I’ve admitted I grew up in a National Rifle Association (NRA) household. I’ve admitted I owned a gun for years, a Remington 22 which I used to bring home my share of competition medals. The NRA teaches gun safety and provides a multitude of services to its members, but like the Republican Party, the leadership has turned a sharp right corner. Driven by acute paranoia, it’s left a majority of Americans scratching their heads, wondering what happened to the organization’s good sense.
The NRA has attached so many riders to omnibus bills concerning the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) that bureau employees have time to do little else but file the never-ending stream of regulations that result. Not only is the ATF underfunded by malice of forethought — 2,000 agents to monitor an industry that manufactures 10 million guns a year — but it is required to keep paper records, denied computer technology for fear the government might create a gun registry.
Adding insult to the ATF’s injury are The Tiahrt Amendments. They prevent it from sharing most of its information with other agencies. Still the NRA, not satisfied with these measures, sought to hogtie the agency further. When the Patriot’s Act passed after 9/11, the NRA had succeeded in making the director’s office a political appointment, one that required Senate Confirmation. Since that time, the organization has turned over directors like flap jacks, none of them lasting two years. To his credit, Barrack Obama saw how the agency’s effectiveness was being destroyed and tried to increase ATF staffing by 200 agents. The Congress shot his proposal down. (“Outgunned and Outmanned,” by Bryan Schatz. Mother Jones, Sept/Oct 2016 pg. 5-7.)
The NRA’s power to shape legislation stems from its political largess in election years. Congress has become addicted to the flow of cash. In response, the public needs to do an intervention and NRA members who disagree with the extreme positions of their organization should join in. While many of us moan about the political gerrymandering that gives lifetime job security to members of Congress, the NRA’s reach crosses time as well as local and state borders. As such, it presents an impenetrable barrier to those who would like to get AKA rifles off the streets.
Every day, NRA lobbyists head for Congress, their briefcases bulging with money and drafts of new legislation. In their misguided notion of liberty, they aim to cripple the ATF and leave Americans to walk like human targets along our increasingly unsafe street.