This week the U.S. Senate will discuss the expansion of criminal background checks for gun buyers. Just months after one of the deadliest mass shootings by a single American, leading lawmakers suggest support for gun control legislation is bleak, and why shouldn't it be?
Let's face it; most law-abiding Americans, including members of the National Rifle Association, are not buying guns to shoot other people. Criminals, gang members and the like aren't lining up for background checks so they can own concealed weapons legally. Virtually no compromise on the table guarantees an adult or adolescent with a mental illness or a bad attitude won't get their hands on a gun if they really want one.
A week after Adam Lanza killed 20 children, six adults and then himself at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, the NRA announced it would not budge from its position to rebuke any discussion of gun control. In fact, the organization announced its intent to design a program whereby armed security personnel could be placed in all schools across the country – meaning the NRA's answer to gun violence is, and remains, more guns in more places.
The NRA has labeled any discussion about gun control in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook exactly the way it labeled the same sorts of discussions after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre: Political opportunism.
What else did we expect to hear from the NRA, backpedaling? Negotiation? Compromise? The DNA of the NRA is to stop any limitation of the Second Amendment and to preserve and protect the right to keep and bear arms. Was the NRA supposed to shoot itself in the foot? The organization simply wasn't built to compromise their core value — even in the face of an appalling tragedy.
The NRA's reason for being is literally to stick to their guns, and as much as Sandy Hook may be a political opportunity for leading lawmakers, it has been an even bigger political opportunity for the NRA. What better way to show your most loyal supporters that you will stand your ground than during the moments when people most expect you to yield?
A month after the Sandy Hook shooting, polls from Gallup and the Pew Research Center confirmed a strong majority of Americans, including 75 percent of respondents who identified as NRA members, said they supported universal background checks for gun sales. Yet, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre maintained, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
With the NRA, or any other nonprofit organization built on a mission, it isn't about what the majority of people want. It's about what the majority of an organization's most loyal contributors want.
I have opinions about gun control, but who cares? I haven't put any money up for membership in any pro or anti-gun lobby, have you? Lapierre's commitment to his "slippery slope" argument is so stalwart it didn't even matter that he made his statements days before families would celebrate Christmas for children who were murdered just weeks before.
Events like Sandy Hook may put issues like this on the radar of lawmakers for a brief moment, but for some, gun control issues are always in the line of sight. The reason we won't see a change of heart or any real artful lawmaking this week is because the terrible truth of this tragedy is that it will pass.
Representatives can be moved by horrific events, but few do a political flip as result of them. And in this case, it is probable that none of the elected representatives debating this week ever found themselves texting for life underneath a school desk as gunshots were ringing in their ears. The political reality, especially in times like this, is the last people standing are most often those who maintain their posture under political pressure, especially when a gun is aimed directly at their head.