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“The NRA Is A Public Health Hazard”: Five Reasons Why The NRA Must Be Stopped

When National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre called on Congress to place an armed guard in every school in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, it showed that he has no intention of doing anything to stop deranged people from using military-style weapons to kill people in large numbers. LaPierre made it clear that the NRA isn’t interested in ending gun violence. In his theatrical and defiant Dec. 21 press conference a week after 26 Sandy Hook children and teachers were shot to death, LaPierre called for even more guns in schools.

In the debate about gun violence, the NRA will rely on time-tested scare tactics. Here are five reasons why the NRA must be defeated:

1. NRA leaders’ immoral interpretation of the Second Amendment presents a serious public health risk.

LaPierre essentially argues that the right to bear any kind of firearm for any reason without any rules – including limits on criminals’ access to the most dangerous weapons ever manufactured – is more important than others’ right to live. This is not what most NRA members or Americans support, and it’s not what the Second Amendment says.

2. The NRA does not represent the views of most NRA members and gun owners.

Recent polling underscores this point. For example, 74 percent of NRA members (and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners) support requiring criminal background checks on all gun buyers. The NRA rank and file also supports barring people on terror watch lists from buying guns (71 percent) and believes the law should require gun owners to alert police to lost and stolen guns (64 percent). NRA policy makers oppose these proposals.

3. The NRA represents gun makers, not gun owners.

LaPierre’s NRA is not the voice of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen. It is the lobbying arm for gun manufacturers opposed to a ban on the assault rifles they make. These weapons include the Bushmaster used in Newtown, Conn., and many other recent shootings. The manufacturer calls this rifle the “ultimate military combat weapons system,” and the NRA gave the Bushmaster its “Golden Bullseye Award” in 2011.

It’s no surprise that the firearms industry contributes significantly to the NRA. In fact, less than half of the NRA’s budget comes from membership dues, and contributions from weapons makers and ideological donors (including the Koch Brothers) are rising. From 2004 to 2010, the NRA’s corporate and other fundraising revenue grew twice as fast as member dues, according to a Forbes piece on “The NRA Industrial Complex” by Peter Cohan. The Violence Policy Center estimates that between 2005 and 2011 the firearms industry donated as much as $38.9 million to the NRA. Lee Fang explains in The Nation that there are dozens of insidious ways that gun makers influence the NRA beyond direct cash contributions.

4. The NRA lies to the public and its members.

The NRA lies to law-abiding gun owners who want their rights protected by saying that a ban on military-style weapons with massive magazines would mean the government will come for hunting rifles next. The group says that if we close loopholes that allow people to get around criminal background checks, it’s only matter of time before the Second Amendment would be repealed. These are flat-out lies that the NRA uses to buttress its “slippery slope” opposition to sensible gun laws like those overwhelmingly supported by individual NRA members. They use the imaginary slippery slope to justify doing nothing.

5. The NRA uses its power to silence responsible politicians and quash constructive efforts to reduce gun violence.

The NRA is a dangerous force in American politics. Not even the atrocity in Newtown has tempered the organization’s extremism and rigid opposition to any effort to address gun violence. Expect to see the NRA use its considerable resources to ruthlessly attack every legislative proposal to address this crisis. LaPierre will employ negative television ads and direct mail marketing to attack the President, the Vice President and the members of Congress fighting for change.

The NRA is a political bully, and the politics of destruction is its trademark. Politicians have feared the NRA because of its willingness to target them with smear tactics and because of its reputation for defeating opponents at the polls, even though this reputation is undeserved and wildly exaggerated.

If public officials can talk with their constituents about the need for sensible gun laws, they’ll persuade most folks. But when the NRA gives an “F” grade to politicians who want to stop gun violence in America, and when it even lobbies to limit public and private data-gathering on guns and gun violence, this organization is having a chilling effect on public policy and debate. It intimidates good people from trying to do the right thing. It protects the status quo.

That’s why we have to aggressively take on the NRA and support the Biden Commission and members of Congress working on a comprehensive solution to gun violence. Washington must address the epidemic of mass killings, the daily shootings in our cities, the culture of violence and the need to expand access to mental health services.

We should start immediately by enacting commonsense gun laws such as those advocated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and supported by those members of Congress who opposed gun legislation prior to the massacre in Newtown. Won’t the nation be safer if we reduce the number of military-style assault rifles on the streets? Won’t fewer people be shot and killed in an America without large-capacity magazines? Won’t we be safer without the gun-show loophole that allows firearms buyers to evade background checks? The NRA doesn’t think so, and the gun manufacturers who set the NRA agenda simply don’t care. After Sandy Hook, the NRA issued a proposal that would make schools more dangerous, not safer.

The NRA doesn’t offer solutions. It works to keep things the way they are, not to reduce gun violence in America. We have to put the NRA on notice that its days of steamrolling Congress are over. The NRA is a public health hazard that must be stopped.

 

By: Ethan Rome, Executive Director, Health Care for America (originally published on the Huffington Post), January 7, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Pretty Simple Con”: The Conservative Movement Is Still An Elaborate Moneymaking Venture

The conservative media movement exists primarily as a moneymaking venture. As Rick Perlstein explained in the Baffler, some of the largest conservative media organs are essentially massive email lists of suckers rented to snake oil salesmen. The con isn’t limited to a couple of newsletters and websites: The most prominent conservative organizations in the nation are primarily dedicated to separating conservatives from their money.

FreedomWorks, which is funded primarily by very rich people, solicits donations from non-rich conservative people. More than 80,000 people donated money to FreedomWorks in 2012, and it seems likely that only a small minority of those people were hedge fund millionaires. And what are people who donate to this grass-roots conservative organization funded mostly by a few very rich people getting for their hard-earned money? In addition to paying Dick Armey $400,000 a year for 20 years to stay away, FreedomWorks also apparently spent more than a million dollars paying Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to say nice things about FreedomWorks, in order to convince listeners to send FreedomWorks money that FreedomWorks would then give to Limbaugh and Beck. It’s a pretty simple con. Beck, meanwhile, also has a subscriber-based media operation, in which people pay his company money for access to programs where Beck expresses opinions that he was paid to hold. He also spent years telling everyone to buy gold from a company that pays him and defrauds consumers.

As Armey admitted to Media Matters, FreedomWorks at this point essentially raises money for the sake of raising money. It exists to bilk “activists.” Armey at least has the courtesy to be embarrassed by this:

“If Limbaugh and Beck, if we were using those resources to recruit activists and inform activists and to encourage and enthuse activists, that’s one thing,” Armey explained. “If we are using these things to raise money; one, it’s a damned expensive way to raise money; and two, it makes raising money an end on to itself not an instrumental activity to support the foundation work that our organization does.”

Armey also said the relationship with Beck expanded to include rallies that were co-sponsored by Beck and FreedomWorks, and included appearances by FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe.

Armey said he objected to these events, dubbed FreePACs, because they often charged admission to FreedomWorks activists.

A review of promotional information for the events found $20 was a standard donation requested at some of the locations, while a Dallas, TX., FreePAC last summer charged prices as high as $971.

But Armey is basically alone. No major right-wing media figures ever speak out against the widespread practice of constantly bilking credulous old people. Newsmax, a company whose email list is regularly given over to blatant get-rich-quick scheme hucksters, publishes basically every major and minor conservative columnist (and Lanny Davis). Newsmax pays to syndicate their columns, and their stature lends the site credibility. None of them ever complain. No one on the right criticizes the Newsmax business model. It seems to be semi-common knowledge that major conservative media figures sell their endorsements. No one says it’s deceptive. No one says Dick Morris should stop marketing his various ventures on Fox, all the time.

This complete contempt for the audience is unique to the right-wing press — if the Huffington Post made its money selling snake oil, liberals would complain. The recent trickle of complaints about the major nonprofit money-making groups, like FreedomWorks and CrossroadsUSA, has come solely because those groups failed to win the election. If Romney, or even a couple of Senate candidates, had won, no one would mind that the two groups enriched their boards of directors on the backs of tens of thousands of small donors. Right-wing reaction to Armey’s admission to Media Matters has thus far been outrage … that Armey talked to Media Matters.

The problem this presents for the movement, beyond the threat of eventually bankrupting the people who give it power, is that the business of money-making, for consultants and media personalities and Herman Cains, is at this point getting in the way of the business of advancing conservative causes. The groups exert massive influence, and they only ever push the Republican Party to get more extreme. Apocalyptic hysteria is much more effective at getting people to open their wallets than reasonable commentary. There are a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on keeping lots of conservatives terrified and ill-informed. The groups that exist to raise funds raise more funds when they endorse the crazier candidate.

So even if you don’t particularly care that regular conservative Americans are constantly being scammed by their media apparatus, you should still worry about the influence of the scammers. The fact that there is a lot of money to be made in acting like Michele Bachmann is part of why the House seems poised to blow up the U.S. economy. The fact that conservatives have that much contempt for their own true believers neatly explains how they govern when they actually have power.

 

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 7, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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