Allowing organizations to influence politics with behind-closed-doors lobbying needs to stop
JUSTIN SCOTT // MANAGING EDITOR
With the debate around the issue of arming teachers still roaring in America, it’s time that those fighting the gun-touting right aim their efforts at a far more sinister and frightening occurrence than the idea of armed teachers. At its roots, the gun issue in America is about money. The American guns and ammunition industry brings in a yearly revenue of $17 billion. In 2015 the Washington Post estimated that there were around 357 million firearms in the nation, which at the time had a population of 317 million – yes, you read the right, they have more guns than people. Even more alarming is the fact that the percentage of gun-owning households in America has been dropping for decades, coming in at just 31 per cent in 2014.
So, with the number of households with a gun owner in them dropping and there already being a greater number of guns than people in the US, why do firearms even need to be on sale anymore? Really, they don’t. But with so much money to be made from the items, the gun and ammunition industry is doing all they can to promote a second amendment lifestyle. Their efforts include lobbying, which is essentially a competition between two opposing sides of an issue’s representatives as to who can prove a better case for their side to politicians, or make their lives easier. Often, campaign or party donations or other arrangements are made through lobbyists – third party representatives who represent different groups as organizations themselves are restricted in terms of donations. This means that the more resources a company or industry have, the more influence they are likely to control. Which is why groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) are so powerful.
Recent information released showed NRA contributions to American politicians over their carers. Eight politicians received over $1 million in donations and 39 received over $100,000. There were 24 Democrats who had received donations from the NRA and six Republicans who hadn’t.
It’s as if politics has become a sports league with no salary cap and the teams with the most money just buy the players they want. And although millions of dollars in donations is a sizable amount, the NRA’s industry is raking in around $17 billion a year so they’re doing just fine.
The difference however, is that while sports certainly have an influence in society, they don’t make the laws directly. And sports leagues still have salary caps to ensure fairness. Because of the cap put on players direct income from playing, stars like Lebron James seek out fortunes in sponsorship money to represent brands. Politicians are doing the same thing. They’re utilizing their postilions of power and influence to attract suitors for donation then representing the highest bidder.
Which is what makes an organization like the NRA so frightening. In the 2016 election they put $11,438,118 towards the support of Donald Trump’s campaign and $19,756,346 opposing Hillary Clinton’s campaign, that’s over $31 million spent on one election alone.
America averages 89 guns per person. Some of these guns are semi-automatics assault rifles, which can be converted to fully automatic weapons with bump stocks like we saw in Las Vegas. Not exactly what the Founding Fathers were talking about when they wrote the oh so precious Second Amendment over two centuries ago with their muskets. And now, as the nation has gone through an epidemic of gun violence for decades, due to a Feb. 14 shooting Parkland High School that left 17 dead, another school in the nation’s mass shooting history, there is a heightened debate around the general issue stemming from the proposal of arming teachers.
While other countries like Australia and England have banned most firearms, and seen their mass shooting occurrences essentially halt, many American politicians are proposing the arming of teachers in schools to combat the issue of school shootings. While all logic seems to point to the opposite reaction as being a sturdy one, the same politicians who are receiving millions if not tens of millions of dollars from a gun advocacy group are debating over the laws of the nation, if not leading it. That needs to change.
There’s been a joke made many times in the past that politicians should have to wear jackets similar to NASCAR drivers, dawning patches from all their sponsors as to show who they’re getting money from. As absurd as it sounds, something needs to be done. While Lebron James may have a large group of sponsors, we know who they are – we can’t say the same for many political leaders.