The United States virtually belongs to Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma and a handful of other special interests – including the National Rifle Association. The rest of us merely live in it.
The NRA’s wealth does not come from hunters but rather from the producers of weapons and ammunition. That industry is expected to rack up $11.7 billion in sales and $993 million in profits this year, according to analysts at IBIS World. An increasing percentage of those profits are from semi-automatic weapons produced for combat, according to industry analysts.
With their vastly disproportionate influence, the NRA and its cronies create policies and laws that benefit their interests while harming the rest of us. Indeed, if an elected official from a non-safe legislative district dares to put public safety before the arms industry’s bottom line, the NRA can simply eliminate him or her. Money buys a lot of political advertising. Even President Obama is terrified of the NRA.
Demonstrating the arrogance of their power, NRA officials waited a week before responding to the unthinkable Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, in which Adam Lanza allegedly used an assault weapon to riddle the bodies of 6-year-olds and 7-year-olds.
When the NRA’s CEO Wayne LaPierre did finally address the massacre, he used the opportunity to hawk gun sales by calling for the arming of school officials. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he advised.
But if LaPierre’s advice had any merit, then America would be the safest nation on earth – because it is the best armed. A November Congressional Research Service report found that, as of 2009, there were about 310 million firearms in the United States, including 114 million handguns, 110 million rifles and 86 million shotguns. At least 1.5 million of those weapons are automatics and semi-automatics designed for warfare.
Yet the United States has by far the highest incidence of gun-related deaths in the industrialized world, and the 10th highest incidence rate overall – ranking just 1 percent less deadly than Mexico in deaths by firearms.
Even more reprehensible than the NRA’s reaction to the Connecticut massacre was the pandering response of politicians hoping to curry the group’s favor. Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is a prime example.
A perennial aspirant for higher office, Van Hollen made a preemptive defensive strike against any prospective efforts to reform gun-control laws in the state. “It’s a bad idea to have quick, knee-jerk reactions,” he said, apparently unaware of the irony.
Van Hollen wasn’t really worried – he was merely genuflecting. The NRA and gun-makers spent $815,660 to help Walker defeat Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the June recall election, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. That’s why concealed-carry was at the top of Walker’s legislative agenda, and that’s why Wisconsin will never have gun-control reform as long as Walker and the GOP maintain their greedy grip on Madison.