I remember when our daughter was approaching the age of the “terrible twos”; everything was “No.” She marched up and down in her diaper practicing “No, No, No” at different decibel levels and with different intonations.

Today’s NRA reminds me of our daughter. It doesn’t matter what kind of sensible gun control measures are proposed, the knee-jerk reaction is to say “No.”

It wasn’t always like this.

The National Firearms Act of 1934 was the first Federal gun control law. It was supported by the NRA. As late as 1968, the NRA supported significant sections of the Gun Control Act, tightening up rules around the sale and ownership of guns.

But this prompted a fight within the NRA. The “just say no” faction launched a challenge to the traditional leadership. By 1977 the internal revolution was complete and the NRA had become the organization we know today.

Its focus shifted from sportsmen, hunters and target shooters to lobbying. It set up a political action committee (PAC) supporting those undermining effective gun control legislation. By 2012, at some point, 88 percent of Republicans in Congress and 11 percent of Democrats had received NRA money. The NRA spent over $30 million backing President Trump in the 2016 election.

For decades the NRA has hamstrung the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in its regulation of firearms by blocking nominees to head the organization during both Republican and Democratic presidencies, and through measures such as banning the ATF from tracing guns to owners electronically. Unbelievably, the ATF still has to do this through paper records, hampering the ability to track gun crimes.

In 1994, Congress passed a ban on assault weapons. The NRA failed to prevent passage of this legislation, but was successful in inserting a 10-year sunset clause. When the bill came up for renewal in 2004, despite support from then Republican president George Bush, the NRA was able to kill it. In 2005, the NRA successfully lobbied for a law that protects firearm manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes are committed with their products.

Because of inadequate regulation, America is awash with guns like no other country in the world, including those in the midst of vicious civil wars. To a significant extent, we have the NRA to thank for the numerous loopholes in today’s background checks, for the ease with which criminals and mentally ill people can buy guns, for unnecessary difficulties in connecting guns to crimes, and for the fact that gun manufacturers and dealers cannot be held accountable for irresponsibly peddling their products.

Although NRA membership is 5 million, this is still less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. We are allowing this minority organization to hold the rest of the country to ransom. It is long overdue that our politicians found the political courage to say no to NRA cash and began the difficult task of reversing the tide of gun violence and deaths afflicting our country.

In the upcoming elections, we should refuse to vote for any politician who accepts NRA cash and who will not support effective measures to reduce gun violence. It’s not inconceivable that with enough pressure the NRA will rediscover its roots and join us.

Nigel Calder
Newcastle

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