It’s time to stop shaming the NRA

Photo courtesy Blue Diamond Gallery
Kenneth Pancake

Last week on March 6, in a Gateway article titled “It’s time for Ricketts to stand with students – not the NRA,” the author addressed several things related to the gun rights discussion being held across America in the wake of the Marjory Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day last month.

Among many other points, it was emphasized that “social media platforms were filled with calls to protect the American freedom of owning a firearm and calls to protect the lives of America’s children,” and it was added that “(Governor) Ricketts chose the side of the NRA (National Rifle Association).”

The piece goes further: “…(Ricketts) is certainly not protecting the American teenagers…” The article ended with the statement, “Young people in America are tired of getting gun downed (sic) in classrooms, it’s time for politicians like Ricketts to stand with them.”

There are many aspects of the gun rights debate and certainly, the involvement of the NRA is not among these. It is important to clear up a couple misconceptions in relation to last week’s article: the NRA has not done anything wrong – and, yes, if you rise above the polarized debate, you can stand for both students and our God-given right to bear arms.

The most popular attacks against the National Rifle Association usually reference how much money they give to politicians; however, to quote a popular congresswoman, it’s “bread crumbs” compared to other organizations. As Sen. Marco Rubio stated a few weeks ago at CNN’s Town Hall, “The influence of these groups come not with money, the influence comes from the millions of people that agree with the agenda.” The NRA does represent nearly five million members (according to their website – the exact number is disputed).

But the myth that the NRA controls politicians by buying them out should be immediately dispelled: in the 2016 election cycle, the NRA spent $54 million in political spending overall (per OpenSecrets) – but only under a million dollars of that was in direct donations to candidates. Congressman Don Bacon accepted $4,950 during the 2016 cycle from the NRA – and spent over a million dollars during the fierce election cycle. At most, the NRA will donate up to $20,000 or $30,000 to a candidate – again, bread crumbs, compared to the likes of other types of organizations like labor unions. According to the National Institute for Labor Relations, labor unions spend 1.713 billion dollars during that same cycle – more than 30 times that of the NRA. If anyone believes that campaign donations automatically equal votes on the floor of the Senate or House of Representatives, they should look at labor unions and Planned Parenthood. According to Open Secrets, Planned Parenthood donated just as much money to candidates as the NRA did. The only difference? Since Planned Parenthood receives federal funding, they did it with your tax dollars.

Finally, if one took a chance to listen to Dana Loesch during CNN’s Town Hall, one might see that the NRA actually does care about children. Many solutions were discussed, and it was apparent that defending the NRA and children at the same time is, indeed, possible. But as the spokesperson for the NRA (Loesch) attempted to speak solutions, the entire crowd (stacked with gun control supporters) shouted her down. One screamed, “Burn her!” After the event ended, security had to escort her out of the event while protestors stormed the stage – this was not shown on camera. Many on the right wish to discuss solutions, like the NRA and those who support them (like Gov. Ricketts). Unfortunately, many on the left (such as the attendees of the Town Hall last month) don’t want to listen.

The gun rights debate is a complex one. There are many aspects of it, such as the effect of gun control laws in other countries, the good-guy-with-a-gun scenario and AR-15’s (no, AR does not stand for assault rifle). But in this instance, it is vital to understand that the NRA does not deserve the rap they have received.