Every few months, it seems, the stranglehold that the gun lobby holds on national gun-control legislation is tested. In January 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot outside a Safeway supermarket in Tucson, Az. by Jared Lee Loughner. In July of this year, James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others outside an Aurora, Co. movie theater. These individual tragic incidents are just examples of the 10,000 or more gun-related homicides that occur each year in the United States.
The latest gun-related tragedy to capture the nation’s attention is Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. on Dec. 14, during which he killed 20 children between the ages of five and 10 and six adults. Just as after the shootings in Tucson and Aurora, the national conversation about gun violence and gun control is starting up once again. However, the powerful influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other anti-gun-control groups on the federal government makes enacting legislation in response to these horrific incidents exceedingly difficult.
In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, it is worth exploring how the NRA and similar groups are able to so effectively prevent any gun-control legislation, even relatively mild measures such as mandated background checks and waiting periods, from being enacted by Congress.
One explanation for the strong influence of gun-rights groups on federal legislation, especially compared to that of gun-control groups, is the former’s massive lobbying budget. According to OpenSecrets, “The NRA alone has spent more than ten times as much as gun control interest groups on lobbying in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012.” Gun-rights groups spent about $3.7 million so far this year, compared to just $180,000 by gun-control groups. Industries and organizations with large lobbying budgets are far more likely to capture the attention and support of politicians.
OpenSecrets also notes that the NRA gave over $1 million in political contributions during the 2012 election cycle, including large donations to top political leaders like Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA.)
Opponents of gun-control legislation have a significant edge in the legislative and policy battles that take place on this issue, not only because of the NRA’s massive lobbying and campaign budgets, but also because Washington politicians are generally reluctant to be seen as restricting the reach of the Second Amendment. However, if enough ordinary Americans, like those who protested outside the White House following the Sandy Hook tragedy, stand up and demand action on this issue from the government, our nation’s leaders and politicians may finally respond.
If the shooting of a Congresswoman and the slaughter of innocents outside a movie theater could not persuade our government to take action, perhaps the deaths of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School will.
To call the White House switchboard and demand action on gun-control legislation, dial 202-456-1414. Click here to find the contact information for your district’s representative and your state’s Senators and do the same. You can also sign this DailyKos petition asking President Obama to start a national conversation about gun control.