During the campaign, the NRA threw its tremendous support behind Donald Trump. This should come as no surprise. Since both radically changed their stances from their past positions, it seems to be one of his more successful “marriages”.
The NRA once touted itself as teaching gun safety. Trump famously allied himself with Democrats, and was good friends with the Clintons. What happened to cause such radical changes?
The NRA has been shifting to its more radical position since 1971 when an NRA member, with a large cache of firearms, was killed by ATF agents. This led Texas lawyer Harlon Carter to lead the first NRA lobbying group. Carter was an immigration opponent who led the border patrol in the 1950s.
What followed were years of throwing political support behind whichever candidate supported unlimited access to firearms. At that time, it didn’t matter which party the candidate belonged to, so long as they opposed gun control. When NRA president Charlton Heston made his famous “cold, dead hands” comment, it was in opposition to Democratic candidate Al Gore. Since then, the NRA has been staunchly a Republican entity.
Numerous mass shootings and lack of sensible gun control measures have led to the current polarization of the NRA and politicians. This has largely been a boon to Republicans, who embraced the narrower view of “protecting the Second Amendment”. This also led to a flow of campaign dollars to Republicans, both by the NRA directly, or by NRA members who backed candidates based on this single issue.
The shift in Donald Trump has been equally radical in his thinking. As late as 2009, Trump had been a registered Democrat. He had already begun his opposition to Democrats with his promotion of the oft-debunked “birther” issue, but it was the roasting he took at the 2011 Correspondents’ Dinner that allegedly pushed him to actively pursue the presidency.
While his positions often clashed with Republicans, he became their candidate in the 2016 election after a hard-fought campaign, which included the support of the NRA for Trump.
In recent months, it has come to light that Russians have been behind, at least in part, the NRA’s support. The alleged Russian spy, Maria Butina, pled guilty to attempting to infiltrate the Republican Party on behalf of Russia, using the NRA as a conduit.
Now, it has been revealed that the Mueller Investigation is also looking into the ties between the NRA and Russia. In meddling in the US elections, the Russians allegedly used the NRA and their massive political influence to steer the results of the 2016 election to a favorable Russian position, as confirmed by Vladimir Putin.
Trump has done little to turn off NRA supporters. His symbolic ban on bump stocks did nothing to control the sale of assault weapons. However, after initially promising stricter gun control legislation following the Parkland shootings, Trump met with members of the NRA resulting in the resident backing down from this position.
What will become of this cozy relationship between the NRA and Trump? Perhaps armed NRA members will force Republicans in Congress to abandon the results of Mueller Investigation, or perhaps public sentiment will expose corruption in the NRA, resulting in its disbanding. Really?
Only time will tell.
CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.