The National Rifle Association gives one the immediate impression of an organization that never met an anti-government conspiracy theory it didn't like. After all, the NRA has been recruiting members and raising money with such absurd fantasies for years: The "mass confiscation" of privately-held firearms after Hurricane Katrina, the United Nations Small Arms Treaty "threaten[ing] individual firearm ownership with an invasive registration scheme," ATF's botched "Fast and Furious" operation a secret plan by President Obama to enact tougher gun laws, the notion that universal background check legislation requires a national database of gun owners, etc. The list goes on and on...
Such insurrectionist fear-mongering serves the gun lobby well. Given that gun ownership in the United States has been steadily declining for decades, the NRA has to convince the average gun-owning civilian to buy his fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. gun in order to keep generating profit. And there's no better way to promote stockpiling then to tell your supporters the government is planning on forcibly taking their firearms and enslaving them.
But there is one anti-government conspiracy theory that the NRA has absolutely no taste for, despite its prevalence in pro-gun circles. And that speaks volumes.
In March 2012, syndicated radio host Alex Jones and others began speculating that that Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies were stockpiling weapons to prepare for a war with the American people. This rumor proliferated on the internet and was embraced by high-profile right wing figures including Glenn Beck of The Blaze, Lou Dobbs of Fox Business News and Larry Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America. As Alex Jones' Infowars website described it:
First it was the Department of Homeland Security, then it was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and now the Social Security Administration is set to purchase 174,000 rounds of hollow point bullets that will be delivered to 41 locations across the country.
An editorial in the conservative Daily Caller added:
In March DHS ordered 750 million rounds of hollow point ammunition. It then turned around and ordered an additional 750 million rounds of miscellaneous bullets including some that are capable of penetrating walls. This is enough ammunition to empty five rounds into the body of every living American citizen. Is this something we and the Congress should be concerned about? What's the plan that requires so many dead Americans, even during times of civil unrest?
The NRA remained conspicuously silent about these theories until August 17, 2012, when their legislative arm released a statement that quoted a press release from U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) which explained, "If you take the number of agencies that will be using this ammunition--CBP, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), ICE, the U.S. Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration, the DHS police force, and all the guards that protect the various buildings these agencies are housed in, and spread that out over 5 years, you start to see that 450 million rounds really isn't that large of an order. Especially considering it is used for training purposes like firing range and live fire exercises, on-the-job use (though that is very limited), and to shore up their supplies." The NRA even hypocritically chastised pro-gun activists, saying, "Today, there are more than enough actual threats to the Second Amendment to keep gun owners busy ... There is no need to invent additional threats to our rights."
Why the sudden defense of a heavily-armed government? Because this was one conspiracy theory that was a direct threat to the NRA's bottom line. Sales to the military and law enforcement represent a significant market segment of the firearms industry, and the NRA is intimately tied to the industry.
Gun industry executives like Ronnie Barrett, Pete Brownell and Steve Hornady sit directly on the NRA Board of Directors. Since 2005, companies that manufacture firearms and related products have given between $19.3 million and $60.2 million in direct corporate contributions to the NRA. Many of these gun manufacturers, in turn, supply firearms to law enforcement and the military. One industry analyst, IBIS World, a publisher of business intelligence, estimates that law enforcement sales constitute 15 percent of firearms industry revenues. IBIS World estimates that the military is an even bigger market segment; 25 percent of firearm industry revenues. Take handguns, for example. In a July 2013 press release, Glock, Inc. stated that 65 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies use Glock pistols. Beretta pistols have been the standard sidearm of the U.S. military since 1985. Sig Sauer supplies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the pistols their agents carry.
This is big business, folks. And million-dollar suits like Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox understand exactly who is padding their wallets. Insurrectionist rhetoric might work well in marketing firearms to civilians on the far right wing of American politics. But with police chiefs and generals? Not so much.
The NRA's focus on the bottom line could also be seen in their response to Newtown. What was their solution? Put an armed guard in every school in America. Talk about profiting from tragedy. Let's see... there are more than 120,000 elementary and secondary schools in the U.S. That's a lot of new orders for guns and ammunition!
After the gruesome mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., which claimed the lives of 12 Americans, LaPierre decided to up his ante even further. Speaking to David Gregory on Meet the Press on September 22, LaPierre told him the shooting happened because "there weren't enough good guys with guns ... How could anybody look at what happened... and say there was enough security there?"
Gregory, taking LaPierre's vision to its logical conclusion, pushed back. "Can it be this sliding scale where you do have armed guards there, but now there are not enough armed guards?" he asked LaPierre. "When it comes to schools, if only we'd had an armed guard, and then, if we had teachers who had weapons then we could stop it. I mean, where does it stop?"
It's a scary question in a country where gruesome shootings occur virtually everywhere -- in schools, on street corners, in shopping malls, in places of worship, at restaurants, etc., etc., etc. If more and more armed security personnel (as opposed to reasonable gun laws) are the answer, it's not difficult to envision a police state with AR-15 toting cops on every block, watching our every move.
Tyranny or not, that would be just fine with the NRA, because gun sales would be booming.