The National Rifle Association is the single most effective lobbying organization in America. By feeding the paranoia that the federal government will eventually confiscate guns, they’ve succeeded in making the “right to bear arms” our most protected right.
If you want a sense of how powerful the NRA is, take a look at the only piece of legislation even being discussed in the aftermath of the Newtown mass shooting in which 20 first- and second-grade schoolchildren were shot dead. The renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban being pursued by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) would prevent the sale of specific assault weapons. But the bill also would “grandfather” existing weapons so the owners can keep them.
Authorities in Oakland and Los Angeles recently offered gun buybacks to get weapons off the street. But the idea that the federal government is going to track down and take away guns of law-abiding citizens would be laughable, if it weren’t stopping us from doing anything to fight gun violence, which is on the rise for the first time in decades.
But fostering paranoia and hostility toward the government is just one way the NRA keeps us from taking logical steps that would prevent gun violence. Here are five more.
Photo credit: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Stopping Government Research Into Gun Violence
“We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, former director of the National Center for Injury Control and Prevention told The New York Times. Claiming that government research was biased, the NRA’s allies inCongress have fought to defund any study that results in findings not friendly to the industry. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Justice have basically given up trying to discern how gun policy can be improved. Just as with climate change, the industry doesn’t like the science, so it simply tries to erase it.
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Preventing The Government From Going After Weapons Traffickers
There is currently no federal law against gun trafficking. Likewise, there are no centralized databases that allow officials to track where the guns in crimes were originally sold, to get a sense of dealers who have gone rogue. Multiple gun purchases aren’t tracked. There isn’t even a law that mandates that a gun be reported stolen within 48 hours. The NRA opposes all these laws because fewer guns might be sold.
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Spreading The Myth That Guns Could Prevent Mass Shootings
The NRA, like Fox News, has an amazing ability to spread talking points. And even before Wayne LaPierre responded to the Newtown massacre on the behalf of the NRA, NRA supporters knew what to say. This happened because schools are gun-free zones, which exist to invite murderers to go on rampages. This problem can be solved by only one thing — more guns. Only there’s little to no evidence that guns can stop mass shootings. Gun rights activists assert that criminals don’t follow the law, so the laws hurt the law-abiding. But they ignore the fact that guns aren’t always used as they’re intended and a firefight could threaten more lives. One armed bystander of the massacre that surrounded the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords admitted that he almost shot an innocent person.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Jason DeCrow
Making It Impossible To Even Consider Gun Safety Legislation
Despite the fear of someone coming for their guns pulsing through the veins of the right, the fact is that there is almost no piece of legislation to fight gun violence that will ever come out of the current House of Representatives. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who will become Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was endorsed by the NRA. Expecting any bill to come out of his committee that threatens his A rating with the organization is just a fantasy.
Propping Up America’s Greatest Professional Troll
NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s job isn’t PR. He isn’t trying to improve the image of the NRA or of gun owners. He’s selling guns and he sells him better than anyone. He easily could have said that after the Newtown massacre that the NRA is willing to work with anyone who respects the 2nd Amendment, in order to protect children. Instead, he blamed the media, videogames and gun-free zones. And he insisted that monsters are coming to get our kids. Why? Because the notion of a dangerous world with hypocrites who are after your guns, sells guns. His policy proposal — armed guards at every school — is a complete red herring designed to divert us from talking about any legislation that would actually minimize gun violence. On the Internet, a troll is someone who hijacks a conversation to the point that it’s not worth having. In real life, Wayne LaPierre pollutes the discourse, feeds fear and sells guns. And up until now, gun safety advocates have not found anyone or any way to counter him.
Photo credit: AP Photo/ Evan Vouch