How Lobbyists Sold Out Your Grandfather’s NRA
The NRA was originally founded to promote responsible gun ownership, but it operates today solely to make the gun industry rich — at the cost of American lives.
The NRA was founded in 1871 to advance rifle marksmanship, firearm safety and competency. For a very long time, it focused on this mission successfully and grew its membership of hunters, sportsmen, and responsible gun owners.
Sadly, the NRA of today would be completely unrecognizable to its founders. It’s strayed almost entirely away from any meaningful programmatic efforts related to its mission in favor of trips to Russia, dark money, backroom deals, feathering the beds of lobbyists, million-dollar spokespeople, and a 24/7 fake news machine that is designed exclusively to foster unfounded fears among its members and the public. Its finances are in turmoil, and its approval ratings are at record lows.
This much is clear: In the face of America’s gun violence epidemic, the NRA must salvage what it once did well. That means returning to its focus on responsible gun ownership.
If the NRA were to do this, it would be acting as an actual nonprofit organization focused on achieving its mission — and it would be acting consistently with the views of its members. The NRA membership overwhelmingly supports common-sense solutions — including the expansion of Brady Background Checks — to ensure our nation has a strong and secure system to keep guns out of dangerous hands. Yet, even on that issue, the NRA has blocked every reasonable effort to expand the Brady Background Check system. According to NRA lobbyists and its grossly overpaid consultants fueling the fake news dystopia, any attempt to protect public safety infringes on the rights of gun owners.
But let’s be clear, the current NRA’s focus is not on the long-term securitization of gun owner rights in this country — it’s on the short-term profits of the gun industry. And in pursuing those short-term profits, the NRA is destroying its once strong reputation and is contributing to our current epidemic of gun violence.
It does not have to be this way. There is a path forward for an organization of responsible gun owners who want to focus on firearm safety, marksmanship, and the protection of rights to own guns.
Jim and Sarah Brady, my organization’s namesakes, were gun owners. They worked hand in hand with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to enact the Brady Law 25 years ago. The NRA fought their work every step of the way, but today Brady Background Checks have stopped more than 3 million sales of guns to prohibited buyers we all agree should not have them.
Rather than focusing its efforts on opposing the most basic public safety measures that stop dangerous or at-risk people from accessing guns, we ask the NRA to consider this reality: that in order for their organization to survive, it must recognize that our country is facing an epidemic of gun violence.
To maintain the American system of gun ownership requires acknowledging this epidemic and working to solve it through appropriate solutions that protect the interests of gun owners with the rights of the public — including gun owners — to live in a society free of the fear of getting shot in school, in church, in a synagogue, a mosque, a movie theatre, or walking down the street.
The NRA speaks a great deal about the “American way.” Well, part of the “American way” means conducting business with honesty and integrity and not from playbooks with ideas lifted straight from despotic regimes hardly representative of their people. The “American way” does not mean following a special set of laws or protections for special interest groups, achieved through closed-door meetings with results that imperil our lives.
Make no mistake, no other industry in America has benefitted as much through sweeping backroom deals as the gun industry. And while that’s great for gun industry profits and bad actors, it’s not good for average Americans.
The NRA is at a breaking point. Its finances are a mess. It’s a scandal-ridden organization, with million-dollar mouthpieces like Dana Loesch and Oliver North spewing misinformation and lies to generate profits for gun manufacturers. During its convention this weekend, the NRA must open its door, listen to its members, and reassess its role in our country. If the NRA truly wants to keep guns in the hands of the “good guys,” then it must abandon the deception campaign and the million-dollar salaries. It must return to its roots in addressing safe storage and ending “family fire,” and it must help bring about common-sense legislation that will save lives and protect gun ownership.
That’s an NRA we would welcome. And of course, its members are always welcome to join Brady in uniting Americans against gun violence.
Let’s work together to undo decades of questionable political deals so that the gun industry can no longer act above the law. Work with us on bringing the light of day to future debate on issues where perhaps we disagree on the best solution, but we can agree to disagree and forge a compromise that protects our country, the lives of all who live here, and the right to own, possess and carry guns.
Let’s take action, not sides. Brady is willing and eager to do so. Is the NRA?