The NRA says it is primarily an educational organization whose mission is to promote responsible and safe gun ownership and to defend the Constitutional right to own a gun under the Second Amendment. Yet its lobbying arm has for years been hugely influential, while its politically affiliated branches pour millions into Republican campaigns and target candidates who advocate for tougher gun laws. Therefore, the accusation by some politicians attending the forum that only Democrats do politics in the wake of tragedy is disingenuous at best.
Controversial NRA leader Wayne LaPierre is also due to speak. LaPierre sparked outrage after a similarly haunting shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 with a deeply political press conference. He had argued that more guns to guard schools should be the answer to mass shootings, rather than restrictions on assault weapons that killed several children in minutes.
Critics call for NRA meetings to be canceled out of respect for victims
Gun safety advocates have criticized this year’s NRA meetings as being in very bad taste. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said on CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight” on Wednesday that political leaders should stay away.
“It would be respectful for families who are having funerals for their children if they did not come,” he said. “You can’t say two days ago yesterday you’re offering prayers and condolences to these families and then three or four days later you’re showing up at the NRA promoting the use of firearms and assault weapons.
The NRA has canceled its convention for the past two years – due to concerns over Covid-19. But in a statement this week, he said he would continue while praying for the victims of the Uvalde shooting and increasing his efforts to make schools safer. But in an ironic twist, given that the NRA’s lobbying arm argues that more guns at public events makes everyone safer, the Secret Service has ordered no guns allowed. in the conference room when the former president speaks.
Small signs of hope in Congress
The NRA-ILA leaders’ forum takes place amid one of the periodic political altercations that always follow gun killings, but then fade into the background as attempts at change at small scale inevitably fail.
President Joe Biden, who will travel to Uvalde with First Lady Jill Biden on Sunday, demanded to know this week: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” Yet, like former Democratic President Barack Obama, Biden has found that the existential nature of the Second Amendment to GOP politicians — plus the filibuster of the Senate, which some members of his own party refuse to change — means that any serious overhaul gun laws is impossible.
Most American gun owners behave legally and safely. But many Republican lawmakers can’t resist the political power of the gun issue, which often annoys their base. And many, who still deny any correlation between the availability of high-powered weapons, lax gun laws and mass killings, are never ready to discuss security measures. The horror only rumbles.
In Washington, Republicans tried to paint the massacre in Texas as the isolated act of a mentally ill gunman – a random act of evil that couldn’t have been stopped. Such arguments ignore the fact that other countries that aren’t saturated with guns have similar levels of mental illness to the United States, but aren’t heartbroken by regular mass shootings.
Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called the Texas killings the act of a ‘lone maniac’. But on Thursday, the Kentucky Republican encouraged GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to work with Democrats to see if there is common ground for legislation in response to the Texas elementary school shooting.
Cornyn, whose office said earlier this week that an “unexpected change in his schedule” prevented him from speaking at the NRA meeting, said he was not sure the effort could forge a compromise on expanding background checks, but hoped for a ‘new, greater sense of urgency’ in the wake of carnage in his home country. Still, Cornyn warned that any new law could not be used “as an excuse to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens” which, he said, “will do nothing to fix tragedies like this.”
This is where the tortured politics of gun control comes in. The gun lobby and like-minded voters in the GOP base often insist that any move to regulate the sale of guns or any restriction on the type of guns that can be purchased represents a offense. the constitutional right to bear arms. While the Constitution enshrines the right to bear arms, it does not specify that people have an unlimited right to use fearsome weapons on the battlefield that the Founders could never have contemplated. But the resulting pressure on Republicans from the gun lobby, which often insists he does, almost always sabotages meaningful reform.
Such tactics, a testament to the political skill and influence of groups like the NRA over the years, have in the past forced even Trump — a leader with an almost mystical connection to Republican grassroots voters — to back down.
Under fierce pressure following a 2018 shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Trump hosted a notable TV event in which he accused fellow Republicans of being ‘afraid’ of the NRA and is committed to working with Democrats on legislative revisions — perhaps even raising the minimum age to buy semi-automatic weapons. Such a law, if it had been in place, might have prevented the 18-year-old Uvalde shooter from buying a gun.
Trump, however, quickly backed down when fury over the Florida massacre died down, dampening political incentives to take such a risk. The episode was just a small jolt in the often cynical ex-president’s use of the issue of gun control for his own political gain – a trend often evident in other areas of his tenure. .
Now Trump appears to be gearing up for a White House bid in 2024 and looks unlikely to hold up after yet another gun tragedy. That’s why his pledge, in a statement on his social media platform, to offer “real leadership” at Friday’s forum seems like a long shot.