The NRA is no longer the main obstacle to gun control in the US (Opinion)

Publisher’s note: Nicole Hemmer is a research associate at Columbia University in the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics” and forthcoming “Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s”. Co-hosts the history podcasts “Past Present” Y “This Day in Esoteric Political History“. The opinions expressed in this comment belong solely to its author.

(CNN) — The National Rifle Association (NRA) is in trouble.

Last year, the organization attempted to file for bankruptcy in response to a New York state lawsuit investigating alleged financial abuses, but a federal judge dismissed the effort, finding that the NRA had filed the petition in “bad faith” and was trying to to use bankruptcy to protect themselves from litigation. That came after the Senate Finance Committee released a report finding that the NRA, working closely with Russian agents, acted as “foreign assetduring the 2016 presidential campaign.

The NRA, which he said in a statement to CNN which will “continue to explore moving its headquarters” from Virginia to Texas, had filed for reinstatement in Texas when it filed for bankruptcy. As for the Senate report, the NRA described it as “politically motivated,” with the organization’s attorney saying, “This report goes to great lengths to … create the false impression that the NRA did not act properly. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Following last week’s horrific massacre of students and faculty in Uvalde, Texas, which followed the horrific massacre of mostly black shoppers at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, the NRA went ahead with its planned annual convention in Houston. . Apparently, the convention drew thousands of protesters Y chased away a handful of artists scheduled, which withdrew after the Uvalde massacre. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also walked away from the event, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled his live performance, making a pre-recorded video instead of him.

This problem is not widespread, as keynote speakers such as former President Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas appeared before a crowd relatively scarce Y for moments unarmed. But the organization has been markedly weakened by years of infighting and corruption.

That might sound like welcome news to supporters of gun law reform, who for decades have viewed the NRA as the main driver of gun absolutism in America. But even if the NRA disappeared tomorrow, gun policy in the United States would not change. In many ways, the NRA has already won: It has fundamentally transformed the Republican Party, gun jurisprudence and conservative political identity in a way that will continue even after the association is gone.

The radicalization of the NRA, from its origins as a hunting and target-shooting organization to one that pushes conspiracy-laden messages in support of outright gun deregulation, has been well documented over the years. The group’s right-wing takeover in the mid-1970s turned into an all-out push in the early 1990s to reshape the Republican Party into an anti-gun control institution. .

It was not an easy thing to accept. As has also been widely documented, we’ve had enough mass shootings and enough indifference from the GOP to have rehearsed this story frequently over the last few decades, back in the early 1990s mainstream Republicans supported gun regulation.

Ronald Reagan had withdrawn from public life after leaving the presidency, however, he was strongly in favor the Brady Act of 1993, which required background checks and a five-day waiting period for the purchase of weapons by an unlicensed individual, and the federal assault weapons ban of 1994, which prohibited arms manufacturers from creating assault weapons for civilian use and prohibited high-capacity magazines.

In the early 1990s, the NRA began shifting its funding toward Republican candidates, using their endorsements and funds to help defeat the republicans who had voted in favor of gun control and supporting candidates who took hard-line positions.

NRA language became increasingly apocalyptic during this period, in keeping with a rapidly growing militia movement fueled by anti-government sentiment and paranoid conspiracy. After two men who they moved in militia circles bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the NRA did not hold back on its rhetoric. In contrast, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA initially defended a letter warning of “government thugs in rubber boots”. The letter prompted former President George HW Bush to resign your membership to the NRA and the alleged loss of half a million members.

But within a few years, the NRA had decided that its initial instincts—to never waver and never apologize—were politically effective. As in the Uvalde case, when the Columbine High School massacre occurred in 1999, the NRA’s annual convention was days and miles from the scene of the massacre.

The organization’s leadership met to discuss the strategy in a series of private conversations that, it turns out, were recorded by one participant and obtained by NPR last year. An NRA spokesman told NPR when asked for comment: “It is disappointing that someone would promote an anti-NRA editorial agenda using obscure sources and ‘mysterious recordings’ to allude to the tragic events of more than 20 years ago.”

But those tragic events keep repeating themselves. And in those taped conversations after the Columbine shooting, NRA leaders professed their belief that both the GOP and the gun industry would follow suit, and that any show of remorse for the shooting would be an admission of guilt. “If we run away with our tails between our legs,” one official said, explaining why the group should not cancel its convention, “we will be accepting responsibility for what happened there.” Another also rejected the idea of ​​canceling the convention, saying: “The message it will send is that even the NRA has been brought down, and the media will have a golden opportunity with it.”

The convention went ahead with the familiar message that liberals and the media were politicizing the shooting, while calling for fewer regulations.

In the decades that followed, the NRA would use that playbook again as it expanded its influence over a generation of politicians and judges. His victory was total: the US Supreme Court radically expanded its interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, in 2008, the Republican Party made gun deregulation a litmus test for candidatesand state legislatures began to respond to mass shootings relaxing the regulation of weapons.

These actions, although shaped by the NRA in the 1990s, were not carried out solely to appease the organization. No, the NRA’s victory was instilling the idea that the unrestricted right to keep and bear weapons of war was the most fundamental right in America. Although the NRA makes large donations to politicians who reflect its views, it is no longer a necessary part of gun policy. In fact, one of the biggest threats to the NRA right now is the rise of gun advocacy groups. more radical.

For Americans desperate for more gun regulation, focusing on the National Rifle Association isn’t enough. Instead, they should work to strengthen and expand the infrastructure of gun security and regulatory organizations, support a commitment by the Judiciary to a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment, and make it clear that right-wing radicalization on gun matters is not It owes not only to NRA donations, but to a deeper commitment to the most radical gun absolutism in American history.

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