The NRA and Trump’s Inseparable Misogyny.
The GOP has embraced the NRA’s assault on women for years. Why is Trump so different?
For more than a year, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s misogyny has captured the attention of the media and the public. Throughout his campaign, Trump has made disgusting and demeaning comments about women. The recording of Trump bragging about sexual assault and the subsequent accusations about his sexual misconduct only amplify what he has displayed throughout his campaign: he views women as objects to be violated at will. No one should be surprised by Trump’s comments given the tone of his campaign. But for some reason — perhaps because the election is days away and their congressional majorities are on the line — many Republicans are suddenly shocked and appalled by this kind of language. Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by Trump’s comments. Senator Ted Cruz called the language “disturbing and inappropriate.” These public denouncements are laughable coming from politicians in the pocket of the gun lobby. Leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA) have perpetuated rape culture, opposed laws that would keep women safe, and exploited victims of domestic violence for years.
In a 2014 broadcast with the Washington Examiner’s Ashe Schow, NRA radio host Cam Edwards suggested that college and university policies regarding sexual assault on campus are “encouraging victimhood.” Schow stated, “So many of these cases come down to two people being drunk at a party hooking up, and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning.” Edwards replied, “Yup. Absolutely.”
Edwards is not the only NRA representative to embrace this misogynistic, victim-blaming philosophy. NRA Board Member Wayne Anthony Ross once asked, “If a guy can’t rape his wife, who’s he gonna rape?” and offered an ignorant and despicable “solution” to domestic violence, saying, “There wouldn’t be an issue with domestic violence if women would learn to keep their mouth shut.” NRA Board Member Ted Nugent once stated, “Anybody that doesn’t think it is better to blow someone’s brains out than to be raped, deserves to be raped. If you don’t think your life is worth it, then please go out there, don’t wear any underpants, and get raped, ’cause you deserve it.”
These comments fall into the same category as Trump’s “hot mic” comments — violent, offensive, and demeaning. But did Republicans withdraw their support for the NRA following these comments? Did they refuse to accept the NRA’s money? Did they stand up for women denigrated by this language? No. In fact, Republicans and the NRA have worked together to actively block legislation that would keep women safe.
The NRA and other gun rights proponents have routinely opposed efforts at the federal and state level to prohibit purchase and possession of firearms by stalkers, persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, and extending the prohibition to include dating partners convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to domestic violence restraining orders. They have also opposed efforts to protect unmarried dating partners from armed abusers. In short, the gun lobby not only blames victims for their abuse, but actively advocates for abusers to remain armed.
In 2014, the NRA’s lobbying arm, NRA-Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), issued a statement opposing a Rhode Island bill that would prohibit persons convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning firearms. The bill was consistent with the existing federal prohibition for domestic violence misdemeanants. The NRA-ILA’s letter complains, “This bill is flawed because it lowers the bar to misdemeanor offenses. Current law already prohibits convicted felons from owning firearms.” This perspective deliberately obscures the fact that even serious domestic violence offenses are commonly charged as, or pleaded down to, misdemeanors. Additionally, the letter perpetuates the myth that a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence is not a serious offense.
In 2015, the NRA opposed a provision of a bill in Louisiana that would have allowed abusive dating partners to be charged with domestic abuse battery, which under federal law would prohibit them from purchasing or possessing firearms. Kim Sport, chairwoman of the United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Public Policy Committee and of the state’s domestic violence prevention commission, said she was told the NRA “didn’t want to increase the pool of people who will be dispossessed of their firearms.” What about the women dispossessed of their lives?
In 2015, when Senator Amy Klobuchar proposed a bill to ensure that dating partners convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence restraining order would be prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, the NRA balked.
According to their perverse logic, a person convicted of abusing their spouse can be prohibited from purchasing and possessing firearms, but a person convicted of abusing their dating partner — a position of similar intimacy — is safe enough for continued access to a deadly weapon.
The NRA’s opposition to these common-sense pieces of legislation shows that they prioritize the rights of abusers to own deadly weapons over the lives of domestic violence victims.
This month, in a stunning show of greed, the NRA has capitalized on Domestic Violence Awareness Month to increase sales. Through a partnership with BearingArms.com, the NRA is selling firearms and concealed carry training courses to victims of domestic violence. The campaign, called “Bearing Arms Against Domestic Violence,” is focused on getting guns into the hands of victims of domestic violence by telling them being armed makes them safer. Recommendations from the program include “protecting your home with an [Modular Sniper Rifle] MSR,” “taking a concealed carry course,” and “joining a local firearms training group.”
Notably, this is not the first time the NRA has exploited women’s fears of domestic violence to sell guns. As part of their “Refuse to be a Victim” program, launched in 1993, featured trainers on their website discuss topics such as “How to carry a concealed firearm in different outfits,” “Benefits of adding a mounted light to your firearm,” and “Creating a shooting diary to track your training.”
While the idea that a woman should “protect herself” might sound innocuous, the NRA’s campaign intentionally ignores the facts at the expense of women’s safety. In the United States, an American woman is shot and killed by her intimate partner every 16 hours. Intimate partner homicide comprises 40–50% of all murders of women, and research shows that when an abusive partner has access to a firearm, the risk the other partner will die increases more than five-fold. An abused woman is 10 times more likely to be threatened with a gun than to defend themselves with one. The bottom line is that guns do not make women in abusive relationships safer; rather, they put women at higher risk of being threatened, shot, and killed by their abuser.
At a time when domestic violence organizations are providing real resources and awareness for victims and survivors of domestic violence, “Bearing Arms Against Domestic Violence” willfully ignores the evidence about the risk firearms pose to victims of domestic violence. Though they advertise safety and empowerment for women, the gun lobby’s ultimate goal is maximizing end-of-year profits — even at the expense of women’s lives.
Donald Trump’s words and actions towards women are repulsive, but his behavior is no surprise given his close alliance with an organization that actively works to put more guns in the hands of domestic abusers. Republicans, who are now so publicly disgusted by Donald Trump, have turned a blind eye to the NRA’s equally deplorable rhetoric for years. They have voted against measures to protect victims of domestic violence. They have cashed the NRA’s checks without thinking twice about the human cost. They have shown blatant disregard for the lives of women — until those women are poised to vote them out of office. Donald Trump and the NRA are a package deal. Republicans don’t get to run from one but not the other.
The Women of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Kelly Roskam, Adelyn Allchin, Bryan Barks, Vicka Chaplin, Jennifer Fuson, Lisa Geller, Lori Haas, Kayla Hicks, Chelsea White