In the aftermath of another horrific and preventable school shooting, more people want to know how we came to live in a country that values the profits of the gun industry over the lives of children. The short answer to that question is that gun manufacturers and their lobbying arm, the National Rifle Association, have been working for at least 40 years to buy politicians, craft sneaky legislation, and spread gun propaganda that flies in the face of scientific consensus, so that now in 2018 we find ourselves fighting an uphill battle to make significant headway on our gun violence problem.
Many people look at campaign contributions to follow the gun money. In some cases this can be illuminating. However, if you take a look at a state like Nebraska, you will discover that our state and federal politicians are cheap dates. Sasse, Fischer, Fortenberry, Bacon, and Smith are all reliable NRA votes and it didn’t cost the NRA much to secure them. Decades of effective propagandizing has convinced many Americans that a consumer product eight times likelier to kill a loved one than an intruder is somehow patriotic and an intelligent purchase for the home. So the NRA doesn’t have to do a lot to get Nebraskan candidates to run on a gun proliferation platform. It has become required to get anywhere with the Republican Party.
Instead, where they spend their money in Nebraska is lobbying within the Unicameral. The NRA pays big bucks to monitor legislation and schmooze our politicians to make sure they stay in line.
According to Data Omaha, since 2000, the National Rifle Association has given about $65,000 to state-level campaigns in Nebraska. That’s about $65,000 over the course of almost two decades. By contrast, the NRA pays about that much per year for lobbyists to manage the legislators already in office.
In 2017 alone, the National Rifle Association paid $63,754 to two lobbyists to work the Unicameral, and an additional $9,140 to reimburse these lobbyists for entertaining and schmoozing members of the legislative and executive branches of state government. That’s almost $73,000 in a single year.
The two lobbyists registered to lobby for the NRA are Bruning Law Firm, run by former state senator and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, who received the lion’s share of NRA compensation, and Christopher Kopacki, an out-of-state NRA employee. [Note: in the third quarter of 2017 the NRA failed to disclose compensation paid to Bruning Law Firm, which Bruning Law Firm did disclose.]
What was worth $73,000 to the NRA last year in the Nebraska Unicameral? The organization supported or opposed several pieces of legislation, but three bills stand out as the most significant. The first, LB 68, is the most recent incarnation of a long-held NRA goal to obliterate Nebraska’s local gun ordinances, which is where the majority of gun restrictions in the state are written into law. This firearm preemption bill has been proposed and re-proposed at the legislature, and is still an active bill that may very well pass before the legislature breaks in April. (Note: if you want to *minimally* keep the gun laws we have on the books and retain the right to pass future ones in your city, now is the time to let your state senator know that you oppose LB 68.)
The NRA also lobbied to keep information about concealed carry permits confidential (LB 637). Want to know whether a murderer had a concealed carry permit? Good luck. The NRA has been working hard in states around the country to conceal this information from the press and from social scientists who want to make factual statements about the relationship between concealed carry and homicide rates.
The NRA also opposed a bill: LB 394, a bill proposed by Senator Adam Morfeld that would make it illegal to buy or own guns when you are under a domestic protection order. That is correct: the NRA spent money to make sure that active domestic abusers who were ordered by a court to leave their wives, children, or girlfriends alone are still able to buy a gun. Fifty-five percent of women who are murdered in the U.S. are killed by intimate partners, and the NRA is paying your former Attorney General to wine and dine your state senators to make it as easy as possible for abusive men to kill the women and children they abuse.