I’ll say it up front: My husband and I both carry Texas concealed handgun licenses. My husband is a lifetime member of the NRA.
But, I have a confession to make: Over the last couple of years, I have been hiding the NRA magazine when it comes into the house each month. When my husband has forgotten about it, I sneak it into the recycling bin. Why? I do not want anything related to the NRA in my house. Just listen to NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch’s hate-filled videos and you will understand. Even my husband agrees: This is not his NRA.
This NRA is no longer focused on marksmanship and responsible gun ownership; NRA magazines are now covered with ads and “articles” comparing different weapons and accessories. Their website and NRA television programming are filled with nonstop commercials and stories trying to convince people to buy more, bigger, better and newer weaponry. Ruger, Smith & Wesson, and all the big manufacturers proudly announce their sponsorship on Dana Loesch’s videos and others that use Second Amendment fear tactics to sell more guns and accessories.
The NRA had $337 million of income in 2015, according to Open Secrets, the nonprofit research group. They spent over $52 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million on Trump’s presidential race and $20 million on six Republican senate races, winning all but one. Two-thirds of this spending was against Democratic candidates, mostly in the form of TV ads in three states that depicted citizens left defenseless after Hillary Clinton and other Democrats took away their right to bear arms. Trump won in all three of these states. That’s a lot of money and influence for an organization that, according to them, includes only 5 million members (6 to 7 percent of all gun owners) and less than 4 percent of the 130 million people who actually voted in the 2016 election.
Our country was devastated when the unimaginable happened in Las Vegas the night of Oct. 1. Typically after mass shootings, the NRA stays silent, eventually dismissing outcries for increased gun restrictions. It was surprising when Republican congressmen talked of bipartisan legislation to restrict bump stocks like the ones used by the shooter — and the NRA said they might support a review of ATF regulations. On the surface, it seemed that a tragedy of this magnitude might result in a unified move towards reasonable restrictions on assault weaponry.
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The best-selling bump stocks, Fire Stocks, are patented and made by Jeremiah Cottle of North Texas. Cottle has put at least one other manufacturer out of business with a patent lawsuit and has been selling thousands of his own Fire Stocks priced at $150 to $300. I worry that the NRA and Republican congressmen are only discussing restrictions on bump stocks so they look a little more sympathetic and reasonable about a product that is actually very small potatoes in the gun business. Nobody except Cottle really has a dog in this hunt.
They are saving their battle for the proposed legislation on very lucrative gun silencer purchases. The NRA website is full of information about SilencerCo, the $5 billion industry leader who sells silencers for $500 to $1,500 each. President Jason Schauble told the Salt Lake Tribune about proposed silencer legislation: “There are 300 million firearms out there and [about] 1 million silencers. That shows you the relative scale of the business opportunity.”
The NRA, SilencerCo and others have been pushing the The Hearing Protection Act since 2014. It was refiled in January to pull silencers out of the National Firearms Act, removing the $200 tax stamp, fingerprinting, photo, law enforcement signature and waiting period. In June, these bills were very quietly slipped into the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act of 2017.
Along with making silencers available in a same-day purchase, the SHARE Act will shield people transporting guns across state lines from local laws, loosen restrictions on armor-piercing bullets and ease restrictions on importing foreign-made assault rifles. The government will also be required to delete previous silencer sale and transfer information.
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The SHARE Act will soon be voted on in the House, where it is expected to pass — all in the name of sportsmen’s heritage and recreation. The NRA and gun industry have a whole pack of dogs in this hunt. This is not small potatoes. This is about billions of dollars.
Baylor, a retired principal, lives in Austin.