As immoveable as I am in my support of the Second Amendment and my opposition to policies that restrict liberty, I can still concede that those who disagree with me have some fair arguments.
“No one needs an AR-15!”
“Gun laws ceased mass shootings in other countries!”
“Background checks don’t go far enough!”
“Your Liberty is not worth my life!”
These arguments are all flawed, but they are sensible enough to merit a serious intellectual discussion. I would never call someone stupid for employing one or all of them.
One point made by gun control advocates, that I seem to be hearing more and more lately, is not worthy of any consideration whatsoever. I am referring to the argument that some politicians are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association.
Marco Rubio, who courageously entered an anti-gun lion’s den to express his support for the Second Amendment, was on the receiving end of this accusation yesterday.
You can watch it go down here.
(My feelings about recently traumatized high school students being exploited by political opportunists, by the way, is a separate issue.)
The “in the NRA’s pocket” argument is one of the most mean-spirited, ignorant, and hypocritical in any mainstream political debate that I am aware of.
Take a look at what this argument implies:
- The accused politician is controlled by the NRA
- The politician’s support for the Second Amendment and against most gun control legislation is insincere
- The NRA and the politician likely have knowledge that proposed gun control legislation would make America safer without sacrificing meaningful rights or liberty
- The NRA and the politician care more about personal financial gain and political power than keeping Americans safe
If this were the case, it would be an extreme level of evil and deception.
Though it may come as a surprise, I generally do not imagine that politicians are consciously bad people (although there are exceptions). My resistance to big government has more to do with human nature and human fallibility than suspicion of foul play or conspiracy. In other words, I think Bernie Sanders and Lindsey Graham are probably well-intentioned and incompetent, not vicious and conniving. They aren’t as hypocritical as they are too big for their britches.
Projecting the kind of malevolence many gun control advocates foist upon the NRA and the politicians they promote says more about the advocates than it does about their targets. Besides, wouldn’t Occam’s Razor suggest that the NRA supports candidates who support the Second Amendment instead of politicians cleverly misleading the public in exchange for campaign contributions from the NRA? Wouldn’t the former option be a heck of a lot easier to pull off?
Beyond the unlikelihood of unadulterated wickedness, there is a common tendency to completely misinterpret what the NRA actually is. While Democrats and the media often portray the NRA as some sort of greedy corporation with no regard for human life, the organization is actually a grassroots non-profit that is first and foremost concerned with gun safety. The NRA has been training Americans to handle rifles safely and responsibly since the 1870s.
Over the course of their history, the NRA has become more and more involved in the political process. They are now one of the top lobbying groups in the United States.
Contrary to what their detractors say, the NRA is not simply funded by big money interests. The NRA has two funding pools. The first is their revenue stream. Per CNNMoney:
“The organization’s overall revenue, which includes membership dues, program fees and other contributions, has boomed in recent years – rising to nearly $350 million in 2013. The majority of this money funds NRA initiatives like member newsletters, sporting events and gun safety education and training programs.
“These help the NRA recruit new members and spread its pro-gun message. But to influence laws and keep its chosen leaders in power, it has a separate pool of money to use.”
This separate pool focuses on political action. Between 1998 and 2017, the NRA spent $203 million on political activities. Without question, we are not talking about chump change here. But the notion that the NRA is buying politicians is disproved once you take a closer look at how exactly those millions are spent. As NYT’s Bret Stephens wrote in response to an anti-NRA monologue made by Jimmy Kimmel:
“The National Rifle Association does not have Republican ‘balls in a money clip,’ as (late-night TV host) Jimmy Kimmel put it the other night. The NRA has donated a paltry $3,533,294 to all current members of Congress since 1998, according to The Washington Post, equivalent to about three months of Kimmel’s salary. The NRA doesn’t need to buy influence: It’s powerful because it’s popular.”
How popular? The NRA Political Victory Fund received over $85 million in individual contributions between 2012 and 2015. And these donations more closely resembled Bernie Sanders’ fundraising efforts than Hillary Clinton’s:
“Contributions came from nearly 30,000 donors, with around 90% of donations made by people who gave less than $200 in a single year. According to the NRA, the average donation is around $35.”
This should come as no surprise. The NRA has over 5 million official members and millions more who support their cause. To put it plainly and simply, the NRA is democracy in action. It’s real people with real concerns who want their representatives to respect their rights and political objectives. Rather than fight it out alone, they make a collective effort to see that their country is shaped according to their values.
Considering the Democratic, Progressive, and even Socialist leanings of most of the NRA’s greatest opponents, it seems quite hypocritical to assume that this group of individuals fighting for their rights is especially corrupt.
If we are to assume that politicians who receive donations from organizations are under those organizations’ control, wouldn’t we have to assume Hillary Clinton is nothing more than a puppet of Planned Parenthood?
The overwhelming majority of campaign spending by the NRA is devoted to Super-PACs. Much of this money goes towards campaign ads for or against particular candidates. They are the country’s ninth largest financier of outside spending. But, once again, this money flows up from the grassroots for the most part.
If you don’t like the NRA, the Second Amendment, or the current political process, fine. You have every right to your opinion. But I advise against smears and allegations of evil and corruption if you want the gun control debate to move in any kind of positive direction.
And please don’t make me stick up for Marco Rubio again.