It’s become an all-too-familiar routine in America: A mass shooting in a public place that shakes our collective consciousness is quickly followed by thoughts and prayers, media attention, and calls to action. Then days go by, the news passes, and nothing changes in Congress.
That ends now. This year is different. Not only did the American people send the strongest gun-sense trifecta in history to Washington, but the once-feared National Rifle Association is now desperately trying to stay relevant as its money and power run dry in Washington.
Support for background checks on all gun sales were already overwhelmingly high and bipartisan before two deadly mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder shook our country—93 percent of Americans support them, including 89 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of gun owners. In fact, voters ranked background checks on par with creating jobs and passing another Covid-19 relief package when it came to priorities for this new Congress and Biden administration in the first 100 days.
But the senseless acts of violence that unfolded at the King Soopers in Boulder and at spas in Atlanta—carried out by two men barely old enough to legally drink—have led Americans from all walks of life to speak with one voice, and urgently: The time to act is now.
While we’re still learning more about both shooters, how they built their arsenals and what fueled their rampages, what we do know is that far too often, someone can take advantage of our country’s easy access to firearms to turn their hatred deadly. A hate-filled person without a gun cannot commit a mass shooting. Disarming hate must include strengthening our gun laws and closing loopholes in order to stop guns from ending up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
Some critics think we are going to replay the same debate of prior years, but this is a different America than it was more than eight years ago, when I started Moms Demand Action from my kitchen counter the day after Sandy Hook. Back then, the NRA was a formidable foe, a flush-with-cash Goliath to our volunteers’ humble but fierce David. But with the NRA on the ropes like never before, that is one of the reasons this time, this moment, this opportunity is different. David will finally win.
In 2019, the most recent year for which tax data is available, the NRA was $57 million in debt. The financial situation is so dire that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was secretly recorded telling board members the group had taken “about a $100 million hit” between 2018 and 2020, and that he had to pull “about $80 million” from the budget in order to “survive.”
In fact, the NRA is so weighed down with its own scandals, allegations of self-dealing, and legal troubles that it paid some $38.6 million to its top lawyer in 2018 and 2019 alone. With troubled finances comes waning influence: In 2020, the group spent roughly half of what it did in 2016 to support Donald Trump and other Republicans, and about one-third less on lobbying.
Revenue from membership dues plummeted 34 percent in 2019 to a seven-year low, partly because there is an increasing awareness that the NRA isn’t the voice of responsible gun owners anymore, if it ever really was. It’s the mouthpiece of an extremist fringe that stokes fear, racism, misogyny, and hatred for its own purposes.
We are also at a different place culturally than we were after Sandy Hook eight years ago. We’ve seen brands and corporations stand up to support gun safety and limit weapons in their stores. We’ve seen gun safety go from a political third rail to an issue to run and win on.
As a country, we have already experienced so much loss during the Covid-19 pandemic. Americans have had to bury their loved ones, battle the virus themselves, and live through more gun violence in 2020 than we’ve seen in decades. But we’ve also woken up to the fact that gun violence happens every day and disproportionately in Black and brown communities. And the shootings in Boulder and Atlanta are a national reminder that in America, people are shot and killed at their grocery store, spa, school, or movie theater.
For decades, the NRA’s business model has been to pit Americans against one another—stoking fear of a postapocalyptic world. But a country that has lived through a once-in-a-century pandemic—and survived by working together, not building bunkers—simply doesn’t want to buy the dystopia the NRA is selling.
The NRA wants you to believe nothing can be done to stop the violence that shattered lives in Atlanta and Boulder from happening again. We all know that is not true. Now is the time to push the Senate to do the right thing and pass background check legislation. Because this moment is different. We are different. And we are stronger than the NRA.