Money, politics, and the NRA

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Since the Citizens United vs Federal Elections Committee ruling over 8 years ago, the amount of money in politics has grown exponentially. Contributions from the National Rifle Association (NRA) are no exception. With the alarming number of mass shootings taking place in this country, it’s time we take a closer look at what we are sacrificing as a country by allowing these contributions to continue to influence our representatives, particularly in opposition of what their constituents want.

In the last two decades, the NRA has spent over $11 million in direct contributions to political lawmakers and candidates at the federal level, according to abcnews.com. In 2017 alone, $5 million was spent on advocating for the rights granted under the Second Amendment, which was adopted over 320 years ago.

Florida is not immune to the NRA’s influence, with over a dozen state and federal representatives from the Sunshine State receiving campaign contributions from the organization. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Florida legislature voted down a motion to have a vote on a bill that would ban assault rifles in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that left 17 children dead. It’s hard to imagine the campaign contributions did not influence their votes, especially given the growing popularity of gun control legislation at the national level.

In a Quinnipiac poll released this week, 66% of those surveyed support stricter gun laws. 67% support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, which includes the AR-15 that was legally obtained by the accused shooter in the Florida massacre. Six years ago, after the tragedy in Newtown, CT that left 26 people–including 20 children–dead, support for gun control peaked. Yet, no substantial legislation resulted in the widespread calls for action from our representatives. That’s the power of the NRA. That’s the power of money in politics.

In the Supreme Court’s attempt at equalizing access to the marketplace of ideas through their ruling in Citizens United, they underestimated the inequality of wealth throughout the country, and the power of super PACs compared to average citizens. In fact, the ruling has exacerbated the already dominant position of corporations in campaign financing. The NRA’s spending and politicians’ subsequent voting record within the state of Florida alone is a testament to this. (For example, Sen. Marco Rubio has benefitted from almost $3.5 million in NRA spending, and has asked that we do not “jump to conclusions” about what laws could have prevented the shooting.)

It may be that campaign finance laws are going to be a bigger hurdle for grassroots activism against our nonsensical gun laws than we previously thought. With the upward trend of support for gun control, as well as the nationwide efforts spurred by the survivors of the Parkland tragedy, it’s exceedingly clear that big money continues to call the shots in Washington and state capitals across the country. So long as Citizens United stands, the NRA and other organizations like it will influence the votes of politicians feigning to represent the masses.

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