Get the Think newsletter.
By Cameron M. Kasky and Jeffrey A. Kasky

It’s a familiar story in American life: Another mass shooting, another assault weapon, more thoughts and prayers, new hashtags and slogans (“#squirrelhillstrong”), new GoFundMes, more speeches, calls for “healing.” Rinse, forget, repeat. And, throughout, the usual radio-silence from the NRA before they go back to business as usual keeping guns in the hands of whomever wants them.

The NRA of the distant past was the “Field & Stream” NRA. It was about recreational shooting, gun safety, hunting and the like. The NRA of the present is the “Call of Duty” NRA - Literally. The current NRA president Oliver North — who was convicted on three felony counts in the Iran-Contra case but who’s conviction was later vacated — came to the NRA after shilling and consulting for the violent war-based video game “Call of Duty.”

For decades, under the leadership of Executive Director Wayne LaPierre, the NRA has been the de facto marketing & lobbying arm of the gun and ammunition manufacturers of the U.S. and elsewhere. While NRA membership overwhelmingly favors some reasonable reforms in federal and state laws relating to gun ownership, safety and availability, NRA leadership adamantly oppose any legislation that impacts the on-demand availability of deadly weapons of all kinds, which would slow down sales and bring down revenues for their constituent gun manufacturers.

The NRA has done a masterful job of conflating national pride, religious fervor and the concept of “freedom” with gun ownership. The NRA has rebranded the acronym “AR” from Armalite (the original manufacturer of the AR-15) to “America’s Rifle.” Wayne LaPierre and other NRA surrogates have claimed that gun ownership is a God-given right.

All of this rhetoric and fervor has helped the NRA turn the Second Amendment into a cash machine for its leaders and gun manufacturers. Wayne LaPierre, who makes a seven-figure salary, took a hefty $5,000,000 (including some deferred retirement funds) out of the NRA in 2016, yet he calls opponents of unfettered gun access varying versions of “academic elites, political elites, and media elites” or elites of Hollywood and television, all of which are intended to evoke the perception that Jewish people “control” academia, politics, the media and Hollywood.

Maybe it’s completely understandable that they use racist dog-whistles, lie to their membership and hustle in any and every way to keep their members actively donating and blindly voting for the NRA’s preferred politicians so the NRA can afford its high-ticket nut — the massive salaries it pays its many executives.

But the NRA activity which most mocks and undermines our democracy is its payoffs to politicians in the form of direct campaign contributions, campaign “assistance” funneled through political action committees and other shady but arguably “legal” methods for “influencing” political action and inaction — which are no better than legal bribes.

And, perhaps even worse, investigations are reportedly underway to determine whether the NRA used Russian money to support its efforts to elect President Trump. If true, that would be the worst and most unpatriotic advocacy imaginable.

Regardless, 99 percent of politicians receiving NRA financial aid in 2016 were Republicans., and Republicans have blocked every effort to institute reasonable gun policy in this country. The CDC was legislatively prohibited from studying the effects of gun activity on our American populace from 1996 until this year. Would you believe that the ATF is legislatively prohibited from digitizing the gun-related paperwork dealers are required to submit, so that it cannot be easily searched? This is just some of the work of the NRA and its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.

When you hear the Paul Ryans, Marco Rubios and Ted Cruzes sending thoughts and prayers, and saying it’s “too soon” to talk about guns after a mass shooting, you’re probably hearing the words which were cooked-up in the NRA’s Virginia headquarters, laboratory tested and distributed to elected officials.

Pollsters have a way of delivering results that jibe with the worldview of the entity who commissioned any given poll but, that said, polls and surveys indicate time and time again that the majority of Americans — and sometimes the vast majority — are in favor of stricter gun laws, such as those requiring criminal background checks, some type of basic mental health review, a reasonable waiting period or some type of reasonable age restriction. Nonetheless, time and time again, any effort to promote legislation consistent with the will of the people gets the kibosh from – you guessed it – the NRA.

Take our home state of Florida, where an elected official whose county or municipality democratically passes any gun-related legislation (e.g. prohibiting firearms from a particular public park) is subject to removal from office by the governor and a personal fine of $5,000. Why? Because NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said so. (Does that sound like democracy to you?)

The above examples merely scratch the surface of the NRA’s influence in our political system: They regularly use strong-arm tactics to influence the behavior, talking points and voting of its bought-and-paid-for elected officials.

The solution is much less complicated than the problem: Vote them out. Vote against politicians that are funded by and supported by the NRA. No one is going to take away your Second Amendment rights; that’s just crazy talk designed to stoke fear so that you vote for politicians who block the common sense reforms most of us want.

We didn’t vote for Oliver North or Wayne LaPierre to represent us in Congress, so we must remove from office those who blindly do their bidding in exchange for cold, hard cash.

As has been clearly demonstrated time and time again, the lives of our loved ones depend on it.