As a member of the National Rifle Association since 1955 and currently a Patriot Life Benefactor (whew!) Member, it pains me to consider the possibility that the power and influence of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ may be coming to an end. At least this is what E. J.Dionne, an academic know-it-all, believes may soon occur.
Here’s the announcement from atop Mount WaPo: “Taken together, the events of 2016 and the results of the 2018 election will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s power.”
As a former academic know-it-all, I would like to politely disagree. And I would like to disagree because Professor Dionne’s argument is based on information being produced, promoted and believed by individuals and organizations who would like the NRA to go the way of the dial telephone and the do-do bird; in other words, they simply don’t like guns.
Dionne’s argument about the de-fanged NRA kicks off with the case of Maria Butina, the Russian poster-girl who is pleading guilty to the charge that she used her connections in the gun business to promote Russian governmental interests; i.e., she was an ‘agent’ for Russian political interests and part of the grand scheme to get Trump elected in 2016.
What’s glossed over again and again in the Butina story is the fact that her handler,Alexander Torshin, happens to be a Board member of the bank which finances a company called Izhmash, which happens to manufacture the original AK-47 assault rifle, which happens to be the single, most popular gun sold anywhere in the world today. The Russian gun maker has been trying, so far without success, to bring the rifle into the American market. If they could pull it off, the deal would probably be worth at least $500 million in net profits. Right now, an American gun nut who wants to own an AK-47 has to buy a gun slapped together with crummy, after-market parts from Rumania or some other place. The real-deal AK would easily sell 5 million units to Gun-nut Nation, and a markup of $100 bucks would still leave the sticker price in the affordable range.
Since Professor Dionne writes about guns from time to time, perhaps he should spend a day at an NRA show to learn something about the business which he postures himself to be an expert on the pages of WaPo. In fact, I’ll meet him at the 2019 show in Indianapolis, walk him around and introduce him to God knows how many overseas visitors who, just like Butina, have some kind of gun-related product they want to promote. Know why Americans own at least 40% of the small arms floating around the globe? Because we are the only country which has a retail gun market, okay? Professor Dionne can also chat with Wayne-o, who makes a point of stopping at the booth of every vendor to thank him for supporting the show. How do you think Maria Butina first met Wayne LaPierre?
Dionne’s other argument about how the NRA’s power is waning is based on the fact that what the NRA put up as political contributions in 2018 was a substantial decrease from what they gave out in 2016, mostly having to do with the $30 million they handed to Donald Trump. But what Dionne doesn’t mention is that,on average, the NRA contributes less than 3% of the money which GOP office-holders spend on their campaigns. Even the total amount that the NRA gave it’s A+-rated, House members in 2018 was less than this same bunch received in political donations from the American College of Emergency Physicians.
What happened in the last election cycle is that national gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown have been energized by the attention paid by the media to the kids from Parkland, whose national tours were basically the handiwork of a certain, former Mayor of New York City whose first name begins with M, not R. But something else about guns has been happening in the last several years which E. J. Dionne seems not to have noticed at all.
In 1990 and 1992,two remarkable scholars, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published research which indisputably showed that access to a gun increased the risk of suicide and homicide in the home. Know how the average American reacted to this news? The percentage of Americans who believe that a gun in the home is more of a benefit and less of a risk continues to go – up! And given the fact that, at most, only 40% or less of American homes contain one or more legal guns, obviously there are lots of non-gun owners who also buy the NRA’s basic argument about the positives of owning a gun.
If E. J. Dionne wants to inform us about the state of the gun business, maybe he would attempt to explain this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, which is a much more important harbinger of the long-term health of the NRA. But the truth is that E. J. Dionne will stick with his usual bromides because his audience doesn’t like guns.