OPINION: The NRA profits by shooting down US gun control debate and we need to ignore them

People walk with signs against the NRA during “March for Our Lives”, an organized demonstration to end gun violence, in downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 24, 2018. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

Matt Owczarz

The latest call for action against gun violence in the U.S. is still making headlines and causing a stir without losing momentum thanks to Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students. After their school fell victim to a mass shooter — armed with an AR-15 rifle — who killed 17 classmates and staff members the students took action, organizing protests, starting marches and demanding change.

Their efforts have reinvigorated people to rally together and be the change that they want to see. Their voices have called out U.S. President Donald Trump and the politicians who usually only offer thoughts and prayers, but stand idly by rather than working towards a solution.

Our government has responded to issues of gun violence by introducing Bill C-71 in March, which adds new provisions to the existing background check system and new mandatory record-keeping practices for vendors.  But in the U.S., little has been done since to curb the rate of tragic mass shootings that are an all-too common occurrence.

After stepping into the limelight, the Parkland, Fla., students have become activists and icons, to a degree, but also targets. Indeed, they must be doing something right to have provoked the ire of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA — which has a regular seat at the table when it comes to debating gun control — claims to represent millions of gun-owning Americans, even calling itself “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization” on its own website. But really the NRA is more of an industry lobbying group with its allegiances tied to gun companies, receiving direct donations from them every year. So, why are they included in debates about gun policy?

People have been critical about how much money the NRA gives to politicians, but the NRA in turn receives financial support from gun companies — both directly and through advertising. The group receives millions of dollars yearly from gun manufacturers like Beretta, Remington and Smith & Wesson, which created the gun used in the Parkland shooting, along with membership dues and member donations.

The NRA doesn’t publicly disclose how much it receives in funding. However, according to a 2013 report from the Violence Policy Centre titled Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, contributions to the NRA are estimated to be anywhere between $19.3 million and $60.2 million. Certain gun manufacturers even donate a portion to the NRA for every gun sold: For instance, Taurus purchases an NRA membership ($40 value) for every customer who purchases a firearm.

The NRA shouldn’t be involved in major gun policy debates if it makes money when people buy guns. It genuinely isn’t interested in joining debates to come to a solution or find a compromise. Instead, these public forums are an exercise in smoke and mirrors for the NRA, distracting attention from gun sales, and deflecting the blame onto things like mental health or video games.

The NRA will never bend or break in the debate around gun violence. Its paid to protect the product. While the organization shouldn’t be ignored all together, its arguments shouldn’t be taken seriously either.

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