When 20 children died in a hail of gunfire in Sandy Hook, Connecticut there was an outpouring of global grief, a sense of national shame and very quickly a growing mood that this atrocity would dramatically change minds and perhaps America’s gun-toting ways.
Just a few months on those hopes and the political will to reform gun-laws are receding fast. One big reason – three big letters: The NRA.
When appalling massacres happen, Americans don’t put down their guns, they race to the store to buy more, such is the success of the National Rifle Association’s spin, rhetoric and influence. How do they do it?
This week on Foreign Correspondent, some answers.
Sandy Hook mum Veronique Pozner gazes lovingly at a parade of achingly beautiful snaps of her twins and tries to makes sense of the one now gone forever. Six-year-old Noah.
“He was bit of a philosopher. He asked questions about life and God and what happens after we die. He’s left such a void.” Veronique Pozner
In the small Connecticut town , the Pozners and dozens of other families are in mourning, after 20 children and 6 teachers at the local school were killed in December by a mentally disturbed man wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle. Noah didn’t stand chance. He was shot 11 times.
Noah’s mother hadn’t thought a lot about gun control before. Now she’s become a campaigner. “They’re weapons of mass carnage. They’re designed for the battlefield. It just has no place in society.” Veronique Pozner
The NRA is arguably the most muscular lobby group in the US, turning politicians into shivering jelly and running an elaborate, well financed PR machine that has managed to translate a 200year-old constitutional utterance into an inexorable, inalienable right to arm yourself to the teeth with weapons the founding fathers could never have imagined.
Even gun friendly Republicans can become a target.
Debra Maggart is a life time member of the NRA and always supported its agenda, even voting for a bill that allowed guns in bars. But in 2012 she refused to support a bill that would have allowed Tennesseans to keep guns inside their locked cars, because she thought it was dangerous. She says that as a result, the NRA turned on her, making sure she was defeated in the 2012 primaries.
“They used bully tactics to get their way. They know that everyone is afraid of them.” Debra Maggart, Republican
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Foreign Correspondent examines the incredible power and influence of the National Rifle Association. Despite America having a murder rate many times greater than any other developed nation, gun control advocates can’t compete against the NRA’s well-oiled machinery, access to industry money and political leverage.
Washington Correspondent Lisa Millar – one of the first Australian reporters on the scene in Sandy Hook – goes behind the NRA rhetoric to find out how the organisation really operates.
8pm Tuesday ABC1