In the wake of all-too-common school shootings, President Barack Obama issued an executive order earlier this year to increase funding for mental health care, firearm licensing and background checks; encourage research into smart gun technology; and require dealers who ship firearms to notify the ATF if those firearms are stolen or lost. Wherever you stand on the issue, the amount of political power that weapons manufacturers have is shocking and far-reaching.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimates that in 2014 firearms and ammunition contributed almost $43 billion to the economy. This enormous industry, represented by the NRA, supports a small group of powerful lobbyists who drum up fear of laws that would reduce the weapons corporations’ cash flow. The NRA’s money and the fear of its political power sway many members of Congress. Officials charged with enforcing the laws are afraid to challenge the lobbyists and the corporations they represent. The NRA itself is considered a corporation with little to no restrictions on campaign spending, because of the Citizens United ruling in 2010.
Less than half of the NRA’s revenue comes from membership dues and program fees. The bulk of the money is from corporations in the form of advertising, grants and contributions. Between 2005-2013, the gun industry gave between $19.8 million and $52.6 million to the NRA through the Ring of Freedom sponsor program. Some corporations’ sales benefit the NRA as well. For example, Crimson Trace laser sights will donate 10% of each sale to the NRA, giving the NRA a stake in the sales. Weapon makers and the NRA are intrinsically linked.
In turn, the NRA shoulders the brunt of gun control public relations criticisms, while the companies are relatively shielded. “Today’s NRA is a virtual subsidiary of the gun industry,” said Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, in a Business Insider article. “While the NRA portrays itself as protecting the freedom of individual gun owners, it’s actually working to protect the freedom of the gun industry to manufacture and sell virtually any weapon or accessory.”
The people who lobby for the NRA are a small group, but they have tremendous power. That should send a signal to all of us that a small consumer movement with limited numbers of people can have a big effect. A critical mass can have a huge impact.
The NRA was originally founded with the focus on individual sportsmen, training and firearm safety. It has strayed and become a puppet of the Death Economy. Whatever your feelings on gun control, our voices need to be heard over those of the weapons makers.
The Economic Hit Man system that I was a part of is based on paralyzing people with fear—fear of speaking out against big corporations, fear of the “other.” But any time we let fear motivate us, we stay stuck in the Death Economy. Instead we must replace the old dream of a Death Economy with a Life Economy based on love and courage and the knowledge that we can change how corporations—and politicians—act.