Blame massacres on America’s National Rifle Association

Why the NRA deserves a large part of the blame for Charleston…and Aurora…and Tucson…and Washington, DC…and Sandy Hill…and Virginia Tech…etc.,etc.

Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

The NRA’s primary goal is not to serve its members, but to ensure the gun manufacturers that sponsor and fund it make as much money as possible, writes Tom Regan. Above, the wares at a gun show in Houston, Texas. Photo by M&R Glasgow via Flickr, Creative Commons

June, 2015 

“How many innocent people in our country — little children to church members to movie theater attendees — how many people do we need to see cut down before we act?” she said. – Hillary Clinton, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the US. 

“Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. “ – President Barack Obama’s comments after the murder of nine people in an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

And here we are again.

Another mass shooting. Another grisly death toll. It’s like a bad horror movie that just keeps appearing on your TV time after time and you can’t turn it off. 

And President Obama is correct; these type of murders just do not happen in other countries with anywhere near the frequency that they happen in the United States. It honestly seems that hardly a month goes by and Americans are dealing another mass shooting. 

It’s an odd combination of factors. On the one hand the number of US gun deaths has gone down in recent years as the population has increased; as of 2010 it is 3.59 per 100,000, the lowest rate since 1981 (the number of nonfatal gun injuries, however, is 17.8 per 100,000 the highest total since 2008. Maybe people are just poorer shots than they were in the past).

But the US gun-related homicide rate is exponentially higher than anywhere else in the developed world. Nowhere else even close, by a long shot. And one of the reasons for that, is that in the United States when an argument does turn violent there is a much, much greater chance that guns will be involved. ( has a great, balanced piece on gun rhetoric versus gun fact)

It’s time, however, that one of the main ‘producers’ of this bad movie I mentioned above is held to task.

I’m speaking of the National Rifle Association. The NRA has fought, bought, and scared its way into being the preeminent lobbying organization in Washington DC. Using a combination of hysteria and scare tactics, it is well on its way of accomplishing its mission of having as many Americans as possible armed to the teeth. Through its efforts, guns are ubiquitous in this country. And not just handguns or rifles; semiautomatic weapons of immense firepower can be bought like candy in a corner store, and any attempt to regulate the purchase or the sale of these weapons of mass destruction is met with a cacophony of ridiculous diatribes about how “the government is trying to take our guns away from us.” 

Wayne LaPierre speaking at a 2011 political conference in Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore 2 via Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Wayne LaPierre speaking at a 2011 political conference in Florida. Photo by Gage Skidmore 2 via Wikimedia, Creative Commons

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice-president of the NRA, is the ringmaster of this bizarrely destructive circus. LaPierre makes statements that on face value are so preposterous – particularly about Pres. Obama but any Democratic president will do – that any normal, rational human being would laugh out loud at them. 

But when you’re talking about people who, to quote then candidate Obama “cling to guns and religion” and view these preposterous statements like biblical scripture, it seems their ability to think clearly has been rendered useless.

I have argued before that one of the reasons behind the soaring numbers of people killed by police in the United States is the fact that every time a police officer goes into any kind of a situation, he or she has to assume that the individual might be armed. It’s a situation police in other countries just do not have to face.

Thanks to the NRA and its lobbying efforts, almost every state in the union has an open carry law. Now this of course is not the only reason for the high number of people killed by the police n the US: racism and overly aggressive training play key roles in the shootings, particularly in the shooting of unarmed black men and children, but it is certainly a factor. 

What particularly bothers me about the NRA is that it fights any reasonable attempt to regulate how guns are stored, armed, or used. No one is talking about taking away people’s Second Amendment right to own guns. But none of that matters to the NRA. They portray any regulation, no matter how reasonable, as the work of some socialist devil. But it’s all really kabuki theater because in the end, the NRA’s primary goal is not to serve its members, but to ensure the gun manufacturers that sponsor and fund it make as much money as possible. 

But the NRA can be fought successfully. When the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment in its 2008 ruling, it also added that governments do have a right to make reasonable regulations about these weapons. (The NRA has consistently tried to pretend that this part of the ruling doesn’t exist.)

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to block two San Francisco city gun control laws that the NRA was trying to negate. One was a 2007 law that said that residents who owned a handgun had to keep it under lock and key or use a trigger lock when they were not carrying their weapons. The other law was a 1994 ordinance that banned the sale of hollow point bullets that expand on impact. 

But we can’t count on a conservative Supreme Court to consistently uphold common sense regulations. We need politicians and pundits who aren’t afraid to go up against the NRA, people who will call for more common sense regulations, who will say it’s time this madness of massacres stops. Because no matter how the NRA or gun advocates try to twisted it, the reality is that other countries that have better gun regulations have far, far fewer massacres. Better regulations won’t totally stop these massacres – this is the US after all – but it will make a difference.


Copyright Tom Regan 2015 

Contact Tom Regan:

References and further reading:

Backgrounder: What to Read: The Charleston Massacre, The Marshall Project:

In Charleston, Raw Emotion at Hearing for Suspect in Church Shooting, New York Times (with AP video):  on gun rhetoric versus gun fact:

Time line of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, Los Angeles Times:

U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the 2nd Amendment did not grant an unlimited right to own guns:


Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio A former executive director of the Online News Association, he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92.







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