Frontline’s Documentary About the NRA Shown at Northside
by S. Aleksander Black
Northside College Prep held a screening of Frontline’s documentary “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA,” which explored the background and power of the National Rifle Association.
The documentary took place on Wednesday, March 14, during Y-Block, and was organized by Northside’s Orchestra Director, Mr. Leo Park, Fine Arts department. “Frontline” is a series by Public Broadcasting Services (PBS). The documentary focuses on controversial issues worldwide, including topics such as the rise of the NSA’s domestic surveillance dragnet, the hidden history of the NFL and concussions, and the investigation against a radical Islamist group called Boko Haram. These topics tend to dig deep into information not often visible to the public eye.
The specific documentary shown on Wednesday, “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA,” was published on January 6, 2015, and is far from being a recent production. However, it proves to be relevant now too, in light of the recent shootings, most notably the one that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old, used an AR-15 semi-automatic assault weapon to kill 17 students and teachers, once again sparking nationwide anger over the lack of protection for students. The focus of the documentary was to dig into the National Rifle Association’s past, reveal the evolution of the group to the public, and discover how the NRA wields so much power in today’s politics. The documentary began at the founding of the organization and followed them chronologically until around 2015, when the show was produced.
The National Rifle Association was founded back in the 1960s, and originally was designed to teach families about proper gun safety for hunting and riflery. However, after government action like the Gun Control Bill occurred opposing gun owners, the NRA was soon split into two groups: the guns safety and ownership group, and the guns laws activists. The anti-gun control activists soon became the majority in the association, drastically changing the direction of the group. Led by Wayne LaPierre, a man who never shot a gun in his life but who was excellent at finding balance in political arguments, the NRA began putting weight into politics. While former president Bill Clinton headed the opposition against the guns, the NRA expanded its ranks thanks to the polarizing nature of the debate. New members were driven to join and participate out of concern that they would lose gun-related rights.
When the election between Al Gore and George Bush took place, the NRA gave full support to Bush. Gore had been planning to enact significantly more aggressive gun control laws, something that the NRA clearly did not want. Their propaganda and persuasion tactics heavily influenced the election; if a single state had voted for Gore instead of Bush, the election result would have been changed. The NRA was gaining influence in politics through sheer size and volume, and it showed no signs of slowing down.
However, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting began to change this. Once again, the nation was shocked by the violence occurring at their very own schools, and the world turned against the National Rifle Association. According to the documentary, the wives of officials were crying after the event and telling their husbands that things needed to change to ensure the safety of children. The NRA responded with a hard no-compromise stance that had become popular with the group. According to LaPierre, “The only thing that can stop bad guys with guns is good guys with guns.” This response resonated with the people of the NRA, and membership once again increased. More donations began flowing in. After the Sandy Hook shooting, the NRA emerged stronger than ever before.
Following every shooting, guns sales skyrocket. This was noted especially after the Columbine shooting; one of the most serious wake-up calls in terms of gun control, and one that galvanized the public. The sales of firearms after a shooting increase because any gun collector who was hesitant about a purchase was spurred to action out of fear of firearms restrictions being put in place. These shootings also increased membership in the National Rifle Association, as more people gathered together to oppose the restrictions that they deemed to be unconstitutional. To guns activists, it is a matter of personal safety versus government safety. During the documentary, it was expressed that the NRA believes the chief reason for the Second Amendment is to ensure the people still have power in case the government ever turns against them.
Through all these recent shootings and discussion, a clear picture begins to manifest; one where the NRA amasses supporters, who unite to aggressively oppose forms of gun control. They are brought into the organization because of fear that they will not be able to accumulate firearms, and then provide money for the group to heavily influence elections and political occurrences. The aggressive no-compromise stances that the NRA’s leaders began to take through all the high-profile shootings were perceived as confidence and unwavering beliefs.
The nation now has to see if the National Rifle Association chooses to stick to their guns, in a day and age when gun control laws are gaining more support than ever before.