Sunday evening, Steven Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing at least 50 and injuring hundreds more in what is being described as the most deadly mass shooting in U.S. history. The attack was coordinated by the nation’s largest and most active terrorist organization, the National Rifle Association, which has waged a successful campaign of violence in the United States for more than a hundred years.
This is not meant to be a glib interpretation of the dire situation facing the country — 1.4 million Americans have died from gunfire since 1968, more than in all of the country’s wars through history combined. No other group — not ISIS, not Al Qaeda, not foreign governments — has been more successful at killing Americans than the NRA. In the first half of 2017 alone, the group has invested $3.2 million to ensure that background check legislation supported by the majority of Americans does not pass, while simultaneously advocating for universal conceal and carry legislation that would supersede state laws.
It is impossible to determine the exact number of deaths that can be directly attributed to the NRA’s efforts, because for 20 years, it has successfully foughtto prevent any public health studies at the federal level into gun violence. What we can say definitively is that in other countries where the NRA isn’t active, deaths and injuries due to firearms are rare. Compared to 22 other high-income countries like Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Spain, the U.S.’s gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. While the U.S. population is only half that of all those 22 nations combined, it is responsible for 82 percent of all gun deaths.
While the NRA touts itself as a crusader of American rights, it is driven not by ideology, but greed. It does not care about Americans further than its ability to profit off of them via gun sales. When Donald Trump was elected, firearm purchases dropped dramatically — Americans typically buy guns most when they are afraid they will be taken away — and, as a result, the NRA started pumping out fear-based advertising warning of a new civil war. If history is any indicator, Sunday night’s massacre will likely prove to be a boon to the $43 billion industry. Gun sales surged after 2016’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Monday morning, stocks were already rallying across the board.
The NRA likes it when Americans are killed by gun violence. It needs it. Like any terrorist organization, the success of the NRA’s entire model is predicated on dead civilians — the more innocent, the better. When people are afraid, the NRA grows more powerful. There is only one way that the NRA is different than ISIS: The NRA is winning.