Perhaps the White House was hoping that releasing a photo of President Obama skeet shooting would create reasonable doubt for some in dispelling the latest round of conspiracy theories, while making the rest of the skeet conspiracy theorists appear as ridiculous as the birthers. Certainly no one expected doing so would result in a changed tune from National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre.
In a recent interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” LaPierre asserted that the President was not to be trusted; his true motive was not just to take away Americans’ guns, but that universal background checks — which LaPierre himself once strongly supported but now opposes — are really a plot designed to create an ominous “universal registry of law-abiding people” rather than a tool to curb the sale of guns to criminals and others who legally are prevented from owning a gun.
Historically, as we’ve seen after the horrible events in Newtown, Conn., fears of new gun-safety measures follow a major gun-related incident, with significant increases in the sale of guns and ammunition. Amid false claims Obama would take away guns, sales also increased following the president’s election and reelection.
Increased fear increases sales. It also increases dollars coming into the coffers of the NRA — perhaps LaPierre’s message was never intended to be “mainstream” or target the 80 percent of gun owners and 90 percent of Americans who support a background check. Nor is the goal to combat statistics about the estimated 6.6 million guns sold each year in the U.S. by unlicensed “private sellers” without a background check.
In addition to its membership dues, the NRA receives contributions directly from gun manufacturers like Smith & Wesson and the Beretta Group, which are both members of the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom” for donors who contribute more than $1 million, according to factcheck.org. Additionally, corporate marketing programs such as the “Million Gun Challenge,” “Add a Buck” and “Shooting for the Future” raise money for the NRA from the direct sales of guns and ammunition. Through these programs, customers are given the option of contributing a dollar or more to the NRA at their point of purchase.
One company, MidwayUSA, touted its recent success donating more than $1 million last year — the most ever in one year — to the NRA through its “Round-Up” program. Dedicated to “Just About Everything for Shooting, Reloading, Gunsmithing and Hunting,” the program has raised more than $7 million since it began in 1992. In praising MidwayUSA for its efforts, NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris Cox sounded an alarm very similar to LaPierre’s:
“With the reelection of President Obama, America can bank on more attempts to diminish our freedom and constant legal challenges to the Second Amendment,” Cox said. “This significant support is coming at a time of great need. The Second Amendment has true defenders in the Customers and staff of MidwayUSA ... as we confront our challenge to defend America’s First Freedom.”
Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC, a Democratic consultant and co-host of POTUS/Sirius XM’s “The Flaks.”