Though gun control advocates treat NRA election donations as a textbook definition of political corruption, the answer is more routine: gun ownership is popular and a common American political position.
The NRA donation patterns don’t subvert American democracy — they reflect it.
Slate partnered with Open Secrets, a non-profit that tracks money in politics, to let readers find out whether the NRA has spent money “to influence your representatives.”
Political transparency is crucial to let voters know who funds their politicians. When voters know a politician’s friends, they make judgments on how trustworthy a politician would be in office. However, assuming that donors dictate a politician’s views and actions isn’t how the political system works in reality.
The reality isn’t that gun control laws haven’t been approved because the NRA uses its deep pockets to cajole politicians. Gun control laws haven’t been approved because, aside from some limited measures, protecting gun rights is favored by a large share of voting Americans.
Those voters simply care more about gun rights than voters who desire gun control care about limiting possession.
The NRA has used its influence to lobby legislators against some measures that the general public finds uncontroversial. Organizations, above all try to exert influence. But generally, the gun laws in America reflect the will of the people. If they didn’t, those politicians couldn’t get re-elected.
For some liberal journalists who spend little time in more conservative or moderate communities, it’s difficult to believe that the popular will could be reflected in the patchwork of America’s gun laws. Yet, when examining state gun laws, it’s found that those laws follow general sentiment. Texas isn’t arresting gun owners for not locking up guns in state-approved lockers. Nor is New Jersey a champion of open carry. The NRA, influential though it is, cannot subvert the will of the people on gun-related legislation.
If gun control advocates want stricter gun laws, getting money out of politics won’t be the key. Political funding doesn’t make winners — it follows them. Special interest groups want access to lawmakers, which is easier to get by schmoozing a frontrunner instead of producing a Manchurian candidate. Hence the transition of political donors from Jeb Bush to Donald Trump. The #NeverTrump crowd looks much slimmer than it did during the primaries.
Gun rights have stuck because they’re an American tradition. It helps that gun control policies previously proposed have been irrelevant in lowering crime or preventing mass shootings. Until gun control politicians decide they will sacrifice a political career to abrogate individual rights, the gun ownership crowd will hold sway.
When tracking political influence, the American people still dictate the law.