The NRA: Who they were and who they are now

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By: Graham Dano, Staff Writer

President Trump has dropped the ball yet again, this time in a moment of profound national tragedy. A deranged 19-year-old who was able to get his hands on an AR-15 using an expired ID, killing 17 killed at Parkland Community High School in Florida. Per usual, the President didn’t dare to agree with the vast scientific consensus from professionals in the field of gun violence, who cited facts that brazenly contradicted the talking points Trump gets spoon-fed from the National Rifle Association (NRA).
It may come as no shock that the NRA was one of his biggest donors in the 2016 campaign and has had him speak at its annual conference. Of course, that’s all just fake news from us meddlesome liberals, right?
The debate began to descend into our country’s default partisan hackery and useless offers of “thoughts and prayers” from NRA beneficiaries in Congress. Luckily, before that standard political nonsense could set in, the students of Parkland stepped up to the plate, spearheaded by survivors of the shooting. The bravery of those high schoolers, who just days before had been ducking and covering for their lives, challenged the political establishments in Tallahassee and Washington. They refused to take the same old excuses, challenging Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch, and even President Trump himself.
Rubio was humiliated on national television by the father of one of the fallen, who demanded an answer as to why he wouldn’t support a new assault weapons ban proposed by Rubio’s Democratic colleagues.
When Rubio failed to provide a satisfactory answer, the crowd of hundreds at CNN’s Town Hall hosted by Jake Tapper booed him off the stage, only stopping when Tapper told them to quiet down.
Loesch fared slightly better against the students, but even she was up against the ropes when confronted by the real, human side of the tragedy. It seems that she will not fare better in the future thanks to the noble efforts of the students. But how did we get here, where a gun-advocacy organization can wield so much power across the country?
Fact is, the NRA used to be a gun safety organization for many decades-it supported the assault weapons bans put into place by the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1963 and 1968 when John F. Kennedy, Dr. King, and Bobby Kennedy were gunned down on American soil. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, this remained largely the case, with a centrist-right approach to the Second Amendment that advocated fiercely for gun rights while still maintaining that background checks were a sensible idea.
This all changed in 1991, when Wayne LaPierre became its president.
LaPierre, a former Democratic political staffer from Virginia, changed parties in 1984 when the senator he was working for became a Republican, and never looked back.
In 1992, he donated millions of dollars to President George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign, and throughout the 1990’s, kept pouring money to the GOP in ever-increasing amounts until the election of 2000, when the NRA became the largest single donor in US history to George W. Bush’s successful election campaign.
It had campaigned vigorously against both Clinton campaigns in the 1990’s, as well as former Vice-President Al Gore’s. Not until then-Senator Obama ran for president in 2008, however, was the NRA truly vitriolic in its denunciation of a presidential candidate. Throughout the campaign and the subsequent 8 years of Obama, LaPierre fabricated the often-repeated lie that Obama “wants your guns”, and it coincidentally made the most money ever for the gun manufacturers during the 44th president’s time in office.
Not coincidentally, 95 percent of the NRA’s membership votes Republican, and 85 percent of it is white and evangelical, fueling the “white angst” that helped sweep Trump to victory. It is no wonder, then, that no action has been taken by this president on guns other than an NRA-approved bump stock ban because they are his biggest supporters and donors.