The Republican candidates for president in 2016, including its deranged nominee, all supported lessening gun regulations, even in the face of repeated mass shootings. Jeb Bush was quoted as saying “stuff happens” in regards to a shooting in Oregon in October of 2015. Donald Trump’s gun policy is for an expansion of gun rights, including concealed carry. In one of the Republican debates, Trump even claimed that he practices concealed carry from time to time, but he does not like to specify when so he can surprise potential assailants.
Yet, despite the fact that there are only two prominent political parties in America, the Democratic party has offered few solutions for gun violence. While nominally being for gun control, its 2016 own candidates are pretty weak on the issue. Bernie Sanders tried to find a middle ground, at one point saying people need to stop shouting about guns, and Hillary Clinton ran to the right of Obama on guns in 2008; she went so far as to be photographed with a rifle while hunting, an experience she must’ve repressed in order to continue living with herself. She hasn’t learned much since then; this past March, an NRA lobbyist co-hosted a fundraiser for Clinton.
After the horrendous shooting in Orlando, the Republicans offered nothing other than “thoughts and prayers” while the Democrats staged a sit-in that was pure spectacle. The bill the Democrats wanted to pass was actually a racist bill that would do almost nothing to curb gun control. Instead, the bill aimed to prevent people who were on the terror watch list from buying guns. People on the terror watch list are very rarely the ones committing gun crimes in the US, which makes the effort on the part of the Democrats a feeble, almost cynical one. Worse, the terror watch list has long singled out innocent Muslims (Representative Peter King is a longtime supporter of the terror watch list, and that alone should be a warning), and the passing of this bill would be yet another slap in the face of the Muslim community.
The NRA Effect
This odd obsession with guns among the political class is strange, especially when you consider how much more dangerous guns can be now compared to, say, 1950. Why the reluctance to move forward? Why can neither party put forward comprehensive gun reform? The answers lie, as most do in America, with money. The National Rifle Association has made quite a name for itself in the past few decades, especially with its insidious spokesperson, Wayne La Pierre, who makes George Wallace look like the epitome of self-restrain. It regularly talks about how imperative it is for Americans to own guns to protect themselves from the evils of our world. But the NRA has not always been as destructive as it is now. In fact, the NRA once pushed for background checks, licensing gun salespeople, and did not care for concealed carry. Through most of the 1960s, the NRA was more interested in hunting and collecting as opposed to enabling the delusions of white people concerned about race riots.
The NRA’s stance began to change in the 1970s, and the American political class soon followed it. The NRA began to view owning a gun as not just part of a sport, not even just part of a way of life, but a patriotic act, one that would allow Americans to protect themselves from roaming criminals (between the lines, the criminals were almost always black or Hispanic, although recently the rhetoric has targeted Arabs, too).
The cause of this change comes from gun manufacturers. They realized that they could up the sale of guns and ammunition by stoking Americans’ bigoted fears. By pumping money into the NRA, turning it from a bona-fide country club into one of the strongest political lobbying forces in America, gun manufacturers now had a front from which they could shore up business while remaining in the shadows. Libertarians, the ugly children of the hateful Ayn Rand, came running to the NRA, treating the second amendment like it was the word of God (and sometimes claim as much), diluting the NRA with political nut jobs who believed 24/7 anarchy was what the United States constitution stood for. As if the new NRA was challenged by the idea that this unholy mix of manufacturers and the selfish couldn’t be outdone, Evangelical Christians soon molded with the NRA, too. The religious fervor behind the right to be armed to the teeth soon grew. Why the Evangelical community happily jumped into bed with the NRA is a story for another time, but one would be foolish to downplay the racism that lingers in the heart of Evangelical Christians. Donald Trump after all, has repeatedly thanked them for making him the Republican nominee.
Unfortunately, the NRA’s evolution coincided with another evolution: the GOP’s change into a radical religious party, flying into the White House while blaming black people and communism for all of white people’s problems. This made the GOP and the NRA a match made in a Hell even Satan would be scared to consider.
True to form, the spineless Democratic Party, under the leadership of Bill Clinton, shifted to the right and began to embrace the gun culture. Bans on assault weapons were considered victories instead of disastrous last ditch efforts to stop an out of control industry from using its lobbyist arm to control the government.
Today, the NRA’s hold on politics is so deep that the Republican party will only nominate federal judges if the judges have the stamp of approval of the NRA. This should be distressing. Instead, it is met with a silent media, one worried about the wrath of the NRA, and a shrug from the American people, who seem to have given up on hoping gun control will ever happen. Even the Democrats seem unable, and, in the case of many Blue Dog Democrats, unwilling, to make change happen whether they control Congress or not. The Supreme Court’s decision on Citizen’s United has only given the NRA more opportunities to manipulate politicians on both sides of the aisle, further burying hope that meaningful gun control is on the horizon.
There is a level of the surreal to America’s epidemic of gun slaughters. Again and again they happen with not just no change to gun laws, but often regressions, with gun laws expiring and organizations like the NRA blaming violent movies and video games for the killings. That this charade continues while people walk into schools and shoot up children is so vile that it borders on the unbelievable.
A Deadly Formula
Whether the shootings stem from mental illness, white supremacy, or terrorism, there is one root cause that remains the same: capitalism. So long as money holds sway, gun manufacturers will continue to use the NRA as a tool so it can sell death. Mass shootings are big business for gun manufacturers; sales go up because the NRA uses mass shootings to inspire fear of potential gun reform so people will go out and buy as many bullets and rifles as they can.
The formula will remain the same: inspire fear, inspire gun culture, deliver empty thoughts and prayers after shootings, and, most importantly, make money. Be it the politicians, the NRA, or gun manufacturers themselves, guns mean business, bodies be damned.
DONALD McCARTHY is the Features Editor of Drunk Monkeys. His fiction has appeared in KZine and Cover of Darkness and his non-fiction has appeared in The Progressive Populist.