OP-ED: America’s New Lobbyists — White Supremacists

Sara Harris, Staff Reporter, Sophomore

In 2022, the United States witnessed more than 200 mass shootings. As this number rises, more people die at the hands of cruel individuals driven by hatred, with many, if not most, obtaining their weapons legally. On May 13, in Buffalo, Payton S. Gendron, only eighteen years old, murdered ten people and wounded three others in the name of white supremacist ideologies. A racist agenda brought the shooter hundreds of miles to carry out the attack and live-streamed the event in a disturbing video.

A recurring theme emerged from Gendron’s 180 pages of hate-filled writings: the belief that white Americans are at risk of being replaced by people of color. During a series of mass shootings and other acts of violence in recent years, gunmen have referred to the racist concept known as “replacement theory.” It was once linked primarily with the far-right fringe, but politicians and prominent media personalities have pushed it into the mainstream.

Brainwashed by this ideology, Gendron methodically shot and killed mainly Black people. The tragedy will no doubt find a spot on an ever-growing list of events exhibiting the intersection of loose gun laws with a U.S. gun culture that empowers and arms white supremacists.

Congress has failed to exercise any leadership to stem the epidemic of gun violence that is uniquely experienced in the United States. Little legislation was passed even in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, considering background checks by gun purchasers were deemed a step too far. Gun manufacturers represented by lobbyists like the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and the National Association for Gun Rights, funnel money into Republican candidates. That money comes with strings attached. The gun lobby expects lawmakers they fund to side with them and oppose gun control. Republicans with congressional or presidential aspirations have historically felt that they cannot afford to alienate the gun lobby and don’t. As noted in The Hill, Open Secrets, a nonprofit research group, estimates that $190.4 million was spent by the gun lobby on lobbying efforts between 1998 and 2022. The exchange of monetary gain with continued gun support highlights the corruption plaguing the Republican party.

Our country is unique in that its gun culture is foundational, and the right to bear arms is built into our constitution, acting as hurdles to enacting stricter gun laws. Those hurdles are emboldened by the gun lobby’s tight grip on the Republican Party and the fact that the Supreme Court held that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend their own money on political advocacy.

This being said, there is room for relative optimism in that many gun owners support reasonable restrictions, as increasingly, the gun lobby reflects a more polarized and extremist view. The question then remains whether gun control proponents can construct a “big tent” approach that includes gun owners. If those seeking firearm regulations can effectively unite against special interests that do not reflect mainstream ideals, progress may ensue; however, passing such an act in a Republican majority Senate is unlikely.

The correlation between White Supremacy and actions by Congress lies in the complicit “bribery” Republicans have succumbed to. A scandal in 2015 revealed that Republican campaign donor Earl Holt III was president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization. Many questioned how Ted Cruz (or Rand Paul or Rick Santorum) were unaware of the origins of their funding; however, what these individuals fail to realize is that to the far right no check has a cost too great. Whether it be from the NRA or individuals, such as Holt, responsible for influencing the shooting of a historically Black Church, a check is a check. For, money drives action by Congress more than lawmaker ideology, making one ask themselves: When will the safety of citizens be placed first and when will our governing body stop inherently supporting white supremacy in America?