After a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida early Sunday, politicians predictably rushed to express condolences with “thoughts” or “prayers” or both.
But when it comes to reforming gun laws, they seemed in no big hurry — even though, so far this year, there have been almost as many mass shootings in the U.S. as there have been days. In fact, many of the lawmakers publicly offering thoughts and prayers have collected hefty campaign donations from the influential and well-funded gun lobby.
The death toll from a single shooter left at least 50 people dead and 53 wounded.
Afterward, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) let constituents know his heart goes out to the shooting victims — a sentiment that seems contrary to his voting record and financial ties.
The day after the deadly San Bernardino, California shooting that killed 14 people, Tillis was among 54 lawmakers who voted against a bill that would have made it harder for suspected terrorists to get guns. Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association poured roughly $2.5 million into Tillis’ coffers during the 2014 election cycle.
My heart goes out to everyone affected by the horrific act of terror in Orlando. Susan & I are praying for the victims & their families.
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) June 12, 2016
The NRA and its affiliate groups spent more than $27 million in outside expenditures (which includes super PACs and “dark money” funds given by non profits) during the 2014 election cycle.
When it comes to bankrolling candidates sympathetic to the gun lobby, candidate contributions from NRA-related PACs are 85 times larger than contributions from individual donors, according to the nonpartisan donations research group Open Secrets.
And while mass shootings shootings are regularly lamented as tragic events that demand change, they give a huge boost to the bottom line of gun and ammo manufacturers.
In a documentary released earlier this year, “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA,” filmmaker Robert Greenwald explores how the lucrative gun industry and the powerful gun lobby preserve profits by scuttling legislative efforts to address even the most common-sense gun law reforms.
“In any one of these tragedies, in any one of these incidents, take away the gun and look how different the situation is,” Greenwald previously told sources.
He noted that fledgling politicians or those facing tough re-election battles are especially susceptible to the NRA’s powerful draw.
“If you’re a politician and you align with the NRA, you know you’re going to be well-funded and you’re going to have passionate people behind you,” Greenwald said.
“It’s hard to think rationally when your paycheck is written by the devil,” he added. “Not that money explains everything, but the money certainly does distort one’s perspective.”