NRA Says America is a War Zone and the
“violent left” is Coming for You
Wayne LaPierre says that anti-Trump protesters, paid provocateurs, is a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us
SALON, Amanda Marcotte, Tuesday, Feb 28, 2017
If there’s anyone who can be counted on to “out-Trump” Donald Trump, it’s Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. LaPierre’s speech on Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference was a masterpiece of conspiracy theory-style paranoia, race baiting and horrific fantasies, painting the American landscape as a war zone of crime and terror that can be survived only by those who armor up like they’re going to war.
And, of course, all this pointed to one inescapable conclusion for the conservative CPAC audience, the conclusion to which all NRA gun marketing, er, Second Amendment defenses must point: Buy more guns.
Hearing LaPierre’s speech, you’d think that the CPAC attendees were going to have to shoot their way out of the convention like the survivors in a zombie apocalypse movie. He painted a dark picture of the country, where the “leftist media” and the “violent left” are in bed with criminals, drug dealers and terrorists to intimidate patriotic conservatives. Of course, the only way for conservatives to be safe is to hand over more money to gun manufacturers.
“The truth is, the far left — they’ve turned protesting into what seems like a full-time profession,” said LaPierre. “Seriously, you would think that for $1,500 a week, they would at least know what they are protesting,” he added, referencing the current right-wing hypothesis that anti-Trump protesters can only be paid provocateurs. “Folks, our long nightmare — it may not be over. The fact is, it may be just beginning. Right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us.”
The NRA spent more than $50 million on last year’s elections, and that amounted to 96 percent of its outside spending. Most of that, more than $30 million, went to back Trump’s campaign. All this investment seemingly paid off, with the election of Trump and almost every other Republican candidate backed by the gun lobby. But LaPierre is not happy. Instead, he argued in his CPAC speech that things are somehow worsening for right-wing America, which now supposedly faces mortal danger.
Perhaps LaPierre is really pissing in his pants, afraid of leftist protesters. But the gun-safety advocates I spoke with took a more cynical view, arguing that LaPierre’s be-afraid-buy-guns speech is better understood as a marketing move.
“This is not rhetoric based in fact or truth,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, in a phone conversation. “It is rhetoric meant to sell more guns and put them in more places,” added Watts, whose group is part of the Everytown for Gun Safety, a broad coalition fighting on multiple levels to reduce gun violence in the U.S.
As Watts noted, the number of Americans who own guns has been declining for years, creating a serious marketing problem for the gun industry. With fewer owners out there, the gun industry has to convince the people who do own then to buy more and ideally build up a massive and expensive stockpile of weaponry. The best way to do that is to convince gun owners that they are under siege and need to gear up like action heroes in order to fight the supposed war for civilization that’s coming any day now.
“At the end of the day,” said Watts, the NRA is “beholden to the gun manufacturers,” who look to the powerful lobby “to protect their profits.”
It’s hard to know exactly how much money the NRA receives from gun manufacturers because that information isn’t publicly published anywhere. But research suggests that Watts is right. The NRA used to be a community organization, but now less than half of its revenue comes from programs and membership dues.
“The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources,” Business Insider wrote in an analysis following the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy. In 2013 the Violence Policy Center compiled a report detailing how the gun industry’s donations to the NRA have grown in recent years. The lobbying organization has taken in from $19 million to $60 million through its business donation programs from 2005 to 2013.
The funneling of money from gun manufacturers to the NRA isn’t particularly well hidden, either. In 2015, Sturm, Ruger & Company launched a NRA-based marketing scheme called the 2 Million Gun Challenge.
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