Wednesday, June 22, 2016

You cannot serve two masters - the NRA, gun owners and corporate interests

Jesus said: "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." - Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24

This teaching of Jesus is about divided loyalties, especially when those loyalties lie at cross-purposes with each other. Serving "wealth" is to serve the self to the exclusion of others. Serving God is about serving others. You can't have it both ways.

But in the wake of yet another mass shooting, this one at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando targeting the LGBTQ community, it seems long past time to unmask the divided loyalties at cross-purposes with each other going on within the National Rifle Association.

First a disclaimer

I am not a gun owner. I can think of a few limited circumstances under which I would be, but they don't apply to my context. I'm not a sport shooter. I have engaged in this activity in my past, but frankly, I never really found it that appealing. It's just not my thing.

My sister is a gun owner and a member of the National Rifle Association. She and her husband own several guns, including an AR-15. She is a registered nurse with a Masters degree in Nursing (my Masters is in Divinity). She and her husband are truly responsible gun owners who know their weapons, secure them properly and are all in favor of reasonable gun legislation which would close the loopholes of current laws. We've had some heated but reasonable discussions about requiring licensing of gun owners, passing physical and mental health screenings, requiring periodic training, and liability insurance - we're in agreement on all of those things.

Finally, while my sister and I are on differing sides of owning guns, our father is a survivor of an accidental shooting when he was a teenager. His friend took down his father's supposedly unloaded service revolver to show it to my dad and it fired hitting our dad in the leg. This was an accident caused by a gun owner's irresponsibility in storing his weapon.

Now an observation

The National Rifle Association claims to be the voice of responsible gun owners and to be promoting the safe use of firearms. This is partially true. They have sponsored educational programs on proper use and security of firearms. As Business Inside pointed out in 2013:
"In its early days, the National Rifle Association was a grassroots social club that prided itself on independence from corporate influence" ("How the Gun Industry Funnels Tens of Millions of Dollars to the NRA", Walter Hickey, Business Insider, January 16, 2013) 
But no more. The NRA has made millions of dollars through their corporate sponsorship programs. In addition, millions of dollars are funneled in by the likes of Crimson Trace (which makes laser sights) who donates 10% of their sales to the NRA, Sturm & Ruger who donates $1 to the NRA for every gun they sell, and Taurus who buys a membership for anyone who buys their guns. The NRA makes an approximate 7-10% of their revenues from advertising for gun manufacturers. According to A-Mark Foundation, 50.5% of the revenue funding the NRA comes directly from their memberships - which means 49.5% comes from the corporate interests of gun and gun related manufacturers.

And this is where Jesus' teaching comes in. No one can serve two masters. The interests of public safety with respect to responsible gun use are at cross-purposes with the corporate profit motives of those who sell guns and gun-related equipment. Corporations will always seek to sell their products with a minimum amount of regulatory interference so they can make the most money - that's the profit motive. Gun regulations, even reasonable ones, threaten to reduce the sale of guns and are a direct threat to corporate profits. The NRA is trying to serve two masters and corporate interests are winning its soul!

It is long past time for the responsible gun owning members of the National Rifle Association to take back their organization from the corporate interests who have hijacked it in service to money. The American people, whether gun owning or not, have had enough! Our people are dying because we are putting selfishness and greed ahead of reason and civility.

Come on responsible gun owners! We are on your side here - let's work together to save lives and protect rights. These are not mutually exclusive goals.