Contributed by Larry Lease
America is still reeling from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre that left 17 dead. The main discussion has turned from mental health to gun control. Shooting after shooting, lawmakers continually refuse to pass sensible gun laws. The main reason is the National Rifle Association (NRA). Late-night host, John Oliver, describes the NRA as, “…like PETA, but for guns, and effective.”
The organization keeps lawmakers in check, not only through contributions, but by effectively organizing their members to flood their lawmakers with phone calls demanding they do nothing about our porous gun laws.
Numerous lawmakers continue to explain that there is no evidence indicating whether gun laws prevent shootings, while on the other hand refusing to fund studies to investigate. One of the major funders for academic research, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has been hamstrung in studying how best to prevent gun violence for the last 20 years. The NRA had language inserted into the CDC’s budget, stating, “None of the funds available… may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
Because of a 1997 amendment to a congressional bill, the CDC can’t conduct any research that might advocate or promote gun control. As a result, the CDC funding for gun violence studies has dropped 96 percent in 20 years. The NRA has also prevented the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from having an electronically searchable database for tracing the origins of firearms, forcing the agency to instead rely on paper records. The NRA has been very successful for several years, despite having only a membership of 5 million.
The NRA’s entire set-up is focused on rallying its members to oppose even the slightest thing related to guns. And the gun control side is not nearly so organized, nor are they consistent about it. People get all riled up in the wake of a mass shooting and then it dies off a few weeks later, whereas the NRA is constantly lobbying for no gun control. The NRA has been focused on gun control before those against it have even thought about it.
If and when a proposal you like is on the table, you’re going to have to make all those calls again. Because, remember, it doesn’t take much to outnumber the NRA. But if you want to see serious changes, you actually have to show up every day.