midst of Lunar New Year celebrations, 11 people were shot and killed in Half Moon Bay, California. In 2022, a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. 10 days before that incident, 10 people died in a racially motivated shooting spree in Buffalo, New York.
In the wake of these shootings, the same question is always asked: When will we stand up to gun violence? There has never been an answer, and no substantial action is ever taken. In an effort to avoid these consistently unanswered questions, I will be asking a different set of questions.
Who are the enablers of gun violence?
The NRA is a gun rights advocacy group founded shortly after the Civil War in an effort to encourage hunters and sharpshooters to learn how to handle rifles. In recent years, the NRA has transformed into a prominent force in what they call “gun rights lobbying.” According to Violence Policy Center, the NRA has received up to $60.2 million from gun industry partners since 2005, but publicly, the NRA has denied claims that they receive outside funding. Spending millions of dollars on independent lobbying efforts, the NRA wields great influence in the political sphere through their own initiatives, campaigns and stances for and against potential laws.
One of America’s dominating organizations in political lobbying, records published by Open Secrets, an organization that tracks political spending, show that almost every sitting Republican senator received a check from the NRA, with the largest check of support to one single senator being $13 million. An audit released in 2017 that detailed the NRA’s spending revealed that the NRA spent a record $419 million in independent lobbying efforts to support Republican candidates and campaigns during the 2016 elections. In addition, the organization heavily involves themselves in supporting or opposing gun measures and transparency in politics. Their involvement in Congress’ policies is seen in their opposition of the DISCLOSE act, which requires organizations who are investing in elections to disclose their donors, and their support of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act,” which permits carrying concealed handguns across state lines. As a non-profit and tax-exempt organization, the NRA itself adds to the questionability of the organization, as by federal law, nonprofits cannot endorse or campaign for political candidates — something that the NRA partakes in every year, raising more questions on the integrity of their organization.
What kind of government has the United States established?
The NRA’s political spending establishes a vast power imbalance in the politics of America, one that corrupts the integrity of our country’s politics and paints a picture of oppression based on our Second Amendment. While our democracy and politics are traditionally defined to be the interaction between the American people and their elected representatives, there is now a third interfering party, one with money and the initiative to lobby for widely disagreed-with policies.
The NRA’s own members oppose some of the extreme policies that the organization pushes, as approximately three in four NRA members support universal background checks, while the organization is a staunch opponent of the policy. The political influence that the NRA wields is no match for the average American voter. Political figures enable the NRA, with its influence in the Republican party, to insert its deeply political and harmful agenda that rejects any form of gun control in Congress and in turn, America. Congress rarely passes gun legislation that pertains to gun safety and prevention, and the lack of action can be attributed to money Congress siphons off of the NRA, and the interfering campaigns that the NRA partakes in.
America gives us the right to bear arms — but are we protected?
Following events such as the shooting in Uvalde, a media storm focusing on the grief of the people and political repercussions becomes America’s main feature story. Then, even with ensuing debates on gun policies and rights, action rarely occurs. And with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, any change or reform is unlikely. In the meantime, more than 500 people die every day due to gun violence, and America’s leaders continually reveal their level of concern towards the victims of preventable circumstances.
Freedom should go hand-in-hand with safety. Should we have to choose?
As a voter or future voter, taking action is still possible. For starters, one can look into candidates’ NRA funding and stances on gun policies. If they don’t align with policies that are stepping towards gun safety, consider voting for someone else. Supporting youth movements such as March for Our Lives, which advocates to end gun violence, and participating in their events is another way to physically connect members of a community over the issue of gun violence.
The NRA’s ads and messages are a type of fear-mongering, as they send the message that attack is imminent for American individuals, and by not owning a gun, they are in danger. This is untrue. The ownership of more guns does not equate to safety. It means the opposite, as oftentimes, guns fall into wrong hands, resulting in more tragedy. America doesn’t need guns to protect itself, and as far-reaching as it may sound, we need to look past what the media tells us about guns, whether right or wrong, and take the steps to build trust in society as a whole and become more aware of the truth of owning more guns.
Media is one of the NRA’s greatest assets, and if we can also use those same platforms to give a voice to the victims’ stories and share the impact that the expansive freedom that the Second Amendment offers has on the lives of innocent citizens, we can be guided towards our next mission.
Some believe that without the Second Amendment, the people will be left defenseless. I believe that we are truly defenseless when there is little awareness surrounding the heavily moneyed interests that favor the Second Amendment and devastate people’s lives. Raising awareness is extremely important, and in a country where our money may skew our political system, truth matters.