When 90% of Americans want increased gun control policies and their elected officials reject even minimal reform, it begs the question, who exactly are our Congress members representing? Well, as usual, the money tells a significant part of the story: 42 out of the 45 Senators who voted no on the recent bill have received significant donations from the gun lobby.
“Politicians are bought!” “Politics are corrupt!” “Corporate interests over the welfare of citizens!” You’ve probably heard it all before and this kind of thing – sadly – no longer surprises you. But even if it’s something you’ve come to expect, that doesn’t make it any less disgusting or any less important to remind everyone how flawed the system is.
With research conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, The Guardian reported on the donations from the NRA and other pro-gun organizations over the last couple of decades. The NRA alone had given $800,000 to the Senators who helped nix the bill.
Among the top NRA recipients are Roy Blunt (Missouri) with $60,550 and Saxby Chambliss (Georgia) with $56,950. Fellow Republican Senators John Thune (South Dakota), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma) have each received well over $40,000 apiece, as well.
While donations of this sort are generally made during election cycles, at least two Senators suspiciously received money from the gun industry in recent weeks. During the month of March, Richard Burr (North Carolina) and Dan Coats (Indiana) had donations from an ammunition manufacturer and shooting group. Considering that these donations came at a time when gun control looked more likely to pass, their potential impact cannot be discredited.
In fact, there may be many more donations made by the gun lobby in recent months that we are not aware of yet. Although that financial information would normally have been made public by now, the ongoing Congressional ricin scare has postponed the filing deadline. Since the NRA and gun lobby have certainly been busy positioning themselves politically since the Sandy Hook massacre, it is not unreasonable to believe these groups put their money where their mouths are.
Of course, these groups have enough financial sway that they do not even need to spend it to get what they want. Commonly, the NRA will stoop to fear tactics to keep politicians on their side. Rather than giving money, the NRA threatens to give politicians’ future opponents significant donations to defeat anyone who they feel has slighted them. President Barack Obama blames these threats on the bill’s failure, explaining, “They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-second amendment.” Nevertheless, he vowed that “the effort is not over.”
While there are pro-gun control organizations that have raised money to push the alternative agenda, the capital spent is a fraction of what the NRA spends to oppose these measures.
Although Rand Paul is one of the three Senators who voted no without having recorded gun lobby donations, he does have an affiliation with the National Association for Gun Rights, a group that considers itself a “conservative” version of the NRA. The other two Senators, Heidi Heitkamp and Mark Begich, are both Democrats who have no known notable gun lobby ties.
Notably, four people who voted in favor of the bill had also received money from the gun lobby. Senators John McCain (Arizona) and Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania) were just two out of four Republicans who supported increasing gun control, while Joe Manchin (West Virginia) and Tim Johnson (South Dakota) followed their Democratic party over their former benefactors’ wants.
As much as we have a gun problem in this country, lobbyists and private interest campaign money may prove to be a more dangerous threat. So long as our political system enables a powerful group’s interests to take precedence over the will and well-being of the American people, our safety is constantly at risk.