2020-01-08 17:36:21 UTC
MacBride: I’ve Finally Found the Source of the NRA’s Power
BY DAN ZIMMERMAN |JAN 08, 2020 |28 COMMENTS
NRA Convention Indianapolis
(AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane)
Quartz contributor Elizabeth MacBride attended the NRA annual meetings and
convention in Indianapolis back in April. It’s apparently taken her nine
months to recover from the experience and synthesize her thoughts about the
horrors she witnessed there.
She seems to have concluded that the source of the NRA’s power isn’t its
money or its five million members and their propensity to vote for
candidates who support their gun rights. Instead, as she sees it, the
Association’s influence stems from algorithms, fear, racism, misogyny,
nativism, and a pervasive culture of violence.
Everywhere I looked, I was surrounded by foot soldiers of the NRA.
A paunchy man walked by wearing a too-tight t-shirt that read, “Ho ho ho,
now I have a machine gun.” A man with a Gettysburg beard stood to one side.
At the nearby Palmetto State Armory booth, two young men caressed AK-47s on
I had gone into the convention hoping to answer my questions about how the
NRA, a relatively small organization (representatives claim around 5 million
members, but the figures are not confirmed) wields so much power.
In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court ruled on
an individual right to bear arms rather than a state militia’s right to be
equipped. But since the late 1960s, the NRA has blocked gun registration and
licensing systems, stymied enforcement of existing laws by hamstringing the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and undermined public-health
approaches to gun violence.
The NRA is at the heart of an American gun culture that has given rise to a
societal tolerance for horrific shootings. Yet in the past two decades, the
association has morphed into something even more powerful: a machine for
Members of the NRA may not look like much individually. But under one of the
most gifted political organizers in US history, current NRA vice president
Wayne LaPierre, they remain core to US president Donald Trump’s re-election
campaign, even after a year in which the NRA was rocked by grifting
scandals. Militarized and steeped in a hierarchical culture that celebrates
violence, NRA-member voters are also likely to quickly support war.
I went into the convention thinking there were two forces at work that can
explain the NRA’s power and LaPierre’s longevity: Weaponized right-wing
politics, and the gun industry, which provides the bankroll. My hypothesis
proved to hold up.
But I also learned that 15 acres of guns is not all about politics. Nor is
it all about guns.
– Elizabeth MacBride in The NRA’s most powerful weapon is not a gun