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Could the NRA have met its match?

Jennie Young • Mar 17, 2018 at 8:15 AM

I understand why the NRA has for decades now supported and driven intractable opposition to any degree of gun control. The organization was founded to be, and for many years focused on being, a valuable community resource for responsible gun ownership, emphasizing training and safety until it was lured into present form by the wealth and manipulative power of lobbying. Now it primarily serves greed and power, advocating for the least restrictive limits on gun purchases, enabling their important backers, the weapons manufacturers, to maximize profits.

The NRA has mastered the fear mongering of threats to gun ownership to whip up their base, which is actually dwarfed by responsible gun owners, for political action at crucial times, and has generated frenetic periods of gun purchase and stockpiling. They operate federal and state legislators with the skill of a puppeteer, with money and fear of what its political clout can do, leaving politicians fearful for their jobs.

I’m sure they regret the loss of innocent life when some misfit, mentally ill or just supremely angry and vengeful, uses his handy rapid-fire, high-capacity weapon to shoot up a classroom of 6-and-7-year-olds, theater and concert goers, church congregations, or teens and teachers in high schools. I hope the regret is for more reasons than the black mark on their image. One of their more extreme adherents said on The Federalist.com, “the 2nd Amendment is worth dying for,” calling the mass murders “sacrifices enabling liberty-loving Americans to maintain their option of armed rebellion.” Though I’m on the rebellious side myself, in our present context that sounds sick to me.

Could the NRA have met its match? Who’d have thought a group of grieving teens, jolted awake by the horror visited on them by a vainglorious coward, would rise up and steal his glory? Who’d have thought a group of teens could so effectively rattle the NRA to the point its highly polished defenses aren’t so shiny this time, and making it reveal the ugly underside to its tactics?

They may have discovered a path to fracturing the money connection between the weapons lobby and politicians. If they don’t give up, and it doesn’t seem they have any intention of that, they‘ll succeed. Politicians recognize in these young people a growing and powerful voting block, more savvy than any group about the power in social networking. They have both time and energy, and enormous public-appeal and support. They trust in their message and don’t seem the type to “drop out” and hope. That’s why politicians are recognizing their cozy arrangement with the NRA might have limits.

In response to both the carnage left from mass shootings and to the single-minded activism of this group of grieving students, corporations have moved to cut their connections to the NRA, both from the partnership and the investment side. As of today, at least 15 corporations, including Bank of Omaha, METLife, United and Delta Airlines, and Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz rental cars, are suspending their partnerships and no longer offer discounts to NRA members. On the investment side, Black Rock and Vanguard, huge index fund managers, have announced that they are re-evaluating their stock investments in 2 of the 3 publicly traded gun manufacturers, where they happen to be the biggest stockholders. Some giant pension funds are doing the same.

These teens have exposed our president as the tone deaf imposter he his, who once again proved himself so unable to honestly humanize tragedy that his staff had to send a list of empathetic-sounding notes to utter during his meeting with grieving parents and teens. Remarks like “I hear you” and “What would you like me to do to help you?” (Did he think that he, Captain Bone Spurs, wouldn’t be mocked for saying he’d have rushed in, even without a gun, to save those kids?) The kids are also exposing his, and the NRA’s, “adult” solutions, like arming teachers. One thing we can deeply know is that healthy-minded solutions to our civilizational failures will not come from money-driven gun sellers.

We could take lessons from the students’ mature response to the NRA and their hangers-on, who find them so threatening, to discredit them as paid “Crisis Actors” and such. The students know who they are and trust the majority of us to brush off criticism as just the avaricious underside of the NRA at work. They have uncannily well identified the efforts to shift attention from their tragedy, on top of a long series of horrifying tragedies, to some law enforcement failures. For them, even when true, that’s a distraction, and they’ll have none of it. Their passionate focus is on the use of rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons, and the severing of the NRA- politicians’ money connection.

Our politicians should not muddy the water. Recognize and acknowledge the students’ primary and clear focus on this singular category of rapid-fire, high-capacity weapons, like the one used to murder their friends in a matter of minutes, able, with surprise, to over-power almost any resistance. Available with few restrictions, over the counter. We shouldn’t need kids teaching us how to be adults, but I’m glad they are willing to try.

Jennie Young of Elizabethton is a retired language arts teacher.

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