Guess How Much the NRA Spends Lobbying Every Year

After any gun-related violent crime, a debate regarding Second Amendment rights is practically inevitable. However, as an article by Canada's Globe and Mail claims, concrete results of these debates have decreased over time. Is it the case that this is due to the increasing influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) lobby?

After the Aurora massacre, few politicians have even brought up the gun question. Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) is among the few calling for action by requesting the banning of high-capacity ammunition clips. After a mass shooting in a San Francisco law firm in 1993, a temporary assault weapons ban was enacted, but this ban has since expired. Coincidentally (perhaps), gun violence statistics fell steadily from 1993, but have been rising since 2002. The assault weapons ban expired in 2004. 

The rise of gun sales is indeed curious since nearly every statistic shows that society would be safer without guns than it is currently.

The NRA undoubtedly has significant influence in Washington. Between 2001 and 2010, the NRA spent between $1.5 million and $2.7 million on federal-level lobbying efforts. During the 2010 election cycle, the NRA spent more than $7.2 million on independent expenditures at the federal level on messages advocating for or against political candidates.

Let’s compare the NRA’s statistics with those of some other influential K Street lobbies. In 2012, the NRA has spent $695,000 thus far. By way of contrast, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has spent $1,950,000 so far this year, while pro-Israel lobbyists have spent $910,449.

So is Washington D.C. controlled by the NRA lobby? Not any more than it is controlled by any other lobby. Politicians have feared taking a hard-line anti-gun stance for the same reasons they would fear taking a hard-line pro-Palestine stance. The gun question has been suppressed after the events in Colorado is the same reason that questions of Palestinian legitimacy rarely come to the fore in a political debate, or social security is so vociferously protected by any politician hoping to be taken seriously. Lobbies exercise a vast amount of influence and no politician can hope to win an election without the votes and the money that these powerful lobbies can provide.

This raises a larger question. Is this democracy in action (Those with similar interests banding together to ensure that their voices are heard)? Or is this the living incarnation of the nightmare of factions that the drafters of The Federalist Papers cautioned so passionately against?

As long as a large chunk of society says that guns make people safer and that the Second Amendment is unassailable, then it is not common sense that less guns would make shootings less frequent (no matter how much I may disagree). The NRA lobby would not exist were there not enough people who shared its values to provide it with funding and membership. Therefore, the power of the NRA is proportional to the power of the people who give it its power. This is the nature of a representative democracy. The drive for any political group comes from the people whom it represents. If the NRA stopped representing the views of its members, membership and donations would drop. The fact that is has the power it does means it is accurately advocating for those members that compose this group. This is the case for all lobbies.

Imagine a world without lobbies. Do you think that people will stop fighting to protect Second Amendment rights just because there is no NRA? Do you think gun nuts will not find ways to use their resources to ensure that candidate who support their views are elected? I assure you they will.

So no, Washington has not surrendered to the NRA. Washington cannot push anti-gun legislation because there are enough citizens who would not support such a proposition, and we live in a system that represents the desires of the many. Do I hope that evidence eventually persuades enough people to see reason and make it more difficult for someone like James Holmes to acquire military grade weaponry? Yes.  However, is the system working? The answer is also yes.