Gun violence is a common thing in the United States today. Every week (on average) there is another gun related incident, either at a school, a movie theater, a concert, or any other place with a crowd. But when other nations faced the issue on gun control, they seem to be able to pass legislation much easier than the U.S. can. Australia had a mass shooting in 1997, causing them to pass gun control measures, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since. Since 1997, the United States has had 79 mass shootings, mass meaning four or more people have been killed.
Many say “guns don’t kill people, people do,” so maybe we should make guns harder to get for those people. But weather or not the nation wants gun control is not the issue. According to a recent Gallup poll, 60% of the country wants banning of certain weapons, such as semi-automatic, and as high as 76% of people support some change in gun laws, such as background checks. So what is stopping politicians from making this legislation hit the Congressional floor? One special interest group, in a not so obvious way, is stopping the passing on any and all gun legislation—the N.R.A.
The N.R.A. (National Rifle Association) was started by Union veterans of the Civil War, William Church and George Wingate, who were disappointed in their soldiers’ marksmanship. After getting grants from the state of New York, the N.R.A. was founded in 1871 with the goal to, “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis” according to Church. The N.R.A. started in a practical sense, opening its first rifle range in 1872. Moving from firearm training, to hunting, to police training, to the political beast we know today, the N.R.A. has been many things in its history, but has always prided itself on being “America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights.”
But many of us know the connection between N.R.A. and the gridlock that has plague political progress to gun control—the N.R.A. donates money to republican campaigns. Millions of dollars every year—$54.4 million in 2016 alone, $30 million going to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. In light of the recent Parkland shooting, many are posting the amount of money each senator received from the N.R.A., showing how these politicians are bought out. But this issue might not be so black and white.
When looking into the ocean of donations politicians get, the N.R.A.’s contributions are small. In 2014, the N.R.A. gave Texas Senator John Cornyn $9,900 in his campaign, the most given to a single senator. Cornyn’s campaign raised a total of $14 million, with $57,000 coming from Exxon alone. Even in the case of the Trump campaign, out of Trumps $957.6 million spent on his campaign, N.R.A.’s contributions only make up 3%.
I’m not saying N.R.A.’s contributions to politicians don’t help their cause; it absolutely does, but that is not the only way they have achieved a strangle hold on American politics. What else does N.R.A. do then to affect the country? A simple, focus, perceptions of guns they have established in this nation since their inception in 1871—the only way to fix a problem with guns, is with more guns. The N.R.A. has hit the heart of the Bible Belt in America with an unchanging message of Second Amendment rights, keeping individual safety, and conservatism. Whenever a mass shooting happens, the N.R.A. and conservative stance on the issues seems repetitive. The same every time.
Now compare this to the proponents of gun control. After the Columbine school shooting, activists wanted to stop the “gun show loophole” since the killers bought guns at a gun show where a background check wasn’t required. The Charleston church shooting led to a drive to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows someone to get a gun if a background check isn’t completed after three days. After the Las Vegas massacre, many demanded a ban on “bump stocks” which are a device that can be used to make any weapon a semi-automatic. After all of these shootings, a different topic is brought into the limelight. However, there is no consistency, leading to none of these issues having legislation passed on it.
The N.R.A. is a special interest group spreading its message in a very concise and focused way. When we get furious after the inevitable shooting in this country, maybe we can learn for them, and get a consistent message of gun safety, instead of blaming the funding they give to politicians. Maybe, if we can find this consistency, gun control legislation can be passed, and maybe the next mass shooting can be avoided.