Spineless politicos and the devolution of the NRA


School shootings, theater shootings, concert shootings, post-office shootings, nightclub shootings, restaurant shootings, work-place shootings. The U.S. has had hundreds of mass murders in the last couple of decades, and I think it’s safe to say that debating the legality of bump stocks is not going to bring this ongoing slaughter of innocents to an end.

In other words, anybody spending their time talking about bump stocks and other periphery gun issues in the aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Florida has no real interest in preventing such tragedies in the future. Bump stocks are to our gun problem what lighting farts is to global warming. Wasting our time debating such matters while more people die every day is callous, disingenuous and manipulative.

No one has ever been killed by a bump stock that wasn’t attached to the back-end of a semi-automatic assault rifle, which leads me to think our politicians are concentrating on the wrong end of the gun problem.

There are currently four proposed pieces of gun legislation in the U.S. Senate and two in the House. One deals with bump stocks, another with raising the legal age to buy an assault rifle, and so on and so forth. Only one suggests making owning semi-automatic assault rifles a crime. You can guess which proposal is gaining the least traction. That’s right, it’s that last one, the only one that might make any difference at all, that is going nowhere fast.

So why is that?

Believe it or not, the best explanation I’ve heard came out of Senator Marco Rubio’s mouth while he was being grilled by the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida. When asked if he would promise not to take any more money from the National Rifle Association (NRA), Rubio said it isn’t the NRA’s money that gives the pro-gun lobbyist its influence, it’s the millions of people who call themselves its members who make it so powerful.

Rubio is right. (Make a note: I’m not likely to ever say that again, and no, the Florida senator didn’t commit to refusing the NRA’s blood money in the future.)

No one actually knows how many members the NRA has because the organization refuses to say. It regularly throws around the number 5 million so we can safely assume the real number is well below that. But whatever the actual membership, the NRA does represent enough pro-gun voters to get the attention of politicians like Rubio who believe they need the group’s endorsement and its members’ votes to get elected.

But the question for Republicans at this point is does an NRA endorsement actually help or hinder their chances for reelection? One reason for this quandary is that the NRA has evolved, or more accurately, devolved into something that hardly resembles its original incarnation.

When I was a kid in Oklahoma in the 1960s, every sixth grader was required to learn gun safety from the NRA. All of us had to take a course, which included target shooting, and at the end we got our official NRA cards. The organization was truly what I think of as a gun-safety association back then, as opposed to the crazed right-wing political outfit bordering on hate group we see today.

The NRA has changed. It has morphed into the standard bearer of the far right, whose views are primarily shaped by the conspiracy theories put out by Fox News, Brietbart, right-wing talk radio and the like.

Have you heard the NRA’s top dog Wayne LaPierre open his mouth lately? He makes Joe McCarthy seem like a choirboy. Not only has the NRA allegedly taken millions from a Russian oligarch — which could explain the group’s sudden reverence for all things Trump — the whole org stinks with paranoid conspiracy theories filled with innuendos of some coming war wherein good white Christian Nationalists will need their AKs to fight off a corrupt federal government made up of commies and a despicable dearth of straight white men. 

I hope and pray that there are still millions of NRA members who signed up for that old gun-safety organization and who simply haven’t gotten around to pulling their names from the membership roles of the modern day hate group the NRA has become.

If that’s the case, and I truly believe it is, then now would be a great time for all those legitimate hunters and skeet shooters and collectors to turn away from this new incarnation of the NRA. Enjoying guns should not carry with it the burden of belonging to a far right hate group.

I believe these good and thoughtful gun owners are one of the keys to protecting our children going forward. I believe they understand that adding another 700,000 guns into our schools is not a responsible way to combat the current problem. Responsible gun owners are not anyone’s enemy. In fact, they are a large part of the solution because it is their coming refusal to be part of this new radical-right NRA that in the end will weaken the organization’s stranglehold over the Republican Party and our political system. It’s coming, just watch.

Unfortunately, weak-willed politicians and the NRA are not our only hindrance to solving our gun problem.

As a common sense measure, we must pass laws — right now — that will stop the manufacture and sale of semi-automatic assault weapons outside of our needs for national defense. We also must recreate an integrative, federal and state mental health care system equal in size but more effective than the one Ronald Reagan dismantled in the 1980s. We cannot hope to prevent mass shootings so long as the mentally ill among us have easy access to weapons and no access to mental health care.

I admit these solutions are challenging and will take time to implement —  all except one, that is.

We can do something immediately about these politicians who are willing to trade the lives of our children for another term in office.

And no, I don’t think I’m being overly simplistic or cruel. If a bunch of high school shooting survivors in Florida can call BS on the political class when it comes to guns, then it’s about time we all grow a backbone and do the same thing.

Elected officials who are talking about bump stocks and oversized clips and increasing age limits to purchase assault rifles as opposed to doing everything within their power to ban the sale of all such weapons, are accomplices in the ongoing murder of our children. At this point, after hundreds of these shootings, after the slaughter of children from Sandy Hook to Parkland, every politician who is still willing to be bribed by the NRA’s money and its promise of votes in exchange for advocating to keep these rapid-fire weapons on the market is as guilty of murder as the deranged SOB who pulls the trigger.

These gutless, self-serving politicians who put the NRA’s interest ahead of the rest of us for no other reason than their desire to win their next election are covered in the blood of our children and everyone else who has been gunned down by these weapons of mass murder. All of us, gun owners or not, have a moral responsibility to vote them from office.

We must not continue to divide ourselves along the NRA’s politically flawed line that says everyone who owns a gun is on one side and everyone who doesn’t is on the other. The polls tell us there are literally hundreds of millions of people — gun-owners and non-gun-owners alike — in this country who think the NRA and its comparatively small membership are wrong on assault weapons.

If we speak as one at the ballot box on this issue, it may not stop all the killings but it will darn sure help. It has in other countries that have found the will to do so. If we vote loud enough, even our spineless, child-sacrificing politicians can be made to listen.

Lord help them if they won’t.