The Center for Public Integrity reported last Tuesday that a number of high-capacity gun magazine manufactures are financing the National Rifle Association’s lobbying operations, and that two members of the NRA Board currently serve as the CEO of companies that sell high-capacity clips. The report is particularly relevant in the wake of both the Tucson shooting and a subsequent proposal in Congress to limit these clip sizes to around 10 cartridges per magazine. The NRA has recently criticized the proposed legislation, saying that high-capacity magazines are “standard” for “self-defense.”
Speaking of this close association with gun industry CEOs and the NRA, Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of the Violence Policy Center said, “The NRA’s priorities are not gun owners but the manufacturers of guns and accessories,” and that the NRA’s opposition to gun control legislation often “isn’t about protecting the rights of millions of gun owners [so much] as protecting the financial interests of NRA board members and the NRA itself.”
Pete Brownell is President of Brownells, Inc, — “the world’s largest supplier of firearms accessories and gunsmithing tools” — and was elected to the NRA Board last year. ThinkProgress caught up with Brownell at the SHOT Show convention in Las Vegas last week and asked him about this symbiotic relationship. Brownell denied that the NRA is working to benefit the gun industry financially, claiming that it only defends the Second Amendment. He also denied that his role at the NRA as a current gun supply company CEO is in any way nefarious:
BROWNELL: The NRA has always been active in the public interest. They’ve been a defender of the Second Amendment. It’s not because of financial interest, it’s because they defend the Second Amendment, what the founders, the original people that wrote this, were intending, what they actually wrote down. So they defend the Second Amendment. They don’t necessarily say, “We’re going to do this because someone is writing me a check.” [...]
We need leaders to lead organizations, and the one place they get leaders is the military. The other place they get leaders are politicians and really the third place they get them are entrepreneurs. You can’t just get leadership from one area because then you’ll become pretty myopic in that area as an organization.
ThinkProgress noted that many attendees at the SHOT Show this week disputed the NRA’s contention that high-capacity clips are needed for self-defense purposes. One gun retailer said, “If ten rounds of ammunition can’t do the job you probably shouldn’t own a gun.” But Brownell disagreed. “When you’re defending, you want to have as much of an advantage as possible so it does matter. … It’s just an advantage.” Listen to the interview:
Indeed, high-capacity magazines are an advantage. And one such clip was an advantage for Jared Loughner in Tucson this month, who was subdued by attendees at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ (D-AZ) constituent event only after he stopped to reload his 31-bullet clip.