Values and Priorities

Breaking the NRA

We know that it’s possible to reduce gun violence and the lethality of mass shootings in America. The states in our country with the strongest gun safety laws, including New Jersey, have the fewest firearm deaths. Experience and common sense tell us that measures such as banning military-style assault rifles and high capacity magazines, universal background checks, limiting ammunition purchases, “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement agencies to seize guns from people who show signs of violence, and encouraging development of safer gun technology can save lives. None of these steps would violate the 2nd Amendment. After every senseless gun massacre, we’re reminded that the vast majority of Americans, including the majority of gun owners, support taking these kinds of actions.

So why is nothing done? Because the majority of Americans who support sensible gun safety policies have not mobilized to punish politicians who block them. And because the NRA gun lobby has gotten away with the lie that it is a mainstream organization representing gun owners in America. In fact, it is a radical group promoting crackpot conspiracy theories, which takes millions of dollars in dark money, including from Russia, to turn Americans against our government, our law enforcement institutions and each other

It is time to build a broad alliance of concerned Americans to stop the slaughter of our children, uniting parents who fear for the lives of their kids, students who want to feel safe at school, military veterans who understand that civilians should not have weapons of war, police officers who don’t want to be outgunned by criminals, and law abiding citizens who own guns for hunting and self defense but support sensible gun safety protections. We can respect each other, respect the Constitution, including the 2nd Amendment, and still agree that the use and ownership of guns should be subject to as much regulation as drinking a beer or driving a car.

It is also time to make clear that the NRA does not speak for patriotic Americans of any party. What kind of organization incites FBI agents to resist their leadership for trying to enforce the law, as NRA head Wayne LaPierre did earlier this week? What kind of organization urges its armed members to start “coming for” journalists who criticize its work, as the NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch did last year? What kind of organization opposes denying guns to people on the terrorism watch list, as the NRA did when Congress tried to close this loophole in 2016? What kind of American organization pals around with Russians tied to organized crime and corruption, as the NRA has done for several years, while refusing to disclose who donates the millions it spends to influence our elections?

It is also well past time to ask: what kind of politician takes money from that kind of organization? There is room for respectful disagreement on gun safety policies. But any member of Congress – including Leonard Lance -- who takes money from the NRA is complicit in its extremist agenda and facilitation of unlawful foreign influence in our democracy. Those who refuse to return the NRA’s checks must be held accountable for it this November 

As a candidate for Congress, I will not take money from the gun lobby or any organization that refuses to disclose the source of its contributions. I will continue work I started as a State Department official to pass legislation that prohibits setting up anonymously owned shell companies in the United States, that can be used to make anonymous political contributions through organizations like the NRA. The alliance of dark money, foreign influence, and the gun lobby must be broken – to safeguard our children and our country.

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