Politics

Lawmaker Who Was ‘Life Member’ Of NRA Quits After San Bernardino Massacre

CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

Former Nevada Assembly Speaker and candidate for Congress John Oceguera wrote to the National Rifle Association this week asking them to remove his name from their membership list.

Calling himself a “law-abiding gun owner” who grew up in a family of hunters, and “Life Member” of the NRA, the Democratic candidate for the House said Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California was the final straw for his relationship with the pro-gun lobby.

“Our country is facing a tragic gun violence epidemic, and we cannot ignore it,” he wrote. “Still, the NRA opposes any legislation that would help keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, criminals and the mentally ill, and spends millions to stop any action in Congress that could help prevent further violence. I cannot continue to be a member while the NRA refuses to back closing these loopholes.”

Criticism of the NRA’s political lobbying against gun control measures — which totals in the tens of millions annually — erupted on social media and in the press following the San Bernardino rampage that left 14 dead and more than a dozen wounded. The New York Daily News ran a cover page calling NRA leader Wayne LaPierre a terrorist, and blasting the organization’s “sick gun jihad against America in the name of profit.”

An investigation published by ThinkProgress this week documents how the gun industry has spent tens of millions of dollars to convince lawmakers not to impose regulations on them. Their influence is particularly strong in Nevada, where they showered Republican, pro-gun Dean Heller with campaign donations in 2011 that helped him secure a Senate seat, and successfully tanked the nomination of federal judicial nominee Elissa Cadish in 2013 after she wrote that she doesn’t believe Americans have the constitutional right to own guns.

Today, the state has particularly lax laws. Nevada hosts many gun shows, where thanks to a legal loophole, guns can be purchased without a background check. Private sales can also be conducted background-check-free. The Bureau of Alcohol,Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found that between 2006 and 2013, more than 5,000 guns bought in Nevada were found at crime scenes in other states, the vast majority in California. Now, law enforcement officials are investigating whether the perpetrators of this week’s shooting obtained their arsenal in Nevada.

The NRA has long opposed and lobbied against increasing background checks for gun purchases, despite the fact that the majority of gun owners support such measures.

While Oceguera’s reaction to this was to distance himself from the organization, some politicians had the opposite reaction.

On Friday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is holding a rally at a gun range in central Iowa, at which he will unveil a “Second Amendment Coalition” of supporters the campaign claims numbers more than 24,000. This is the second time the presidential hopeful has held a pro-gun event just days after a mass shooting. Three days after a white supremacist gunman killed nine people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Cruz held a “Second Amendment rally,” and joked to reporters, “You know the great thing about the state of Iowa is, I’m pretty sure you all define gun control the same way we do in Texas — hitting what you aim at.”

Cruz’s campaign has received tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA and other pro-gun organizations.