It’s difficult to imagine watching a major news segment about gun control without hearing from the National Rifle Association. The group claims to represent millions of gun owners and calls itself “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization.” It has become a regular fixture in public debates about gun violence, arguing against even basic restrictions on gun sales and ownership.
But the NRA is a powerful industry lobbying group, often working on behalf of gun manufacturers. The group gets millions of dollars in direct donations from gun companies every year, and millions more in ad space that gun companies buy in NRA publications. Some gun companies donate a portion of every gun purchase directly to the NRA. The NRA has a “Golden Ring of Freedom” program that acknowledges groups that donate more than $1 million to the organization. “Golden Ring of Freedom” honorees include companies like Beretta and Smith & Wesson, the manufacturer that created the gun used in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
That allegiance to gun manufacturers means that the NRA’s top priority in any debate about gun violence is protecting the product — deflecting attention away from gun sales. And that creates a badly warped view of the gun debate, where commonsense solutions to gun violence are ignored while the public attempts to make sense of the NRA’s distractions.