Columnist John Sheirer: Dousing the NRA dumpster fire

Gun Rights

Considering the terrible situations in the Middle East, Ukraine, and elsewhere, the effects of climate change across the planet, the Republican debacle in the House of Representatives, and the continued Republican subservience to their multiple-indicted presidential candidate, the planet often seems to be an eight-thousand-mile-deep dumpster fire.

But there are signs of hope. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris continue to guide us back from the Trumpian brink. The Biden administration has overseen monumental initiatives, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the COVID relief American Rescue Plan Act, the COVID vaccine rollout, the Inflation Reduction Act, college debt relief, the CHIPS and Science Act, record job creation, recommitment to the Paris Climate Accord, strengthening the NATO alliance, and leading the worldwide support of democracy over authoritarianism.

When asked directly, most Americans approve of these accomplishments but haven’t heard much about them because the press prefers to harp on Biden’s age or to take a few isolated comments out of context to try to paint Biden and Harris as incompetent. Of course, Trump says far worse, far more often, in context, and frequently with corrupt or criminal implications. Trump is a crook, fraud, rapist, and insurrectionist pushing a radical, authoritarian agenda. There’s no comparison.

The Biden administration’s most stunning accomplishment is that, after three decades of federal inaction, Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which enhances gun-purchase background checks, closes the “boyfriend loophole,” and funds mental health care for young people.

Federal gun safety legislation has long been impossible because of the National Rifle Association’s stranglehold on Republican politicians. But in 2022, 29 brave Republicans in Congress voted with every Democrat to defy the NRA and pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. (The definition of a “brave Republican” these days is one who votes once for important legislation every Democrat works for every day.)

The NRA has been in disarray for years. Some of their problems are almost comic, such as their infiltration by an attractive young woman who happened to be a Russian spy. There’s also greed and petty infighting by their leaders. Like their patron saint Trump, deep-seated corruption is baked into NRA DNA.

Public opinion has turned against the NRA as wide swaths of Americans support legislation to curb gun violence. But the NRA hasn’t moderated their repugnant behavior. After the recent mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, the NRA resurfaced a video of newly minted Speaker of the House Mike Johnson defending guns as a “fundamental freedom” and claiming that Democrats are trying to “push their agenda on the people,” which is the exact opposite of reality.

A week before that Maine shooting, I received a mailing from Wayne LaPierre, the infamous and ghoulish face of the NRA, who takes to social and legacy media to oppose any gun safety legislation and to demand that deadly weapons be even more freely available. LaPierre deserves to be called a “death profiteer” because his horrible statements are always accompanied by entreaties for money.

In the first few lines of his mailing, he used the word “attack” half a dozen times. Was he cautioning about mass shooters with assault weapons? No, he was warning about “politicians, judges, and media elites who are doing everything in their power to destroy your freedoms.” Did he mean the freedom not to fear that you or your loved ones will be killed in a mass shooting? Of course not. He was speaking on behalf of his beloved guns.

Lapierre implored me to “ACT NOW” and fill out an enclosed survey, which would provide “PROOF” that Americans opposed gun safety legislation. This “survey” showed that, obviously, the NRA has no interest in actual public opinion.

The first question asked, “Do you agree that the Second Amendment guarantees you the individual right to own a firearm?” No less an authority than conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger said of this question in 1991, “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.” He wrote later that same year, “The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies­ — the militia — would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

Who should we believe, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or the fraud who thinks everybody should buy lots of guns and send him money? The rest of Lapierre’s “survey” contained similarly slanted “push-polling” questions straight from Propaganda 101.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a candle in the darkness. But most Republican politicians still side with the death profiteers. If we want politicians who do nothing about mass shootings, then we should keep electing Republicans. But if we want to send the death profiteers packing and make laws that reflect the will of the people, then we should elect more Democrats.

What did I do with that NRA mailing? It’s in the recycling bin, which is a better fate than the dumpster-fire NRA deserves.

John Sheirer will read from his recent work at the Northampton Senior Center on Friday, November 17, 1 p.m. Find him at

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