How the NRA went crazy

"Steady and relax," I whispered as my cheek fused to the stock of my .22-caliber rifle, waiting for the shot to break...

Posted: Mar 24, 2018 2:13 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2018 2:13 PM

"Steady and relax," I whispered as my cheek fused to the stock of my .22-caliber rifle, waiting for the shot to break and launch a round at 1,800 feet per second toward the paper target downrange.

This would be merely one of thousands of rounds I fired in youth shooting-club practices and competitions while growing up in rural Texas. While some kids spent the majority of their extracurricular time on the ball field or practicing music, my interest was firearms.

If mastering challenges makes us better people, my formative years on the shooting range taught me countless lessons in self-control as I steadied a rifle, arrested my anxiety through controlled breathing and worked toward the goal of mechanical precision, round after round. Replicating that proficiency over and over was tangible evidence I was good at something.

In shooting sports, as in life, one can always improve. When I started as a special agent trainee at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, I was once again reminded that learning is a lifetime endeavor. As I stood on the firing line, day in and day out, flanked by two hotshots who never seemed to miss their targets, I felt that same positive competitive spirit I had when I was a kid, and was again reminded how influential firearms had been in shaping and improving my character.

Although I don't remember ever formally signing up to be a junior member of the National Rifle Association -- perhaps it was included in my shooting club membership -- I do remember receiving membership literature in the mail and proudly telling my friends. To me and my fellow shooting club members, the NRA represented a bond shared by firearms enthusiasts who appreciated responsible gun ownership.

But it was never political.

Today's NRA is simply unrecognizable from the days of the 1990s. If you were to ask me then -- when I was showing off my membership card -- if I could have predicted a day when the organization would find itself at odds with the friends and family members of shooting victims, I would have responded to the question with sheer bewilderment. Never would I have predicted seeing the NRA's chief spokesperson sickly accuse the press of loving mass shootings.

What exactly happened to the organization? How did a group originally founded by responsible gun owners to promote marksmanship evolve into an entrenched political faction picking fights with high school students? I suspect that somewhere along the way the NRA was corrupted by political operatives who recognized the electoral benefits of peddling fear to its members.

Although a sinister calculation, think of the political and financial benefits the organization would reap if it succeeded in convincing its members that they were under attack by a government seeking to rob them of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Get like-minded leaders elected, and you ensure your continued existence. Convince members they are perpetually under the threat of physical attack -- which can only be countered with a gun -- and their fears will never subside.

Although many have focused on NRA political contributions as proof of a corrupting influence, I think our primary focus should be less on donations to individual elected officials, and more on the organization's larger efforts to brainwash its members into voting en masse against candidates who support responsible gun reform.

As Vox recently reported, while gun reform groups have often focused on matching the NRA's mammoth fundraising efforts, the larger threat the organization poses is actually its ability to mobilize voters.

One tactic the organization uses to foment anxiety within its ranks is to perpetuate the notion that the government is attempting to seize the weapons of law-abiding citizens, and so any compromise would represent a slippery slope toward a total ban on firearms.

For proof of the lucrative effect of fearmongering, look no further than the historical spike in gun sales after mass shootings, which I believe can only be explained by efforts of groups like the NRA to instill fear in their members to stock up on guns now before the government regulates them out of existence.

Another favorite NRA technique is the "whataboutism," usually reserved for conversations about the actions of Russian intelligence services

Sure, the San Bernardino attack involved a firearm, but what about the attackers' radical terrorist motivations? OK, so the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter had an assault rifle, but what about the fact authorities may have failed to properly investigate him? These somersaults of logic and linguistics are creative, but they fail to admit that the common denominator in gun violence is the gun.

Just as important as identifying how the NRA operates is focusing on the reason it engages in these tactics. The question NRA members should ask themselves is whether the organization exists to serve the interests of gun owners, or simply those of gun manufacturers.

If the latter, the public would be right to watch the organization's efforts with suspicion and to be on guard for manipulation. As long as the organization continues to receive revenue from the sale of some gun purchases, it will be tough to convince a skeptical public of its purity.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to the fearmongering: it is the hope generated in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting by the thousands of students and responsible gun reform supporters who have determined enough is enough and the time for real action is now.

These students have inspired a wave of public support and give many of us hope that we can agree on ridding our streets and schools of weapons of war without threatening our Second Amendment rights.

For its part, the NRA can either get onboard, stop its vicious attacks on those working to save lives, and return to its roots, or it will find itself even further along the road to becoming a relic its former members once celebrated.

Contrary to the NRA's current narrative, the path to sensible gun reform isn't a slippery slope, it's simply uncharted terrain. And with support from those around us, we can all take a step in the right direction without falling down.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845108

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161242006
Mobile741961379
Madison53291732
Shelby38328368
Baldwin38074589
Tuscaloosa36017641
Montgomery34483781
Lee25557263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22454406
Etowah20016517
Marshall18781316
Houston17729425
St. Clair16880358
Limestone16138218
Cullman16050303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14984306
Talladega14191299
DeKalb12971269
Walker12029380
Blount10715192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10161194
Coffee9415192
Colbert9341208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7255201
Russell707865
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5403130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317763
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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