The NRA’s War on America

The NRA’s rejection of virtually all gun-safety proposals is not only a repudiation of common sense but a bare-knuckle assertion of right-wing power, money and propaganda over the desire of most Americans to better protect themselves and their kids from guns. It will take a determined electorate to prevail, says Beverly Bandler.

By Beverly Bandler

The issue of the NRA vs. America is not only about the nation’s horrific gun violence epidemic. Americans have to decide whether the National Rifle Association and the gun industry should continue to corrupt our political system, whether the NRA with an estimated 3 million members and a management dominated by firearms manufacturers should control politicians and determine public policy for 315 million.

Or as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said, “The NRA is only powerful if you and I let them be powerful.”

Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA has morphed from a group that represented ordinary gun owners into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like assault rifles.

Today’s NRA also stands astride some of the ugliest currents in our politics, combing the “Astroturf” activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed “dark money” of groups like Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating of groups like the American Legislative Council.

Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, is in the business of selling the American public a “Hellish World” in order to frighten them into buying into the idea that their survival requires them to buy more guns, join the NRA and organize opposition to gun control measures. The NRA has been called a “cynical, mercenary political cult” by a former employee.

And the extremism is escalating. In May 1999, LaPierre said, “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period.” However, in December 2012, after 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, were murdered by a gunman wielding a semi-automatic assault rifle, LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He proposed that armed, NRA-trained vigilantes patrol each of the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools, discarding the gun-free zones he once championed.

But the NRA is not only out of touch with mainstream America’s desire for common-sense gun laws; it is also out of touch with its own members. NRA members are much more sensible about gun safety than the management of the non-democratic, top-down, hierarchical NRA.

A May 2012 poll revealed moderation: three out of four NRA members believed that background checks should be completed before every gun purchase. Nearly two-thirds supported a requirement that gun owners alert police when their firearms are lost or stolen.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, noted that it is just the intensity of the NRA leadership’s extremism that intimidates politicians: “It only takes political courage because the NRA makes people toe the line against the majority view of the country. It’s time the majority stood up and said enough already. And the majority should have a motive because any of us could be a victim tomorrow.”

But the gap between the public’s desire for gun sanity and the NRA’s insistence on gun madness is best explained by following the money. NRA’s corporate patrons include 22 firearms manufacturers, 12 of which are makers of assault weapons with household names like Beretta and Ruger. Donors from the industry and other dark reaches of the corporate world have funneled some $52 million to the NRA in recent years.

LaPierre serves at the pleasure of a 76-member board that is stocked with industry brass, and which is all but self-perpetuating. Only one-third of the board’s membership is up for re-election in any given year. Voting is limited to the NRA’s honored “lifetime” members and to dues-payers with at least five consecutive years of being in good standing. One of the NRA’s 10-member nominating committee is the CEO of Freedom Group which manufactures the Bushmaster semiautomatic that Adam Lanza used to slaughter the 20 children and six teachers in Newtown.

The NRA’s political contributions totaled $2,850,033 between 2003 and 2012, 74 percent of which went to Republicans, according to Follow the In the 2012 political races, the total percentage of contributions that went to the GOP: 88 percent.

The NRA’s traditional, regulated PAC is as strong as ever. It spent $16.6 million in national political races in 2012. It was joined by a newly empowered NRAILA, which kicked in an additional $7.4 million from undisclosed sources, making the NRA the eighth-largest dark-money group in the country. [Primary Source: Tim Dickinson: “The NRA vs. America,” RollingStone.]

The consequences of the NRA’s long-running assault on gun-safety laws have been devastating to American citizens. “Since 1968, more Americans have died from gunfire than died in all the wars of the nation’s history: 1.2 million died in wars (from the Revolutionary War though the Iraq War); 1.4 million died in firearm deaths,” according to Politifact.

Author Tom Diaz has written that “In the four decades between 1969 and 2009, a total of 5,586 people were killed in terrorist attacks against the United States or its interests. By comparison, more than 30,000 people were killed by guns in the United States every single year between 1986 and 2010, with the exception of the four years in which the number of deaths fell slightly below 30,000,1999, 2000, 2001, and 2004.

“In other words, the number of people killed every year in the United States by guns is about five times the grand total of Americans killed in terrorist attacks anywhere in the world since 1969.”

But this death toll is of little concern to the NRA. It uses inflamed rhetoric about protecting America’s “freedom” and “civil rights,” but its real purpose is the selling of more and more guns and the expansion of the corporate power of the multi-billion-dollar gun industry.

“The NRA wins because Americans lose focus,” writes Tim Dickinson.

So, the only way to counter the NRA’s power is for American citizens to stay focused, committed and consistent, and to understand that this issue is not only about gun violence. It is also part of the struggle between America and right-wing extremism.

Beverly Bandler’s public affairs career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.

In the News: “The Showdown Over Gun Laws From Coast to Coast” by Gavin Aronsen, Mother Jones, 2012-03-01.  

See also Mother Jones’s special report  “America Under the Gun.”


How Many People Have been killed by guns since Newtown? 2,396 or more since Newtown as of March 1, 2013.
A Snapshot of State Gun laws. Washington Post.
11 Facts About the NRA. Washington Post.
Gun Control Facts By James D. Agresti and Reid K. Smith. Just Facts, September 13, 2010. Revised 2/11/13.
Follow the
Open  Center for Responsive Politics.

Suggested Reading:

Achenbach, Joel, Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz. “How NRA’s true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby.” The Washington Post, 2013-01-12.
Diaz, Tom.  The Last Gun. The Last Gun: Changes in the Gun Industry Are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It. The New Press, (March 26, 2013).
Dickinson, Tim.  “The NRA vs. America.” How the country’s biggest gun-rights group thwarts regulation and helps put military-grade weapons in the hands of killers. Rolling Stone, 2013-01-31.
Feldman, Richard.  Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist. John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (October 26, 2007).
Follow the Money.
Harkinson, Josh. “Does the NRA Really Have 4 Million Members?” MotherJones, 2013-01-14.
Hsieh, Steven.  “Meet the NRA’s Top 10 Enemies.” 1. Doctors, 2. Poets, 3. Women, 4. 90s Boy Bands, 5. Greeting Card Companies, 6. Churches, 7. Pro Football Teams, 8. Actors, 9. CEOs, 10.Interior Designers. Alternet, 2013-02-01.
Hickey, Walter.  “How the NRA Became the Most Powerful Special Interest in Washington.” BusinessInsider, 2012-12-18.
Kessler, Glenn. “Does the NRA really have more than 4.5 million members?”  Washington Post, 2013-02-08.
Lepore, Jill.  “Battleground America.” One nation, under the gun.” New Yorker, 2012-04-23.
Moyers, Bill and Michael Winship.  “The Madness of the NRA.” ConsortiumNews, 2013-01-06.
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Aspiring Vigilantes.” (Part 1). The Nation, 2013-01-09
Perlstein, Rick.  “How the NRA Became an Organization for Vigilantes (Part 2). The Nation, 2013-01-10. 2013-01-18.
Reeve, Elspeth.  “The Executive Order the NRA Should Fear the Most.” Atlantic Wire, 2015-01-14.
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “How the NRA Went From Best Friend of the Nation’s Police to Harsh Enemy of Law Enforcement.” AlterNet, 2013-01-24.
Rosenfeld, Steven.  “The NRA once supported gun control.” It may seem hard to believe, but for decades the organization helped write federal laws restricting gun use. Salon, 2013-01-14.
Schecter, Cliff.   “5 Issues That Divide Gun Owners and NRA Leadership.” The NRA’s membership agrees with most Americans that our gun laws should protect our families, not the financial interests of a clique of elites. Alternet, 2012-07-22.
Seitz-Wald, Alex.  “The NRA won’t support Arizona’s new gun bill. A new Arizona bill is trying to make it a crime to enforce federal gun laws. Even the NRA wants no part of this. Salon, 2013-01-22.
_______“The Hitler gun control lie.” Gun rights activists who cite the dictator as a reason against gun control have their history dangerously wrong. Salon, 2013-01-11.
_______“The NRA is the enabler of mass murders.” In the wake of today’s shootings, Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler says we need to wage “war” on the gun lobby. Salon, 2012-12-14.
_______“Why the NRA’s plan won’t work. Science and history show that the NRA’s plan to flood schools with arms is ineffective,and would be disastrous. Salon, 2012-12-21.
_______ “The NRA’s war on gun science.” In addition to fighting gun laws, the gun lobby has spent the past 20 years fighting research into gun safety. Salon, 2012-07-25.
Smyth, Frank.  “How the NRA became the fringe.” MSNBC, 2013-01-28.
Stein, Sam and Paul Blumenthal.  “Why the NRA Is the Baddest Force in Politics.” The HuffingtonPost, 2012-12-17.
Sugarmann, John. National Rifle Association: Money, Firepower & Fear. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 19, 2010).
Violence Policy Center. Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA. April 13, 2011.
Waldman, Paul.  “Democratic Fear Inflates Myth of N.R.A. Power.” New York Times, 2012-12-17.
Webster, Daniel.  “N.R.A. Members Vs. N.R.A. Leaders.” New York Times, 2012-12-17.
Weigel, David. “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13.
_______ “The Nightmare Vision of Wayne LaPierre.” Slate, 2013-02-13. the_nightmare_vision_of_wayne_lapierre.html
_______The NRA Is ‘Winning’ The Gun Control Battle if It Loses, or Something.’” Slate, 2013-01-18.
_______  “How the NRA Defeats National Tragedies.” First it scares people into thinking the government is coming for their guns. Then it quietly asks the public to pray for the victims of the next rampage. Slate, 2012-12-17.
Wilkie, Christina.  Wayne LaPierre: “More Guns Needed For ‘Hellish World’ Filled With Hurricanes, Kidnappers, Drug Gangs.” The Huffington Post, 2013-02-13.
Americans for Responsible Solutions    Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence   Children’s Defense Fund    Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
The Joyce Foundation – Gun Violence Prevention    League of Women Voters  Legal Community Against Violence   Mayors Against Illegal Guns  National Gun Victims Action Council   National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence  One Million Moms for Gun Control   [email protected]  Sandy Hook Promise   Stop Handgun Violence  Violence Policy Center

11 comments for “The NRA’s War on America

  1. James Williams
    March 5, 2013 at 13:10

    I do farm and ranch work…killed two rattle snakes last year and work in areas with moutain lions and such, plan to keep my guns…safely.

  2. Beverly Bandler
    March 5, 2013 at 10:34

    Jonathan, I cannot answer your question but direct you to research the following resources:

    The FBI (Uniform Crime Report),Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,the Violence Policy Center, (Gun Control Facts), Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research,Legal Community Against Gun Violence, National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence.

    Politifact might be helpful. You might also simply Google: “Gun ownership statistics,” “Gun violence incidents/homicides statistics.”

    Note: the NRA has reportedly worked hard to discourage and explicitly prevent CDC research related to gun violence.

    Beverly Bandler

    • Jonathan
      March 5, 2013 at 11:15

      Beverly Bandler – many thanks – I’ll see what I can find

  3. Jonathan
    March 5, 2013 at 09:35

    A question from London: A contact has dismissed my concerns about gun ownership in USA as misconceived. His argument is as follows:

    “You must not generalize too much about Americans murdering other Americans; Subtract certain subcultures from the number-crunching and we are right there with Belgium In terms of gun homicides.”

    Is this correct? Are there any statistics that demonstrate that the problem is restricted to minority groups in the ‘underclass’? Can anyone help me?

  4. Eddie
    March 5, 2013 at 00:04

    John: Do you happen to remember Waco, TX?? How a relatively armed compound was sieged and brought down (with some suicidal tactics of their own at the end) easily? Do you REALLY believe that a government that spends nearly $1 TRILLION per year on military spending — including weapons that are (and should-be) restricted from public use — is worried about your relatively puny handguns or even assault rifles? If the US military seriously wanted you or I dead, it wouldn’t be a week before it happened. When one of those tanks that you mentioned rolls up to the door of your house, I think you’d drop your firearms and surrender, or you’d be a squashed cinder. Or nowadays they’d just send a drone a-knocking at your door and pulverize your place.

    And you do need some enlightening about the war in SE Asia, because you don’t seem to recall much about the Vietnam War. The NVA was getting arms from North Vietnam who was getting them from Russia, while the Vietcong was more opportunistic in their supplies. Also, they were fighting in a jungle and the willing to take horrific losses (3.4-3.6 million Vietnamese died during our stint in Vietnam), so it was a Pyrrhic victory at best. As Noam Chomsky has observed, the US achieved it’s major objectives in SE Asia – – – to disrupt and quash (by vicious violence — bombing/napalming/shooting) a socialist government from possibly providing a positive example to other third-world countries. But countries don’t ever like foreign occupiers, so that’s never going to be an easy-sell, and the Vietnam War was ‘unpopular’ at home, so the US military was finally forced to pull-out, much like in Korea.
    And as far as facts, this article by Ms Bandler is a lot heavier on facts and documentation than your NRA opinions.

    • rosemerry
      March 5, 2013 at 03:32

      Eddie, are you suggesting the Vietnamese invited this mass murder? (“willing to take horrific losses (3.4-3.6 million Vietnamese died during our stint in Vietnam”).
      You are right about the violence of the US miitary, usually against much weaker “enemies”, but the huge store of weapons in US homes leads to far more accidental/suicide/deaths thanin any comparable land, including large numbers of children under 5.

  5. Frances in California
    March 4, 2013 at 17:57

    TPparty . . . give it up; these bloviating prevaricators (got lots of guns, zero dictionaries)will not see the error of their ways until we are all buried hastily after the ill-fated conflagration they would rather have than solve the problem. Of course, they’ll be dead, too . . .

  6. John
    March 4, 2013 at 14:57


    Wonderful retort, most especially your denigration of facts you’re too deluded to face as “crazy rightwing conspiracy theories.” I suppose the 20-30 million people the US government brutally murdered in the past 60 years, in countries that did not attack us and posed no threat to us, is also a “conspiracy theory.”

    Regarding “standing up” to the omnipotent US empire, enlighten us about how difficult that was for the peasants in pajamas and sandals in Vietnam, and the ragtag groups armed only with rifles and home-made bombs in Iraq to stand up to US war crimes.

  7. John
    March 4, 2013 at 14:00

    With the federal government claiming the right to secretly murder any US citizen anywhere, including within the US and, at last count, 65 domestic drone bases having been established, nearly 2 billion hollow point bullets purchased by domestic agencies, as well as 7000 automatic weapons and, just reported today, 2700 tanks for use by domestic agencies (i.e. most of this is not military, it’s domestic agencies answerable only to the executive branch) — I think we have more to be concerned about than restricting the rights of 100 million law-abiding US gun owners who have never fired a gun at anyone and likely never will.

    I have followed this issue very closely, and I’ve found that those who write using meaningless terms such as “common sense gun control”, “assault weapons”, and “military-style weapons” have little or no knowledge about the firearms that they write about, and are ignorant and needlessly gun-phobic about rifles with modern black plastic composite stocks that happen to be black in color.

    • TPparty
      March 4, 2013 at 14:24

      If these crazy rightwing conspiracy theories actually did pan out, do you actually believe you could stand up to the US Gov’t with “rifles with modern black plastic composite stocks that happen to be black in color”. Looks like you are the ones that are ignorant and needlessly gov’t-phobic.

    • rosemerry
      March 5, 2013 at 03:25

      “100 million law-abiding US gun owners who have never fired a gun at anyone and likely never will.”
      Why on earth do they need the guns? for protection? If you live in a “nation” that needs to protect itself by guns, you have already failed as a nation.Recent figures of gun deaths of children under 15 in 24 developed countries showed 87% of the kids were in the USA. Protection, freedom? Get a life, a real one.

      I have never lived, and would refuse to live, in such a “homeland”.

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