April 22, 2019 | 56° F

SURIANO: Left criticizes NRA for wrong reasons

Opinions Column: A RINO's View


Since the Feb. 14  school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which took the lives of 17 teachers and students, the nation has embarked on a debate over guns, the Second Amendment and school safety. In the course of this national debate, some of the most heated criticisms have been thrown toward the National Rifle Association (NRA). Members of the NRA have been accused of buying politicians, have been called murderers and have seen businesses cut ties with them. I understand that politics gets heated especially in the wake of such an unimaginable tragedy, and no one wins an award for politeness. My complaint is not with criticizing the NRA, but rather with the reason the Left is criticizing it. In short, the NRA has been worsening as an organization, but not for the reasons gun control activists argue.

To start off, let me argue why some of the common attacks on the NRA are off the mark. Firstly, a common attack you may hear is that the NRA buys off politicians. This argument predisposes that there is a simple solution to the mass shooting problem, Republicans know it and agree with the solution but stand in the way of it because of their greed. This is silly of course as Second Amendment supporters do not believe that gun control measures introduced by the Left will stop mass shootings and do not want to sacrifice enumerated rights. The NRA does not find people ready and able to pass gun control legislation and bribe them into inaction. It finds people it agrees with and uses First Amendment rights to help its election chances. For example, the Left would not agree that a Democrat voting against a bill restricting abortion was only doing it because their campaign got donations from Planned Parenthood. 

Now moving on to those who blame the NRA for the Parkland shooting. This is wrong on the face as the shooter was not a member of the NRA, but more importantly this blame shifting lets people in power off the hook for their failings. Let me say this, the only person responsible for this monstrous act was the shooter. That being said, putting responsibility on the NRA misses the fact that law enforcement failed the victims in this case. Before the shooting, the sheriff’s department received 45 calls concerning the shooter from as early as 2008, and while the shooting was taking place sheriff deputies, including the one assigned to the school, remained outside instead of confronting the shooter. These failures by a group sworn to protect the school and its students seem more relevant than a special interest group who advocates for a constitutional right. Does anyone argue that the ACLU is responsible for Nazi's because it defends in court their right to march? No, because it is an outrageous charge. These unfair attacks on the NRA from people reported to disagree with the organization only serves to help the NRA, because it distracts from the very real problems and trajectory with the current NRA.

Now let me explain why the NRA is currently acting badly and risking hurting its own mission. In recent months, the NRA has made some public blunders that risk its reputation. For example, the group did not defend Philando Castile enough, an African-American man who was shot by police after warning them of his legally-owned firearm. This has opened the NRA up to accusations of racial bias. I cannot say if it has one, but it seems to me the NRA is afraid of angering police and police supporters, which in the long term will hurt its stated goals. If the NRA is terrified of angering cops, how will it stand up to them if a “gun ban” comes. Also, I believe the NRA is risking becoming a simple partisan organization. In recent months, the organization published series of intense ads which have nothing to do with gun rights. If the NRA becomes or even seems to become a wing of the Republican Party, that will do a disservice to its cause. Constitutional rights should be nonpartisan, and if it does become partisan you risk driving half the country away. Plenty of the Democrats in this country own guns and support the Second Amendment, so the NRA should try to bring them in, not drive them away. I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and believe the right to bear arms is as important as freedom of speech or religion — that is why I want the NRA to be a better-run organization with a narrow focus. That being said I think they should be treated fairly in a political debate and not be accused of murder.

Robert Suriano is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in history. His column, "A RINO's View," runs on alternate Mondays.


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Robert Suriano

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