Is the NRA Getting Its Bang for the Buck?

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NRA Bang for Buck
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Eight lawmakers have taken more than a million dollars from the National Rifle Association over the course of their careers, according to research by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics and reported by CNN.

The NRA spent over $5 million on lobbying for expanded gun rights in 2016 and donated over $30 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, according to Open Secrets, a nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit research group that tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.

A recent CNN poll showed that 7 out of 10 people surveyed backed stricter gun controls.

So understandably many people suspect the strong influence of the NRA is the reason Congress has failed to address gun control in any meaningful way.

Citizens are advocating for stricter gun laws not only across the country but in their respective states. After each shooting, the pressure builds on state and federal lawmakers, yet, despite these concerns, Congress has done little to deal with the issue.

Below is a list of legislators who have received over a million dollars of direct and indirect financial support from the NRA, according to CNN, and a description of the actions their states are taking to address gun control.

  1. NORTH CAROLINA

Sen. Thom Tillis (R) – $1,971,554

(Sen. Richard Burr (NC-R), no. 5 below, received $1,399,698)

Any plans to make tougher gun laws in North Carolina are unlikely to succeed, according to an article in The Charlotte Observer. Sen. Thom Tillis has taken more money from the NRA than anyone in Congress. Sen. Richard Burr is number five on the list.

Burr and Tillis both received A+ scores from the NRA for their support of firearms legislation, according to The Winston Salem Journal. Both senators were in favor of a House Joint Resolution in Congress last year that would end the requirement that the names of people who receive federal mental health benefits be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check system.

Some gun control supporters say that both senators, along with other NRA benefactors, would receive less criticism if they passed legislation providing federal support to families of shooting victims.

Still, the NRA has not spent heavily in the NC General Assembly. Instead of addressing on gun control, the NC Legislature has focused more on school security, according to an article in The Charlotte Observer.

The latest gun control effort made in the state was the Omnibus Gun Changes bill in 2017. The bill would allow anyone who legally owns a gun to carry it concealed without a permit anywhere they can carry it openly. The bill is currently in the Senate and eligible for consideration in the session this May.

  1. ARKANSAS

Sen. Tom Cotton (R) – $1,968,714

Sen. Tom Cotton is second on the list of lawmakers who have received over one million dollars from the NRA. The NRA gave the senator an A rating during his 2014 Senate race.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, as well as other lawmakers, intends to have school security on the list of issues to address in the legislative session next year, but gun control is off limits, according to an article in U.S. News and World Report. The governor would like instead to focus on issues such as securing school facilities and mental health care.

Last year, the governor signed a law that expanded where concealed handguns are allowed in the state. Republican senator and lifelong NRA member Trent Garner said he would like to introduce a proposal for next year’s session allowing veterans and off-duty police officers to voluntarily guard schools.

  1. MISSOURI

Sen. Roy Blunt (R) – $1,488,706

Blunt maintains that addressing background checks and having them fully amended is a better approach to the issue than gun controls, according to an article from Politico. Back in 2016, the NRA-Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) endorsed Blunt  for re-election to the U.S. Senate and gave him an A rating.

A Missouri house committee recently passed a bill that will make it easier to carry a gun in churches or schools, according to fox2now. Guns would also be allowed in government buildings, day care centers, bars, amusement parks, sports stadiums, and hospitals.

The Kansas City Star states that other bills that passed in the committee would restrict the use of firearm-tracking technology, make tax deductions permissible for completing gun safety training, allow guns to be transported in cars, prevent local entities from regulating open carry, and expand the areas where concealed guns can be carried in the state.

Fox2now reported that Democrats fell short of moving forward with their gun control proposals. Failing were proposals to prevent ammunition sales to people under 18 and to repeal concealed carry without a permit and “stand your ground” laws. A background check requirement also failed. The requirement would have mandated checks for all sales, not just those conducted at federally licensed dealers.

  1. OHIO

Sen. Rob Portman (R) – $1,472,789

Portman says he is open to some gun control measures, according to WOSU Public Media. He has supported expanding background checks, and he said it might be appropriate for Ohio’s 30-round limit on magazines to be duplicated across the country. He also said he thinks lawmakers should address bump stocks and is open to raising the minimum age for purchasing rifles from 18 to 21. The Ohio senator received an A rating from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.

Since the Florida school shooting, Gov. John Kasich has proposed six gun policy changes, including

  • gun violence protection orders that allow friends and family members to petition a court to remove firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others;
  • a domestic violence policy that would prohibit anyone convicted of a domestic violence crime or subject to a domestic violence protection order from buying or owning a firearm; and
  • background check requirements forcing courts to submit conviction information to the state’s background check database in a timely manner.

Other proposals included bans on

  • purchases of firearms for third parties except as a gift;
  • body armor-piercing bullets (many armor-piercing bullets are illegal under federal law but the definition is fuzzy, and legislating a clear restriction in state law would allowlocal prosecutors to bring charges that federal officials might not have time to pursue); and
  • bump stocks.
  1. NORTH CAROLINA

Sen. Richard Burr (R) – $1,399,698

According to an article in The Charlotte Observer, plans to make tougher gun laws in North Carolina are unlikely to succeed. Sen. Thom Tillis has taken more money from the NRA than anyone in Congress. Sen. Richard Burr is number five on the list.

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Burr believes the gun control debate should not be politicized by Democrats, in particular, immediately after a shooting tragedy. A spokesperson for Burr said the senator believes guns must be prevented from getting into the hands of those seeking to do harm, but it must be done in a way that doesn’t violate the rights of law-abiding citizens.

See the entry on Tillis for more information on gun control efforts in North Carolina.

  1. COLORADO

Sen. Cory Gardner (R) – $1,231,079

Sen. Gardner recently intervened and stalled a universally popular gun bill that would fix federal background checks and would block criminals from buying guns. The bill has bipartisan support in Congress, according to Shareblue Media. The senator received an A rating from the NRA-PVF during the 2014 U.S. Senate election.

Since the Florida school shooting, Democrat state lawmakers have rejected three Republican bills to loosen gun regulations in Colorado. One of the bills would have allowed people with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms in Colorado schools. Currently, people with concealed carry permits can bring firearms to a school, but the gun must be kept inside a locked vehicle.

The two other gun-related bills were a “stand your ground” bill that would have allowed the use deadly force against an intruder at a business, and the other bill would have repealed Colorado’s 15-round capacity limit for gun magazines. The legislation was heard in the Democrat-controlled House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

  1. WISCONSIN

Sen. Ron Johnson (R) – $1,015,173

Sen. Johnson shared his views on the Department of Justice announcement to ban bump stocks. Johnson told WKOW.com he believes that “Congress should act and ban guns based on the operational characteristics of the weapon. Let’s define what an automatic weapon is. Let’s define how many rounds per second, per minute. And then you can judge a bump stock against that operational standard.”

The senator says he supports improving gun laws, and he also discussed the lawsuit filed against the state of Florida by the NRA for raising the legal age of purchasing a gun. Johnson stated that he would not support similar legislation in Wisconsin. Johnson has received an A rating from the NRA.

Wisconsin Democrats recently failed to influence Republicans to pass legislation that requires universal background checks for gun buyers. Instead Republicans took control of the legislation and rewrote it to fund armed guards in schools.

The NRA advocates placing armed guards in every American school, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press. Under the Wisconsin bill, the guards would have to be police officers or former police officers. Attorney General Brad Schimel, a Republican, told the Journal Sentinel Online he would be open to letting teachers and others be armed in school. Republicans added language to the bill that would make purchasing a gun for someone who can’t legally possess one a felony punishable by up to a decade in prison. The bill will go to the Senate next.

  1. FLORIDA

Sen. Marco Rubio (R) – $1,012,980

In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shootings, Sen. Marco Rubio refused to answer a direct question from shooting survivor Cameron Kasky, who asked the senator if he would refuse any more money from the NRA. Rubio equivocated and defended accepting contributions from the NRA because he represents the people who “buy into” his agenda. Rubio did say he will support any law that will prevent a killer similar to the Parkland shooter from getting access to a gun. In 2016, the NRA gave the senator its highest rating (A+).

Florida has been making efforts to address gun control on the state level. Recently, the Senate passed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21. The bill requires a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and a ban on the sale or possession of bump stocks. It would also give law enforcement more power to seize weapons and ammunition from individuals who seem to be mentally unfit or a threat. It will also provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services. The Senate made adjustments to the bill that would allow teachers to be armed. The bill still must pass in the House.

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Brianna Rhodes
Brianna Rhodes is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill School of Journalism program where she received her Master's in Journalism. She also received her Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Brianna has served as a reporter for Capital News Service in Maryland’s State capital, Annapolis. Capital News Service is a student-powered news organization run by the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, which is in partnership with the Associated Press. She reported on political issues pertaining to race relations and education in Maryland. She has had stories published in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Miami Herald. Brianna has also written for many publications in the DMV area including The AFRO Newspaper, The Washington Informer Bridge Newspaper, the Prince George's County Sentinel, and the Hyattsville Life and Times. She has written stories on arts, culture, race and entertainment. Brianna also served as an Editorial Intern for a nonprofit organization, the National Trust of Historic Preservation. During her time there, she researched and wrote stories about African-American innovators and historic sites across the nation using various books and university library databases. Brianna is a North Carolina native and currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, but she still possesses her great southern charm and hospitality.

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