Gun-related incidents continue to occur in the United States, so why can’t they stop the guns? The reality is that there is an organization behind the scenes that has a hold on U.S. politicians and prevents U.S. society from “quitting” firearms. That organization is the National Rifle Association.
The NRA has spent $140 million to date since 2010 supporting political candidates who advocate on behalf of firearms. CNN reported in 2018 that more than half of all members of Congress at that time had received funding from the NRA, and many lawmakers had longstanding financial relationships with the lobby.
But money alone isn’t enough to hold onto politicians in Washington. The NRA effectively manages political interests, too. With about 5 million members, the NRA is powerful in mobilizing grassroots voters to get involved in politics. They take part in rallies, write letters and win over their friends. Because they are so vocal and receive a lot of attention, American politicians tend to gravitate toward them.
Moreover, the NRA’s collusion with U.S. politicians is nothing new. A number of U.S. legislators were leaders in the NRA as long ago as the 1960s and helped the organization with its strategy.
Among them was Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell Jr., who died in 2019. He had served in Congress since 1955 and joined the board of the NRA in 1968. Taking advantage of his position, he not only leaked information from federal agencies to the NRA but also gave the NRA a “head’s up” whenever relevant legislation was proposed.
A staunch gun advocate, Dingell continued to defend gun rights even after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the 1960s, when President Lyndon Johnson sought strict gun control, Dingell asked the Library of Congress to research Nazi Germany’s confiscation of firearms to prove that gun control was a regressive step. He also wrapped himself in the U.S. flag, claiming that owning guns was the “patriotic duty” of citizens.
The NRA is well versed in applying such “skewed” arguments and has continued to shape this cultural mindset among U.S. society. Bloomberg.com suggests that the NRA’s most transformative achievement is not financial but cultural. Those who oppose gun control firmly believe that they are “reputable, honest, patriotic citizens who are self-sufficient and lovers of freedom.”*
After joining the NRA board, Dingell became even more committed to the group. As gun violence grew increasingly out of control in the U.S. there was an increased public demand for gun control. Dingell realized that the NRA needed a new strategy to deal with this changing environment. He proposed launching new lobbying efforts, focusing on presidential candidates and engaging in party politics. Under his influence, the NRA reshuffled its leadership putting hard-liners in charge and defending gun rights even more fervently than before.
The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act, a significant piece of pro-gun legislation, was passed in 1968. Dingell drafted most of the legislation, which was also sponsored by another Democratic Party politician. President Ronald Reagan, supported by the NRA, appointed conservative judges who were in favor of gun ownership. At this point, the NRA’s influence had reached parts of the government, government, including Congress, the president and the judiciary. The NRA also became increasingly tied to partisan politics, as multiple Republican Party legislators became directors. Even today, the Republican Party often aligns with the NRA on the issue of gun control.
From the past to the present, too many U.S. politicians have willingly allowed themselves to be bought and used because, for them the NRA “gives” so much — money, status and political influence. But the current situation is leaving ordinary Americans with nothing but fear and anxiety.
*Editor’s note: This quote, though accurately translated, could not be verified.