Our federal government is gridlocked. The dysfunction in Washington prevents the passage of meaningful legislation. Change will not happen nationally, but locally. These are just some of the commonly shared perceptions of the effectiveness of our federally elected officials. Given the acrimonious state of federal bipartisan politics, it’s no wonder why some special interest groups are turning their attention to the states to get things done. However, one special interest group in particular has been doing this for years: the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The NRA has not only perfected getting legislation passed successfully on a state-by-state basis, but has also expanded their lobbying efforts into more dangerous territory. In the first three months of 2015, the NRA has endorsed legislation in at least fifteen states to allow guns on college campuses, allow guns in K-12 schools, and dismantle current permitting systems to allow anyone to carry a loaded, concealed handgun without any permit, safety training, or criminal background check. The NRA executed all of this quietly and without much opposition. Starting last year, however, a few national gun violence prevention organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action began to catch on to the general strategy of the NRA and have begun investing in state legislative fights, going toe-to-toe with the NRA.
Started in 1975, the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) began as the lobbying arm for the traditionally hunting and sportsman’s organization. Since then, the NRA-ILA has become one of the most successful and most feared lobbying groups nationwide, through their public endorsement system for all elections, often ousting politicians who vote against their bills. With this strength and deep pockets of resources, the NRA-ILA has been incrementally chipping away at the basic safety standards of responsible gun ownership, highlighted most recently by their efforts to arm college-aged students, teachers of elementary schools, and allowing for any untrained amateur to access handguns, through state legislation, no questions asked.
NRA-backed legislation like permitless carry isn’t just reckless; it has several opponents, some unexpected. According to the Wichita Eagle, law enforcement officials and even some gun owners are against Senate Bill 45, the permitless carry bill currently active in the Kansas state legislature. Permitless carry would ostensibly dismantle the concealed carry permitting system, allowing for anyone to obtain a handgun without training or background check. Some, like Dave Drovetta, a Republican voter and gun owner from Gardner, Kansas, consider the bill to be “very shortsighted and dangerous.” He wonders why this legislation is necessary. “Kansas is not a state known for attacking Second Amendment rights. My guess is, we are doing it because we made promises to the gun lobby – that we will do everything we can to make weapons available and plentiful in our state.”
Kansas isn’t the only state in which the NRA is working to dismantle common sense gun laws. Nevadans also face the chance that their legislators will vote to force guns onto college campuses. It seems Nevada State Representative Michele Fiore, endorsed by the NRA, could not agree with them more. After making controversial comments about arming “hot young girls” as a means to stop campus sexual assault, Fiore stood by her comments and continued to defend her sponsored campus carry bill for this legislative session. Fiore and the NRA’s solution to gun violence is simple: More guns.
Dangerous legislation like arming college students and elementary school teachers and easing common sense safety measures to access guns aren’t just unpopular; they’re wrong for America. The NRA’s mission to normalize gun culture and vigilante justice, as well as their “guns everywhere” efforts made under the guise of freedom and Second Amendment rights, is misguided and reckless. The NRA’s warped vision of America is not a place for me or for future generations of Americans who value safety, freedom from gun violence, and common sense laws.
Liz Casey is a second year MPA student with a passion for homelessness and housing policy. She currently does research for Everytown for Gun Safety, working towards common sense legislation to save lives from gun violence. You can follow her rants on politics and pizza on Twitter @LCommathoughts.