The United States of America made history again last weekend.
With two more months left in the year, we experienced our 308 mass shooting.
On Sunday, a gunman walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland, Texas and opened fire, killing 26 parishioners in the worst mass shooting in Texas’ history.
If you get the feeling this is happening too often, you’re correct.
Of course, after a shooting, we find ourselves asking “Why?”
The right blames it on mental health (unless the shooter has dark skin); congressional Republicans offer “thoughts and prayers” in lieu of legislation; coverage about it dominates the news cycle for a few days before returning to other things.
In her book This Changes Everything, author and activist Naomi Klein argues the reason the United States fails to adequately address climate change is because of the obscene amounts of money fossil fuel companies pump into lawmakers’ (mostly Republican) campaigns.
It’s no different when it comes to guns.
Unless we effectively cut off the revenue pouring out of the gun lobby into Washington, we should expect gun violence to become a regular staple of American culture.
How much are lawmakers receiving from the gun lobby?
According to OpenSecrets.org, in 2016, the National Rifle Association (NRA) handed more than $50 million to key Republican candidates, including President Donald Trump.
It’s a gamble the NRA is willing to take, and it’s paying off.
It showered $50.2 million, 96 percent of total outside spending, on Trump and six Republican Senate candidates, and lost only the race for former Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid’s Nevada senate seat, on which it invested roughly $2.5 million.
The most it ever spent in a down-ballot race was $6.2 million to help get incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr (NC) re-elected.
The prize for most generous bribe, though, goes to Donald Trump, with a whopping $30.3 million.
Remember, the Supreme Court decided in the 2010 Citizens United case that money equals speech.
The gun lobby is taking full advantage of this, directing its sordid largess toward advertising appealing to the demographic that propelled Trump to the White House.
Last October, the NRA sponsored roughly one out of every 20 television ads in Pennsylvania.
In North Carolina, it was one in nine; in Ohio, one in eight.
And every one implied former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Democrats were dead-set on rounding up lawful owners’ guns, leaving them defenseless against would-be predators.
One piece, for example, displays a woman alone in bed when an intruder breaks into her home as the narrator intones, “Don’t let Hillary leave you protected with nothing but a phone.”
This fearful message resonated with primarily Southern and Midwestern voters who granted Trump some of his most consequential victories.
The NRA usually ranks highly among outside spending groups. 2016 was a particularly unique year, however, because of the at least $30.3 million it laid down to help elect Trump, more than any other outside group, including the leading Trump super PAC, which spent a paltry $20.3 million.
Other GOP lawmakers on the NRA dole: Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Roy Blunt (MO), Todd Young (Ind.), and Rob Portman (Ohio).
Those successful races cost the NRA between $2 million and $3.2 million.
The three last election cycles, the NRA invested $1 million dollars or more in 14 congressional races, and won 11 of them.
All were successful.
Last year’s election cycle destroyed that record with more than $52 million.
The chart below shows just how successful the NRA’s most generous investments have been.
Most might not associate campaign finance laws with gun control, but they are mutually exclusive.
Money’s corrosive influence is literally killing people.
Image credit: handgunheadlines.com