The gun industry produces the most dangerous consumer products made in the U.S. 100% of its products can instantly kill a human being. Many gun products can rapidly kill many humans. Yet, it is one of the most lightly regulated industries in the country. This lack of regulation leads to thousands of people dying each year from use of the product. A close inspection of the political machine that protects weapons manufacturers from public outrage leads me to a radical conclusion: it is time to nationalize the gun industry.
Gun manufacturers are a rogue industry. They protect their products and enhance their market by financing a social movement dedicated to enhancing gun industry profits. While the National Rifle Association (NRA) was founded in the 1870s by gun enthusiasts who wanted to promote firearms safety, the organization is now a big business with a political agenda. The group has over four million members whose dues account for half of the organization’s $225 million budget. The rest comes from donations from individuals who are hard core gun rights supporters and from the country’s 22 leading gun manufacturers. The Violence Policy Center estimates that these manufacturers donated between $20 and $60 million to the NRA between 2005 and 2013 (the last period studied).
Funding the Gun Lobby
A large part of these gun industry donations went to the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization’s lobbying arm. Unlike the NRA’s political action committee, it cannot donate directly to candidates. But it can receive millions of dollars in donations from corporations and is not required to disclose the names of these contributors. Several gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Company have openly announced major donations, but the Institute is essentially a black hole of lobbying power.
The NRA has eight corporate partners who donated a million dollars between 2005 and 2013. They include Freedom Group, manufacturer of the Bushmaster Assault Rifle used at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and Smith & Wesson, who built the assault weapon used in Aurora, Colorado to kill 12 people and wound another 58. In a video on the NRA’s website, Smith & Wesson CEO James Debney says, “I think it’s important for everybody to step up and support the NRA. They are our voice.”
George Kollitides II, CEO of the Freedom Group, sits on one of the NRA’s leading leadership bodies, known as the Nominating Committee. The Committee is responsible for nominating people to be on the NRA’s 76-member board of directors. Thus, the CEO of the country’s largest gun manufacturer helps choose the members of the NRA’s governing body.
Spokesman for the Gun Industry
This mix of direct leadership and large financial contributions gives the NRA a decidedly pro-gun industry policy agenda. For example, the NRA has lobbied extensively to shield gun manufacturers from liability for deaths that result from misuse of their products.
The NRA is actively opposed to any regulation of the gun industry. It vehemently opposes background checks before guns are sold in stores or at gun shows. This is in spite of the fact that 74 percent of NRA members support this obvious safety measure.
Even when regulations are put in place, the gun industry resists. The New York Times revealed in its Sunday, August 18, 2019 edition that manufacturers regularly come up with tweaks to assault rifles to avoid state or federal regulations. For example, when the Justice Department banned “bump stocks” like the ones used to murder 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival, manufacturers developed a binary trigger that fires once when the trigger is pulled and once when it is released. The article states “A 30-round magazine can be emptied in about three seconds.”
A Change in Strategy
This is not free enterprise, it is a rogue operation, a legal conspiracy praying on innocent people, generating profits at the public’s expense. Rather than struggling to win compromises or half measures that will save a few lives but leave the industry free to lobby for and manufacture exemptions, we must prevent these corporations from distorting our politics. Let the NRA and the 30,000 people who give it donations each year lobby and politic on a level playing field with gun control groups. Put the merchants of death on the sidelines – nationalize the gun industry.