Commentary

If Democrats won’t confront the NRA, who will?

April 18, 2023 7:00 am

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, recognizes Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, and Randy Kozuch, the interim executive director of the lobbying arm of the NRA, during a Senate resolution Tuesday April 11. (Whitney Downard/Indiana Capital Chronicle)

There is a primary election for mayor of Indianapolis in two weeks. To all of the candidates on the Democrat side, know this: I won’t vote for you now or ever again if you are willing to re-sign with the NRA for future conventions. Poll that question if you’d like. I’m confident Democrat voters are with me on this. 

If the good-guy-with-a-gun group ever returns to their senses, we can talk. But until then, NRA, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. 

This is what Indiana Democrats should be saying loudly and clearly.

We have a gun violence problem in America that is easy to identify. It can’t exist without guns. The NRA of today exists for the singular purpose of defending, promoting and profiting from all things related to guns. The NRA of today is not interested in even admitting America has a problem. Until they are, I don’t want them back in Indianapolis. 

So, let’s hear it mayoral candidates. Where are you on this? 

The Republican supermajorities in the Indiana General Assembly have limited the capitol city’s ability to implement commonsense gun policies. But they haven’t taken control of our convention business. At least not yet. 

Which leads me to the Statehouse. Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and Executive Vice President of the NRA appeared on the floor of the Indiana Senate last week so the organization could be celebrated on the eve of their convention. Senate Resolution 33 has plenty of resumé builders for the gun group and its history, mostly about things the organization used to be. 

I get a kick out of the part about how “youth programs remain a cornerstone of the NRA …” I think most of us would like those “youth programs” to focus on keeping our school children alive, while in school, but they don’t. These programs are like most other industry youth programs — designed to grow the industry. 

The NRA of today is synonymous with the gun violence problem. It is the face of it. It maintains that ceremonial position even after near-catastrophic LaPierre-led mismanagement and corruption engulfed its operation beginning in 2019. Republican lawmakers fear it, even though gun safety groups like Mom Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety now have larger memberships. 

No matter how humiliating it must be for Republicans to kneel before the throne of someone like LaPierre, it does have some painfully calculated, though cowardly, mathematical rationality. The GOP’s extreme primary voters are irrational on guns. 

But what about the Democrats?

Senate Democrats sat quietly and politely while LaPierre, was physically in their chamber being celebrated last week. My advice to the Senate Democrats would have been to put the Senate Republicans on notice that their objections to LaPierre’s presence on the floor would make news. I would have promised bullhorns, protestors, and points of personal privilege that would have been cringeworthy for the body. I would have been willing to be expelled for it. 

Sound familiar?

I wonder what the “Tennessee Three” would think about Indiana. Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson were expelled from the House for their gun safety protest on their House’s floor on April 7th. Jones had already been reappointed and sworn back into the body on April 10th after he, Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson spent four days in the national spotlight touting their views for gun safety policies. Pearson wasn’t sworn back in until April 12th

I wonder what Gov. Andy Beshear, a Kentucky Democrat, would think about Indiana, the day after losing a close, personal friend in a mass shooting in Louisville. Five people were killed and eight were injured, including two policemen. The shooter was a young man who grew up on the Indiana side of the Ohio River. It happened on April 10th. 

And on April 11th, the Indiana Senate comfortably and quietly celebrated the NRA. That’s not good enough. 

There is no political lane left for those who want to politely and quietly wish things were different. Democrats have to make it clear that they see the problem clearly and they are the only party promoting solutions to it. 

Democrats need to run on it, not away from it. 

Gun safety policies are supported by American voters. Democrats, Republicans, and even gun owners support addressing the problem. But only Democrats can claim this political lane right now, as evidenced everywhere in America. 

This one is easy. LaPierre should have never been comfortable on the floor of the Indiana Senate. The NRA should not be invited back to Indianapolis until they agree to be part of a solution. 

And Indiana Democrats need to quit being so polite about it.

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Michael Leppert
Michael Leppert

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com.

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