We can overcome the NRA


By spending so much money on independent expenditures, the NRA seems to spend less money on politics than it really does.

There are many things that students should be scared of in schools. History projects, final exams and homework have always been large factors that add to students’ stress. These are givens. What’s not a given is the fear of guns. A student should never have to fear getting shot while sitting in a classroom, but sadly that’s the culture we currently live in.

According to ABC news, there have been 270 school shootings since the shooting at Columbine High School. That averages to more than one shooting per month. Despite this, it seems to us that not much has been done to ban the mechanisms that can deliver death in a matter of seconds. This is because of the gun culture we have in America, and the largest perpetuator of that gun culture is the National Rifle Association, or the NRA.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows that 66% of Americans support increased gun control, so how and why does the NRA resist real progress being made? “Why” is simple: the NRA supports a hyper-conservative agenda. The organization subscribes to a very literal interpretation of the Second Amendment; in their eyes, weapons such as the AR-15 一 which was used in the Parkland shooting 一 should be available for civilian use. They think that any measure of gun control is an infringement of rights. How the NRA pushes its agenda is a little more difficult to answer. The NRA has an institute for legislative action known as the NRA-ILA. When you hear about NRA political contributions or lobbying, this is the branch of the organization that is behind it. The NRA-ILA pushes its agenda with three main spending tactics.

The first way is lobbying. This is where an organization attempts to convince lawmakers of their opinions. Money spent here could be on advertising campaigns, hiring outside consultants, or a number of other activities. The second way is through contributions to candidates, in which the NRA donates money to campaigns of candidates that they believe will support their agenda. However, according to Politifact, these only make up 28% of all of the NRA’s political spending. This is often the number that proponents of the NRA cite as how much it pays out on political expenditure.

“The NRA has donated a paltry $3,533,194 to all current members of congress since 1998,” Bret Stephens, New York Times Columnist wrote in a 2017 article.

This statistic is misleading in two ways. The first is that Stephens is only talking about current members of congress. That statistic does not include all the contributions given to politicians in the past 20 years that no longer are in Congress. The second is that it doesn’t include how much the NRA spends on independent campaign expenditures, which make up 71% of the NRA’s political spending.

These expenditures are when the NRA does not necessarily fund the campaign of individual, but works against the campaign of another candidate. For instance, if a Democrat and a Republican are running against each other in a district, the NRA might air TV ads against the Democrat. By doing this, the organization is not necessarily funding any candidate, so they can say that they spend less on campaign contributions.

When the NRA spends so much money to get a specific candidate into office, that politician will feel obligated to help the NRA in the future. A great example of this is with Florida Senator Marco Rubio. In a televised forum with the victims of the Parkland shooting, Rubio was asked if he would stop accepting money from the NRA. He would not agree to this. This is probably because, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has given over 3.3 million dollars to Rubio in campaign contributions over the course of his career, and, as previously stated, this does not include any money spent on attacking the candidates that Rubio has run against.

The NRA has too much political influence. Its campaign contributions mean that many politicians are beholden to it and will vote in agreement with the NRA. Politicians know that if they stop backing the NRA then it will just run ads against them and fund whomever they are running against. A private foundation should not have such a strong hold on the democratic process, especially when 66% of Americans support something that the NRA strongly opposes.

As they are too indebted to the NRA, it doesn’t seem that federal lawmakers intend on doing anything soon to increase gun control. While we can’t fund politicians in the same way that the NRA can, we still need to show them how important this issue is. It is up to us to be activists and speak out against gun violence in any way we can.

There will be a March For Our Lives in Chicago on March 24. Showing solidarity in the movement might convince lawmakers to support increased gun control. There is also a march on the same day in the Vernon Hills area. The march will start at 11:30 a.m. and begin at Hawthorn Middle School South. The local march would be a great way to get involved if you’re not able to go down to Chicago for the large march.

Another thing to remember is the power of voting. Though only about 30% of current VH students will be able to vote in the 2018 election, most, if not all, of us will be able to vote in the next presidential election. It is important to remember which politicians are opposing the actions that you support, so you can vote for lawmakers who will fight for what we believe in. We are a very politically-motivated generation, and with the right motivation, we can make sweeping changes in our nation.