NRA hinders congressional action on guns

Graphic by Sarah Gladstone/Sagamore Staff

Graphic by Sarah Gladstone/Sagamore Staff

Henry Peebles-Capin

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has exercised significant influence in recent elections. The NRA has lobbied to defeat a series of gun control bills, which were supported by the majority of Americans.

A poll conducted by Quinnipiac University revealed that 92 percent of all voters, including 82 percent of all self-identified Republicans, supported thorough background checks for all gun sales. However, the Senate’s Manchin-Toomey Gun Bill, which would have enacted this policy in 2013, was rejected by 46 senators, a margin of six votes.

Passage of this bill would have expanded criminal and mental health background checks for online sales and gun shows. Forty-one out of the Senate’s 45 Republicans opposed passage of this bill. Why, if 82 percent of Republican voters support expansion of background checks, did fewer than 9 percent of Republican Senators support the same measure? Aren’t these senators elected to represent the voters’ interests in Congress?

The answer is that the Senate represents the interests of the National Rifle Association, not voters. The NRA gains support by playing on the biggest fear of gun owners in the United States: that Democrats want to take their guns away.

Examples of this can be seen on the NRA’s website, with misleading headlines such as “NRA Slams Hillary Clinton on guns: her real goal is ‘gun confiscation.’” Not only has Clinton never supported gun confiscation, but at a debate in 2008, Clinton said, “I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms.”

The NRA has earned the trust and support of many Republican voters by resolutely leading gun owners to fear Democratic politicians. They have made it nearly impossible for a political candidate to be elected without their stamp of approval.

The NRA’s approval is demonstrated by letter grades given to Senators and Representatives. These letters reflect the NRA’s support, or lack thereof, of various legislators’ voting records on gun rights. In fact, only two of all Republican senators have F grades from the NRA. By contrast, 36 Democratic senators, including both from Massachusetts, have F grades from the NRA due to their support for increased gun control.

The NRA’s stamp of approval has become so valuable for Republican politicians that they can barely hope to be elected without it. With so much power over who will be elected, the NRA can ensure that their interests are protected, including their public opposition to any expansion of background checks.

In addition to their manipulation of the voters, they act as an additional “super PAC” for the Republican party, giving money only to candidates who promise to take a firm stance against gun control. The phrase “money wins elections” is not misleading. In 2012, 95 percent of candidates who were elected as Representatives outspent their opponents.

The NRA, by manipulating gun-owning voters, has filled the Republican-controlled Senate with mostly Senators who they know will agree to vote against almost any form of gun control legislation. As long as the interests of the powerful are represented in Congress with higher priority than those of the voters, issues such as gun legislation can never be resolved.

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