"Thoughts and Prayers": How The NRA Has Congress On Their Knees
Updated: Jan 6
Thoughts and Prayers. Every single time a mass shooting occurs in the United States, everyone in our government sends their "thoughts and prayers".
You would think 20 kindergarteners (Sandy Hook, 2012) getting shot point blank in the face while at school would unite elected officials to come together to come up with comprehensive gun laws to make sure a tragedy like this never happens again.
How about 58 innocent people getting mowed down by AR 15's and AR 10's while attending a concert (Las Vegas Shooting, 2017)? How about 48 people getting torn up by a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle at a nightclub whose main attendees were members of the LGBQT community (Pulse Nightclub, 2016)? Or how about 32 college students getting slaughtered on their campus while attending classes (Virginia Tech, 2007)? 22 people getting shot while shopping at Wal-Mart (El Paso, 2019)? 25 innocent people getting shot while attending church (Sutherland Texas, 2019)? 17 people shot at their local high school (Stoneman Douglas High School, 2018)? The list goes on and on and on......
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the United States had more violent gun deaths per 100,000 people than Afghanistan and Iraq in 2017 when you factor out armed conflicts. This would be a good reminder that Afghanistan has been in a constant state of war since 2001 (there's been civil unrest there for decades even prior to the US getting involved in 2001) and Iraq has been in chaos since the US led invasion in 2003. Let that sink in: you were more likely to die from getting shot in the United States of America than in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2017. (Bombings and other acts of violence are exponentially higher in Afghanistan and Iraq than in the United States).
No major gun control legislation has passed since 1994 when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was passed. This law prohibited the manufacture of civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms that were defined as assault weapons as well as certain ammunition magazines that were defined as "large capacity". The ban ended in 2004 and was not extended after its expiration.
The United States has a gun violence problem but why hasn't the government passed any major gun legislation to combat this issue? Say hello to the NRA.
Who or what is the NRA?
The National Rifle Association also known as the NRA was founded in 1871. It started off as an organization to encourage rifle shooting on a "scientific basis" but over time morphed into a powerful political entity. In the mid 1930's, the NRA began to get its feet wet into political lobbying but it wasn't until 1977 the organization began to push their agenda on a national level by forming their own political action committee (to understand what a political action committee is, take a look at Unbiased* Opinions article on Dark Money, https://www.unbiasedopinions.net/home/what-the-hell-is-dark-money).
It's estimated the NRA has 3 to 5 million members across the United States. It boasts some extremely notable members including meme hero, Chuck Norris, NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone, James Earl Jones, Whoopi Goldberg and Sarah Palin. These three to five million members are highly politicized and usually vote for candidates who are staunch supporters of guns and gun rights.
But how do these supporters know which candidates are staunch supporters of guns?
The NRA is no JV organization. They are extremely organized and give information to their members along with the general public the gun stances of candidates running for office across all different types of elections. In fact, they have something sort of a report card. The NRA publicly grades members of Congress A to F with the higher grades meaning that candidate is more gun friendly. These grades can swing a candidate to victory in those communities where gun culture is prevalent.
From 2010 - 2018, the grades provided by the NRA have mostly fallen within party lines. Democrats have utterly failed the NRA's grading system. Majority of them have received "F's". Republicans on the other hand have received outstanding grades where a majority of them have received "A-" or above.
Why do Republicans get higher grades?
When it comes to spending money on political candidates and causes, the NRA spends a ton. The NRA spends more money on gun rights than all gun control advocacy groups combined. On average, the NRA spends $250M a year on a wide range of activities. These include giving money to politicians, gun ranges and education programs relating to guns.
With abundant financial resources, the NRA's big money contributions to political candidates help influence gun policy in Washington. These financial contributions are heavily skewed toward Republican candidates for office. In return, favorable gun policy is rampant in Washington in large part due to Republicans receiving large financial backing from the NRA and other gun rights advocacy groups.
There are limits citizens and organizations can contribute DIRECTLY to a political candidate. Out of the $6M contributed DIRECTLY for political candidates in 2016, 95%+ of that went towards Republicans. Out of the $50M+ contributed INDIRECTLY, through PAC's/Super PAC's, 95%+ of that also went towards Republican candidates. The opposition of Hillary Clinton becoming elected was so fierce, the NRA indirectly spent $30M+ just on Donald Trump.
How does the NRA have Congress on their knees?
For Republicans in office, the backing of the NRA is vital for their campaigns. The NRA provides money and votes. Without an endorsement from the NRA or a high grade from their "report card", the chances of them getting elected decrease significantly. In 2018, only 6 members of Congress that were Republican did not receive some sort of financial support from the NRA. The lack of gun control legislation stems precisely from this.
What type of legislation has been tried to pass through Congress?
In 2019, the House of Representatives (which has a Democrat majority at the moment) passed two large packages of gun control legislation. The legislation in here would make background checks mandatory for all gun sale purchases. In addition, it would close a loophole where a gun sale would automatically go through if a background check did not complete in three days in some states where a background check is necessary for a certain type of gun sale. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican) has refused to bring the bill to the Senate floor.
In 2016, the Democrats in the House tried to bring the "No Fly, No Buy" bill to vote on the House floor. This was in response to the shooting at the Pulse Night Club. Paul Ryan, who was the House Speaker at the time (Republican) refused to bring the bill to a vote.
In 2013, on the heels of the Sandy Hook massacre, the Senate tried to pass a bill that would require a background check on all commercial gun sales.The NRA threatened any senator who voted for this bill would receive low marks on their "report cards". The bill couldn't get the 60 votes it needed to pass.
What are some common sense gun laws that are suggested but currently not federal laws?
Mandatory background checks - In some states, you can purchase a gun without going through a background check. That means you can go to a parking lot at Cracker Barrel in Oklahoma and buy an AR15 from someone you met on a gun forum on the internet. In other instances, there is something called the Charleston loophole, named after the tragedy that occured in Charleston, SC where Dylan Roof shot up churchgoers at a Black church. In some states where background checks are required for certain purchases, the purchase automatically goes through if the background check doesn't complete in 3 days.
Military Style assault weapons with high capacity magazines - The constitution clearly states the right to bear arms. Americans have the right to protect themselves and their families. However, the founding fathers did not account for the AK-47, AR15, AR10, etc that can shoot and kill large amounts of people quickly. The greatest document ever created, the Constitution, had its flaws when it didn't allow women or people of color to vote originally. But it was amended to keep up with the times and progress. The same can be done with the 2nd amendment.
Proper Permits and Mandatory Training - If the US military doesn't allow servicemembers to begin shooting unless they're properly trained, how can the average Joe purchase a high capacity weapon without proper training? Before anyone is allowed to drive a car, they need a permit and a license. Why can't it be the same for a gun?
No Fly, No Buy - For whatever reason, the NRA strongly opposes this law as do Republicans in Congress. After 9/11, the "No Fly' list was created to make sure terrorists or people who were suspected of terrorism activities were not allowed to fly on planes. However, these people are still allowed to purchases firearms. The shooter of the Pulse Night Club that killed 48 people was on a no fly list but was still able to purchase a gun. Does it make any sense for someone who can't fly on a plane because they're dangerous to still be able to purchase a firearm?
You are 73% more likely to die in the US via gun violence than in Great Britain. The United States has the highest gun mortality rate amongst wealthy nations in the world and it's not even close. However, it would be foolish to think the gun laws above would eliminate gun violence. There are 393 million guns in the United States, 1.2 for every American. Though mass shootings get all the headlines in the news, they only account for a fraction of gun related deaths. In fact 60% of gun related deaths are suicides.
Yet, if these common sense laws prevent just a handful of tragedies then it's worth it. The NRA has hijacked Congress and this country with their lobby. Hundreds if not thousands of lives can be saved if the officials we elect to office stand up to the NRA and pass gun control legislation that makes sense. It's absolute lunacy that someone who is mentally unstable, a terrorist, a violent criminal or a woman beater can walk into a gun store or shows in some states and purchase semi-automatic weapons with unlimited ammo.
We, as Americans are better than this. We put a f***ing man on the moon. Let's try to prevent 20 kindergarteners from getting shot in the face again.