While the nation's preeminent gun-rights organization met last week amid internal turmoil, another mass shooting unfolded involving one of the very weapons whose possession the National Rifle Association blindly defends. It was a timely reminder of why the NRA's potentially existential troubles are a sign of hope for America.
The internal fight has pitted NRA President Oliver North, a convicted felon, against Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who has taken the organization from its original mission advocating for gun-safety and sports-shooting to become the destructive force against firearms sanity that it is today.
Money woes hound the NRA, almost certainly because of public abhorrence over mass shootings and the organization's shameful silence about them. Meanwhile, questions abound about the group's connections to Russian interference in U.S. elections. The organization's nonprofit status is facing renewed scrutiny in New York. May its disintegration continue with all due haste.
America's culture of gun violence can't be laid entirely at the NRA's feet, but the organization has paralyzed U.S. politics to the point that addressing it has become all but impossible. For decades, the NRA has relentlessly promoted the myth that the Second Amendment prohibits rational gun control, looping even the U.S. Supreme Court into this once-exotic interpretation.
The NRA continues to protect outrageous loopholes in federal background-check regulations, giving felons a pathway to guns. The group has all but taken the GOP hostage, demanding that every Republican candidate adopt the most extreme possible position on every gun-related issue.
Still, much of the NRA's power is a bluff. Its claim of 5 million dues-paying members is a sliver of the estimated 75 million Americans who own guns — and most gun owners disagree with the NRA on issues like universal background checks.
The power struggle between LaPierre and North (of Reagan-era Iran-contra infamy) is a tawdry grudge match involving allegations of sexual harassment and extortion. But it appears to have been exacerbated by the organization's fiscal, legal and public relations problems.
As the rift was coming into public view last week — culminating in North's announcement he wouldn't seek another term as NRA president — America got a reminder of why the organization's demise can't come soon enough.
A teenager wielding an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle opened fire in a San Diego-area synagogue Saturday, killing a 60-year-old woman and wounding three others. It's a testament to the national trauma the NRA has helped foment that most Americans hearing the story might immediately marvel that the body count was so low.
The AR-15, the go-to gun for mass shooters, is patterned after military weaponry; it has no logical hunting or self-defense function. But just about anyone can buy one, with no waiting and no background check.
That's the NRA's doing. The faster the accountants and lawyers close in, the better.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH