Whenever mass murderers armed with assault weapons turn classrooms into crime scenes and school kids into corpses, we understandably seek out a villain.
The National Rifle Association usually holds pride of place in our reactions, and deservedly so. The NRA’s commitment to a reckless, absolutist vision of the Second Amendment has prevented the adoption of reasonable gun-control measures supported by overwhelming majorities of the American people.
We’d do well to remember, though, that the NRA wields not power, but mere influence. The organization seeks to convince lawmakers to do its bidding, but it is legislators who ultimately possess the authority to govern — or, as the case may be, to not govern.
And so we spot our second villain: the Republican Party, whose members, unlike the NRA, possess power by virtue of their elected positions.
Here we need to be clear: Our government’s unwillingness to adopt more stringent gun controls is not a “both sides” failure. Almost universally, the lawmakers who thwart the implementation of popular gun-control measures, including beefed-up background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, belong to the Republican Party.
While the Democratic Party “stand[s] with the students, families, and organizers who are fighting to enact … commonsense policies to keep our communities safe, once and for all,” the GOP supports laws that would make it easier for people to carry guns across state lines, opposes bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and seeks to protect gun manufacturers from liability when murderers predictably use their products to kill.
The gun lobby rewards Republicans for their uncompromising positions. Over the last five election cycles, around 98% of the gun lobby’s campaign contributions went to the GOP.
Since preventing the adoption of reasonable gun regulations is a distinctly Republican priority, it follows that those who financially support the GOP are necessarily working to oppose meaningful gun control.
To be plain about it, those who back the Republican Party with their campaign contributions — no matter the actual aims and intentions of the donors — help to enable and perpetuate schoolhouse slaughter.
And there lurk more villains, ones that may not instinctively draw our ire but whose political activities consistently further the fortunes of the Republican Party, including its extreme gun-rights agenda and all the bloody consequences that flow from it.
I am talking about Charlotte businesses that have shoveled tens of millions of dollars into the Republican Party’s coffers in recent years.
No less than the NRA and GOP, the Queen City’s upstanding corporate citizens have blood on their hands, and it’s time we gave them the credit they deserve.
During the Sandy Hook era — that is, since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed twenty first-graders and six adults in December 2012 — the political action committees of a dozen of Charlotte’s most prominent corporations contributed roughly $42.4 million to the Republican Party, GOP candidates, and PACs aligned with the party.
If anything, this understates our business community’s recent support for the GOP because this figure counts contributions only through the 2020 election and focuses almost exclusively on contributions to federal organizations and politicians, omitting donations made at the state or local level. And, of course, these figures include contributions from only a dozen companies that do business here.
Those companies are American Airlines, Bank of America, Centene, Charter Communications, Duke Energy, Ernst & Young, Honeywell, Lowe’s, Nucor, TIAA, Truist, and Wells Fargo. (These business are headquartered in Charlotte, employ a large number of workers here, or play prominent roles in our civic life.)
The most generous contributors to the GOP from among this corporate crowd were Honeywell ($10.4 million), Ernst & Young ($6.3 million), Charter Communications ($4.1 million), Bank of America ($3.6 million), Truist ($3.6 million), and Duke Energy ($3.4 million). (All of these figures come from Open Secrets, which tracks campaign contributions.)
In order of generosity, the remaining contributions came from Lowe’s ($2.3 million), Wells Fargo ($2.3 million), American Airlines ($2.1 million), TIAA ($1.8 million), Centene ($1.2 million), and Nucor ($1.1 million).
GOP recipients of this political largesse included each of the ten senators who has received the most money from the NRA over their careers, including North Carolina’s Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Recipients also included dozens of PACs who have as their singular mission the establishment of Republican power in Congress and the White House — which, to the degree it is achieved, renders gun control a dead letter.
Money talks — loudly and clearly if we will but listen: Our business community steadfastly supports a political party indifferent to the continued slaughter of school children, and Charlotte’s corporate villains deserve our scorn for their complicity in creating the carnage regularly unleashed in our classrooms.