Last week, when the infamously anti-regulatory National Rifle Association stated that bump fire stocks — the rearm accessory that gave the Las Vegas shooter fully automatic firing capability — should be subject to additional regulations, politicians and reporters heralded a change of direction for the group. News outlets reported a surprising reversal, and Democratic Senator Chris Murphy touted “the first significant crack in the NRA’s political facade,” predicting that the anti-gun movement is now on its way to countering the pro-gun lobby.
With Las Vegas, the NRA has finally found a massacre terrible enough to warrant a minor concession on accessories that make little money for weapons manufacturers. By admitting the necessity of bump stock regulation — though explicitly opposing an outright ban — the NRA appears open to reasonable change, taking one vaguely positive step forward after decades of militantly aggressive steps back. Their concession, however, pushes popular discourse farther away from more effective solutions to gun violence. Recall after 20 first-graders were murdered inside their Sandy Hook classrooms, the vast majority of Americans — including 74 percent of NRA members — supported legislation for universal background checks on rearms purchasers. Unsurprisingly, this legislation died in the Senate without NRA support. In 2016, North Carolina Senator Richard Burr — one of many senators financially rewarded for their vote against the bill — received $6.2 million from the NRA.
The NRA and the repressive Saudi Arabian monarchy utilize similar strategies: politically disenfranchise the public politically and financially, through lobbyists or control of oil revenues, and justify their actions with so-called national values, citing the Second Amendment or the Quran.
The Saudi Arabian government was widely praised in the Western press last month when it decided to let women drive cars. Then, to much less fanfare and press, it jailed 22 social media users for inciting public opinion. The government continues to hold 30,000 political prisoners and murder countless Yemeni civilians. Saudi Arabian women still must cover themselves regardless of religious belief and seek consent from a male guardian in order to work, travel or undergo medical procedures. Even though Saudi Arabia shares many of its Sharia law codes with ISIS and the Taliban, President Donald Trump, an avowed critic of Islam, inked a $350 billion weapons deal with the Saudis earlier this year.
In this turbulent time, people look everywhere for some semblance of positive progress — a sign that maybe the bad guys are not so bad after all. But both the Saudi Government and the NRA are anti-democratic groups with backward agendas. They do not make decisions with public welfare in mind. We should not praise them for these decisions. That they are praised for having a bit of common decency should draw attention to what these groups typically stand for.
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A version of this appeared in the Monday, Oct. 16 print edition. Email Theo Wayt at [email protected]