The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most prolific stakeholder arguing against the control of firearms within the United States. This sample essay provides an example of Ultius custom writing services.
The National Rifle Association’s historical opposition to gun control
It is worth discussing why the issue of gun control is such an important one in these times. There has been a string of mass shootings in schools and other public locations. The most poignant one is perhaps the shooting at Sandy Hook, which involved the murder of children in an elementary school (Ingraham). Numerous other schools and colleges have also been involved.
There has also been the shooting in San Bernadino, California, which has been linked to terrorism and sparked debates about privacy versus security. In this context, the issue of gun control has emerged as a key contemporary political issue within the United States.
Some have argued that such events could be stopped if stronger gun control laws are passed by Congress; while others have instead argued that the only way for Americans to protect themselves against gun violence would be to oppose gun regulation and ensure that almost anyone who wants a gun will be accessing one.
President Obama’s support of stricter gun control
One of the most vocal advocates in favor of gun regulation has perhaps been Barack Obama himself. This is what he has suggested, in his own words:
“We need the vast majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us after every mass shooting, who support common-sense gun safety and feel that their views are not being properly represented, to stand with us and demand that leaders heed the voices of the people they are supposed to represent” (paragraph 6).
According to Obama, then, the recent string of mass murders within the nation is directly attributable to the lack of responsible gun control laws within the nation, and the reluctance of Congress to pass such laws. This logic suggests that’s why America needs stricter gun control laws and it would decrease gun violence.
The NRA, however, has a diametrically opposed perspective on this matter and has consistently countered every proposition that Obama has made in this regard. It will now thus be appropriate to turn attention to the NRA itself and the argument regarding guns that the organization has consistently made over time.
Overview of the NRA
The leader of the NRA Wayne LaPierre. The NRA is the strongest advocate of gun rights (and against gun control) within the United States; and the recent string of mass shootings has done nothing to deter the organization from its mission. As McGreal has pointed out:
“Attack as a means of defense has worked well for the organization. Even in the wake of the 2012 killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school it did not give ground to gun control advocates, asserting that the issue was not the availability of weapons but the government’s failure to adequately treat people with mental illnesses” (paragraph 5).
In short, it can be said that the NRA has never backed down from the cause of gun rights and that it has no intention of doing so even in the face of recent events and the President’s own proposal. At the constitutional level, it would seem that the NRA fundamentally grounds itself on the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms.
Gun ownership, violence, and the Second Amendment
There has been a great deal of debate over how gun violence should be curbed without impeding on the Second Amendment. The NRA can be understood as representing the most traditionalist or conservative pole of this debate, with its insistence that the federal government should be allowed to impose almost no restrictions at all on the right to bear arms.
The platform of the NRA, however, has expanded considerably beyond this simple constitutional basis, and into the domain of concrete policy proposals within the context of contemporary society. The NRA does have a rather sophisticated argument in favor of gun rights, and it is worth considering this argument in greater depth.
The NRA’s argument against gun control
One of the more controversial aspects of the NRA’s support of gun rights is probably the organization’s opposition to the expansion of background checks on gun purchases. The NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action has summarized its position regarding this issue in the following way:
“NRA opposes expanding firearm background check systems because background checks don’t stop serious criminals from getting guns” (paragraph 11).
In short, the NRA believes stricter gun control laws will not really solve the problem of mass shootings within the nation, due to the reason that people who obtain guns for criminal purposes usually do so in ways that would not be caught by either current background checks or any meaningful expansion of those checks.
Erosion of gun ownership rights
The NRA also tends to rely on a kind of slippery slope mode of argumentation, according to which even some incursion on gun rights by the federal government would eventually result in the total erosion of the right to bear arms in general. This is how Manchin (qtd. in Graham) has put the matter:
“They’re scared that this is the first step…When you say universal background check, the first thing that comes to the mind of a gun owner is that means registration, and registration means confiscation. ‘I haven’t broken the laws, why do you want to know everything?'” (paragraph 7).
In other words, the NRA’s opposition to gun control is based at least in part on a suspicion of the powers of the federal government, as such: if the government can maintain a comprehensive database of all gun owners, then it is perhaps unclear what else the government would be able to do. Such a concern is especially salient in an era of distrust of the federal government, catalyzed by revelations such as the ones leaked by Edward Snowden that the government seems to have an interest in engaging in widespread surveillance of its own people.
NRA’s historical lobbying efforts
Finally, it is worth pointing out that the former president of the NRA, David Keene, has indicated that the current mission of the NRA actually came into focus after legislation was passed in 1968 that significantly diminished the free right to own firearms:
“Since that time, the NRA has continued to devote more than 85% of its resources to its traditional mission of providing civilian firearms training, teaching firearms safety and working to introduce new generations of Americans to the shooting sports, but has taken on the added role of protector of the right of law-abiding Americans to own and enjoy firearms” (paragraph 7).
The NRA, then, sees its lobbying function as more or less emerging out of a matter of necessity; the NRA is doing what it has to do, in the face of what the organization perceives to be an attack on the natural rights of all Americans.
Evaluation of the NRA’s argument
The arguments against gun regulation surely have holes in a few places, especially when it comes to even the most basic regulations on gun manufacture, such as laws requiring the magazines of assault weapons to hold less ammunition. However, when it comes to the libertarian dimension of the NRA’s appeal against gun regulation, the argument would seem to be largely on point. For example, the A1F Daily Staff has written the following:
“The elites in this country who don’t want you to own a firearm have no reservations about trusting their own safety to an armed security retinue. The wealthy and powerful will always be protected, but only the Second Amendment can protect the poor and vulnerable” (paragraph 1).
In other words, the suggestion here is that the armed defense of one’s own person is already a fundamental part of contemporary American life and that this is a right that should be democratically distributed and not just reserved for those who can afford it.
Power of the people over the government
Moreover, it is perhaps worth considering the basic asymmetry present between the American government on the one hand and the American people on the other. The government as such will always be allowed to hold arms and violent force at its disposal; and in this context, it could be considered problematic that the people could potentially be deprived of that same right.
When one speaks of gun control, one does not speak of universal disarmament; rather, one is suggesting that the common people should have restrictions placed on their rights to bear arms, while the government itself would be subject to no such restrictions whatsoever. The NRA is implicitly opposed to such an asymmetrical state of affairs, and there is definitely an intrinsically coherent libertarian logic in such a position.
Reflection on the future of gun control
Reflecting on the future of gun control within the United States, it would seem to be imperative, at the minimum, to acknowledge that the nation does, in fact, have a problem: quasi-common mass shootings should not be a normal part of life within the context of a highly developed modern nation. It is outrage over this state of affairs that sparked President Obama’s own opinion piece in the New York Times.
No other developed nation faces the problem of gun violence in as significant way as the United States. The NRA’s rebuttal, however, would be that no other nation is as free either as is the United States and that the fundamental right to bear arms, without unwarranted regulation or encroachment on the part of the federal government, is a fundamental part of this freedom. These clearly constitute two radically different and possibly irreconcilable worldviews
A1F Daily Staff. “The Hypocrisy of the Anti-Gun Elite.” National Rifle Association, 9 Mar 2016. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. http://www.americas1stfreedom.org/articles/2016/3/9/the-hypocrisy-of-the-anti-gun-elite/.
Graham, David A. “Why Conservatives Mistrust Even Modest Efforts at Gun Control.” The Atlantic. 2 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/conservatives-gun-control-and-distrust/408643/.
Ingraham, Christopher. “Since Sandy Hook, At Least 374 Children Have Been Killed in Homicides Committed with Guns.” Washington Post. 14 Dec. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/14/since-sandy-hook-more-than-300-children-have-been-murdered-with-guns/.
Keene, David. “NRA Chief: Why We Fight for Gun Rights.” CNN. 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/31/opinion/keene-nra-guns/.
McGreal, Chris. “Inside the NRA: The Officials Keeping Gun Control Laws Off the US Agenda.” The Guardian. 14 Dec. 2015. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/14/inside-the-nra-the-officials-keeping-gun-control-laws-off-the-us-agenda.
NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action. “Background Checks/NICS.” n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2016. https://www.nraila.org/issues/background-checksnics/.
Obama, Barack. “Guns Are Our Shared Responsibility.” New York Times. 7 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 Jan. 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/opinion/president-barack-obama-guns-are-our-shared-responsibility.html?_r=0.