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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

The National Rifle Association has had a bad couple of years, hemorrhaging membership, money, and public support. But that did not stop the group from giving its top officials huge pay raises last year, including a 57 percent increase to chief executive Wayne LaPierre.

The numbers, disclosed in the gun lobby giant’s latest tax filings, were reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday night. Between 2017 and 2018, compensation for the NRA’s top officials increased by 41 percent as the group’s spending on its core programs dropped significantly.

Perks for top officials, the disclosures revealed, include charter and first-class jet travel for the leadership and their guests, as well as memberships at health and social clubs, plus housing expenses.

LaPierre received overall compensation in 2018 of nearly $2.2 million, even as the NRA reported a $55 million decline in income, and its 2018 campaign spending was less than half of its totals for 2014 and 2016 congressional races. It was reportedly so cash-strapped that it even slashed spending on free coffee for its employees.

Meanwhile, its revenue from membership dues have been dropping for years, declining by $35 million in 2017 alone. Dozens of its corporate partners have fled in response to online pressure, and it was forced to shut down its failed NRATV streaming service earlier this year.

Despite its major financial struggles, the NRA reportedly considered buying LaPierre a $6 million mansion in a gated Dallas-area golf club to protect him from potential attacks after a 2018 mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

That shooting — and the NRA’s fierce opposition to any meaningful action to prevent similar future attacks — began a sea-change in public opinion. For the first time since 1999, polling has found more Americans view the NRA unfavorably than favorably. A Fox News poll in August, taken after two more horrific mass shootings, found just 42 percent support for the group, versus 49 percent disapproval. Even among gun-owning households, the group’s support dropped to 56 percent from 67 percent a year earlier.

Still, the group continues to maintain a stranglehold over Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. After initially expressing support for universal background checks and red flag laws in the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the summer, Trump quickly caved to LaPierre’s demand that he “stop the games” and get back to blocking gun legislation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.