By Alicia Brown
Immediately after the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, controversy over several issues such as gun control, mental health and more have risen to the surface.
In the weeks since, the dust has started to settle. Thousands of people across America, led by the survivors of the shooting, have stood up against the issues pertaining to school shootings. The people have looked to their local representatives for guidance and change. However, politicians and the people alike face a corrupt, foul barrier reinforced by millions of dollars. This barrier, this heinous threat to Americans’ safety, is the the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The NRA is an American non-profit organization that advocates for gun rights. Founded in 1871, the group has informed its members about firearm related bills since 1934, and it has also directly lobbied for pro-gun rights legislation since 1975.
When the NRA speaks, Capitol Hill turns and listens. Combining candidate and party contributions, independent expenditures, and lobbying, the NRA has spent $203.2 million on political activities since 1998, according to Vox. The NRA spends far more than all the country’s gun control advocacy groups put together.
It also has a much larger membership than any of those groups and disburses funds for things like advertisements, gun ranges and educational programs.
However, the NRA actually has quite a small membership on the national scale, estimated at about five million people, accounting for less than 2% of the American population. Its strength lies partly in its active role in influencing public opinions, but the majority of its power comes from the millions it spends on lobbying and donations to fund congressional campaigns. Many representatives, like North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, who received nearly $2 million in funding from the NRA in 2014, have come to depend on this money to hold onto their positions in congress.
The NRA spent more than $10 million last year on lobbying, while those advocating for gun control spent less than one-fifth as much, according to Business Insider. An organization that essentially started off as a recreational group has wrongly evolved to wield an enormous amount of power that keeps legislators in check via millions of dollars.
At least 15,549 people were killed by guns in the United States in 2017, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. The organization also tallied 31,157 firearm injuries in 2017.
The NRA needs to realize the importance of its powerful platform, especially when its actions put people’s lives at stake.
No one person or organization should have such an enormous influence on our safety and politics in a modern, democratic society, wherein Americans are tired of the never-ending carnage created by gun violence. When kids and adults alike are hurt, so much so that they lead national protests that call together millions to demand change, it is the government’s duty to listen to our voices, not dollars.