The Cost of Doing Business

Want to know why the United States legislates gun rights despite constant mass shootings? Follow the money


New York Times

Children participating in the Junior Newton Action Alliance, founded by families in Newton, Connecticut, after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting, marched on June third, shortly after the Uvalde School Shooting.

There are more guns than people in the United States. According to a 2018 survey run by Small Arms Survey, there are approximately 400 million guns in the United States, while only 330 million people live in the US as of the 2020 census. Although not every one of these 400 million guns has been used in violence, far too many of them have. 

333 mass shootings have already occurred this year according to Gun Violence Archives. National Public Radio (NPR) reported that at least 27 of those were school shootings. People with futures, siblings, parents, children are fatally shot and killed in schools, places of worship, and grocery stores. Places where they should be safe. If anything, guns continue to gain more protection rather than being restricted. It seems as though it would be simple to prevent the countless deaths, but as yet another heartbreaking mass shooting occurs, it’s clear that it’s not. Lobbying, an attempt to influence government decisions, most commonly by donating money, is the common villain regarding guns. With lobbying, gun rights groups continue to secure protection for their guns. 

There have been attempts to work gun control into law in the past, but most have failed, due to lobbying. The only success was the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, a ban on 19 specific semi-automatic assault rifles. It expired in 2004 and has failed to be renewed. Other attempts at gun control followed shootings. The Senate rejected the Manchin-Tooney amendment, which required background checks in all commercial gun sales in 2013 post the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children, and six adults were killed.  The Senate rejected that same bill two years later after the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center shooting and attempted bombing, where 14 people were killed.  According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit research organization that is the Center for Responsive Politics’ website, tracks money’s effects on United States politics, most of the 46 senators that voted against it in both situations had accepted significant donations from Political Action Committees of gun rights groups. 

While the majority of those in power continue to protect the business of guns, the majority of people in the United States are beginning to demand restrictions. According to a 2021 poll by Pew Research, 81% of Americans said that they support “subjecting private gun sales and sales at gun shows to background checks.” This included a majority of Republican respondents. Similarly, a report from The Politico and Morning Consult, taken the day after the Uvalde school shooting on May 24, 2022, where 19 children and two adults were killed, 73% of people voted that they strongly support background checks, and 53% voted that they strongly supported banning assault rifles. The majority of the public support actions that could limit gun violence incidents, yet gun rights remain stronger than ever.

Utilizing the method of lobbying, gun rights advocates are able to protect their guns. Open Secrets reported that since 1998, gun rights groups, like the National Rifle Association (NRA), had invested 190 million dollars in lobbying. The money matters. All of the 190 million dollars is holding back progressive gun legislation.

In comparison, gun control advocates have spent six times less than that of gun rights groups, having spent a mere 30 million since 1998. Gun rights groups have been playing the money game for years, and are not going to stop anytime soon, especially with midterm elections of November 8, 2022.

The leading contributor to the protection of gun rights is the NRA, the largest gun rights group in the United States. It is a 501(c)(3) group (it is a non-profit organization) made up of 5.5 million members nationwide. The NRA has different branches such as a 501(c)(4), and their Political Action Committee (PAC), which have the ability to lobby. 

The Consumer News and Business Channel reported that the NRA’s 501(c)(4) group entered 2021 with 50 million dollars. The NRA PAC had 140 million dollars to spend in 2021, and in May of this year, had nearly 15 million dollars to spend. The majority of the money was spent on lobbying. 

With midterm elections, these branches are giving money to those who pledge to maintain gun rights. For example, the NRA PAC gave 70,000 dollars to Republicans in April. The NRA gave Marco Rubio, a Florida Senator, 3.3 million dollars, according to Brady United, placing him in the top five senators that have received the most money from the NRA. Senator Rubio recently voted against the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which will expand background checks, and support mental health resources nationwide, which the NRA opposed. The NRA has the funding. Therefore, they have the ability to keep people in office who would vote against restrictive gun laws, maintaining gun rights.

Asking for stricter background checks is not asking to ban all guns. Yet, gun rights groups, especially the NRA, are extremely opposed to stricter gun laws. It has not been easy, and it will not be easy to pass any sort of law that controls the slightest parts of guns with gun rights groups lobbying day and night. Yet, a background check could stop an 18-year-old with malicious intent from purchasing a gun. But, of course, gun advocates could never have that because they are already marketing to children.  

Guns are a business and advocates want to keep it alive, so much so that guns have started to be marketed in child-friendly colors. The Violence Policy Center (VPC) reported that companies such as Smith & Wesson, the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Parkland school shooting, where 17 people were murdered, has .22 caliber AR-15 style assault rifles in Pink Platinum, Purple Platinum, and Harvest Moon Orange. Savage Arms has youth rifles that come in colors that include red, yellow, orange, and blue. Similarly, reported by VPC, the Thompson/Center HotShot rifle was targeted at the six to twelve year old age according to a company spokesman. 

Do the victims’ of gun violence have less rights than the guns used to murder them? The New York Times reported that domestic gun manufacturing increased to 11.3 million dollars in 2020. It’s a business, and deaths, they are just the cost.