At 10 p.m. PST on Sunday, October 1, a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, leaving at least 50 dead and over 400 injured in local hospitals. This horrific act is now the deadliest shooting in modern American history. The gunman is believed to have had 10 rifles with him on the 32 floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, according to CNN, where he was shooting across the street from the music festival. Right now, it's unclear how many of these rifles were used.
As of Monday morning, the NRA has yet to release a statement on the Las Vegas attack. Considering that Trump, who told the association they have "a true friend and champion in the White House" in April, they may not feel any need to defend themselves after this massacre. With Trump's commitment to expanding access to guns, it's clear they support each other. But this link between Trump and the NRA is nothing new — the NRA played a role in Trump's election.
According to a report by Open Secrets and Trace, the NRA gave $30.3 million to Trump's campaign. A month before the election, NBC reported that $9.6 million (of the then-$21 million contribution) had been spent on ads and spreading a pro-Trump message, while the majority — $12 million — had been spent towards attacking his opponent Hillary Clinton, the most the NRA has ever spent on an election in history. So, where is the NRA getting all this money? According to the NRA’s website, a one-year membership costs only $40, but, in 2015, The Washington Post reported that the NRA had about five million members, equaling out to $200 million a year, just from membership dues. That’s not even counting donations or any other type of fundraising efforts.
A section of the NRA’s site, “How Will You Use My Membership Dues?” explains, “Your support will help us defend your Second Amendment freedom whenever and wherever it comes under attack.” — something the NRA equates to supporting the campaigns of politicians such as Trump. It's important to note that NRA membership is only made up of roughly six to seven percent of gun owners in America, according to the Washington Post. The majority of gun owners in the country actually don't belong to the NRA and agree with universal background checks. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center study, 85 percent of people living in a gun-free household supported background checks for private and gun show show sales, with 79 percent of gun owners agreeing.
In the past, the NRA has also stood firm in its support of each GOP presidential candidate. In the 2008 and 2012 elections, the NRA supported John McCain and Mitt Romney, respectively, as each faced off against Barack Obama. Neither candidate’s stance was focused on increasing access to guns. Even as Obama defeated each Republican opponent, unnecessary access to guns has continued.
As the NRA continues its silence on the Las Vegas attack, and spokesperson Dana Loesch wants us to focus on the gunman's motives versus gun control, let’s not forget the NRA’s notoriously unsupportive past when it comes to taking any sort of responsibility or offering condolence for victims of gun violence. In 1999, two students opened fire on Columbine High School in what would become a defining moment in the history of mass shootings in America. Twelve students and one teacher were killed, along with 23 others injured. Less than two weeks later, despite massive outcry, the NRA held its annual meeting in nearby Denver. Even as 7,000 protestors organized outside the convention hall with signs such as “Denver doesn’t want NRA blood money,” the meeting continued.
The NRA’s insensitivity and blind push to make any and all guns so easily available in the country— even in the wake of a tragedy caused by gun violence — is downright horrifying. While the NRA claims to be supporting Americans' rights, it constantly feels like we're losing the right to feel safe.