Thousands of students took to the streets today for the “March For Our Lives” protests in which the demonstrators took on gun control. While the largest of the protests occurred in Trump’s backyard, Washington D.C. the President wasn’t in town to listen to them. Whether or not the President intentionally dodged the protestors is unknown but his routine visits to Mar-A-Lago really haven’t sat well with taxpayers who are footing the bill for Trump’s expensive “working” vacations.
American taxpayers handed over $6.6 million in airfare alone this year for Trump’s frequent, almost routine, visits to Mar-a-Lago. The figure was exposed in a report on Monday in The Wall Street Journal, which examined Department of Air Force records obtained by the conservative group, Judicial Watch. Since January when Trump moved into the White House, he’s spent 40 days at his Palm Beach resort, which has been nicknamed the “Winter White House.”
Examining costs other than just airfare: the government, who are funded by the American taxpayers must also pay for the protection of Trump from both the Secret Service and Coast Guard (Not included in the $6 million figure). Trump has also racked up $1.5 million a month in just the cost of airfare his own airfare before he started traveling to his New Jersey golf club in June, the Journal reports.
Additionally, during his first year as Commander and Chief, Trump visited properties that he owns more than 100 days, according to the Journal. When Trump visits a property that he owns he pays for his stay, food, and other expenses with taxpayer dollars – keeping in mind the owner of a property is the one profiting from payments made by guests Trump is literally handing over taxpayer dollars to himself.
This wild misappropriation of taxpayer dollars isn’t what the protestors are focused on today though, today they’re taking aim at an issue that’s been on the forefront of political battlegrounds for decades now. Despite the long history of gun control being mired in controversy and with the majority of Americans seeming to support common-sense reforms from the outside looking in it can be puzzling as to why gun legislation has, if anything, only loosened in the face of a huge increase in mass shootings. One might think the deadliest mass shooting in history, which happened last year in Las Vegas, would be enough to spark legislative change but it hasn’t – nor did it even get really close. Despite the vow “Never Again” being made after each and every tragedy there seems to be only one certainty – it will happen again.
Examining the underlying causes of why legislators on one side of the aisle are so opposed to implementing gun control reforms paints a bleak picture of the American political system. The gun lobby, and more specifically the NRA, is a force to be reckoned with in Washington. Without their support, it’s considered next to impossible to win office as Republican. The NRA even has a grading system with which it labels politicians, giving them a letter grade like children in school based on their support for the NRA. Marco Rubio for example, who is in good standing with the NRA, has high grade. He earned this grade through things like supporting the second amendment, ignoring the pleas of the Parkland survivors, and accepting campaign contributions from the NRA in return for legislative influence.
Let’s take a look at some of the underlying statistics surrounding the NRA’s political influence provided by the Center For Responsive Politics.
Now for a look at some of the recipients of the funds from the NRA.
For a list of all the recipients, you can click here.
Now, to take a look at some of the lobbying done by the NRA, which is where much of their real influence is seen.
For a complete list of bills lobbied for by the NRA, you can click here.
While there are often restrictions on the amounts of funds that can be donated to individual candidates the NRA really shows the weight of its influence in outside spending. From 1998 to 2017, the NRA distributed $144.3 million in outside spending, or 10 times more money than it spent on direct donations to federal candidates. With that much money being pumped into advertising and other political influencers, it’s easy to understand why the NRA wields so much power over our elected officials.
Where does Trump fit into all of this? Many have suggested that the Republican president is quite liberal compared to some members of his own party. After all, didn’t he endorse background checks and raising the minimum age for gun ownership following the Parkland shooting? The simple answer is no, he didn’t with anything other than empty words. Originally after the Parkland shooting, Trump came out saying he would push the NRA to hear the people’s voices, and that some reforms were necessary but when it came time to implement legislation there was no mention of increased background checks or an increase in the minimum age as the President had originally mentioned. Moreover, despite the massive national outcry, the legislation that came in response to the shooting was likely a huge bone for the NRA seeing as it gave certain districts the option of allowing their schools to arm their teachers with guns, something backed by the lobbying group, but had no mention of anything not supported by the National Rifle Association. While Trump made some promises, in reality, the only thing he did was further the NRA’s agenda following a year of unprecedented mass shootings.
According to the Center For Responsive Policy in the 2016 election, the NRA spent $11,438,118 to support Donald Trump—and another $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton. That’s over $31 million spent on one presidential race. Trump isn’t alone in this as some of the all-time great NRA champions have included:
Via the New York Times.
If you were wondering if anyone ever stands up to the NRA the answer is yes, but it happens infrequently and never goes unpunished by the very patient lobbying group. When Delta cut ties with the NRA, ending a discount used by 13 total people, the Lt Governor of Georgia, where Delta is headquartered, immediately revoked tax incentives for the airline giant as well as other benefits it received from the state it provides massive employment and economic benefits for. Another instance of the NRA taking revenge on those who dare to cross it was when Florida passed very minimal gun control legislation bill following the Parkland shooting. After the passage of the legislation, the NRA turned its massive media power on the Florida Speaker of the House, Richard Corcoran, accusing him of betraying his constituents among other things:
“Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran (R) is adding insult to injury by calling the betrayal of law-abiding firearms owners ‘one of the greatest Second Amendment victories we’ve ever had.’”
The NRA is also fighting the legislation in court, filing suits claiming the Florida gun control legislation is unconstitutional. While these are two of the more prominent examples of consequences ensuing for those who dare to oppose the NRA the most routine consequence for Republicans who aren’t staunchly in support of the NRA’s agenda is that they don’t get elected.
While national attention on gun control is at an all-time high, unfortunately, it likely doesn’t matter as long as Republicans control the majority in all major branches of government. For the foreseeable future, the lives of our children and the will of the people will have to take a backseat to the gun industry’s bottom line.