NRA has his­tory of pro­mot­ing gun rights out­side US

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY LISA MARIE PANE

BOISE, Idaho — The re­cent rev­e­la­tion that Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives had met with Aus­tralian politi­cians to dis­cuss talk­ing points af­ter a mass shoot­ing gen­er­ated out­rage from var­i­ous politi­cians.

The re­al­ity is that the NRA has been ex­ert­ing its influence on gun de­bates out­side the U.S. for a num­ber of years, ex­port­ing its fire­brand rhetoric and be­lief that more guns will lead to less crime.

The lob­by­ing group has sought sway at the United Na­tions to make it eas­ier to sell Amer­i­can guns over­seas and has on more than one oc­ca­sion guided gun-rights groups in Brazil, Canada, Aus­tralia and else­where. It ad­vised gun ac­tivists in Rus­sia, en­tan­gle­ments that in re­cent years made the NRA vul­ner­a­ble to al­le­ga­tions it al­lowed alleged Rus­sian op­er­a­tives to use the or­ga­ni­za­tion to influence Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

While Amer­i­can gun rights are en­shrined in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion — some­thing that doesn’t trans­late to most coun­tries around the world — the group’s track record of aggressively shap­ing the de­bate has nev­er­the­less turned it into the go-to group for other gun-rights ac­tivists out­side the U.S.

There are sev­eral rea­sons why the NRA doesn’t con­fine it­self to the U.S.

For one, it’s help­ful to Amer­i­can gun mak­ers if other coun­tries make it eas­ier for cit­i­zens to buy and pos­sess firearms, open­ing up new mar­kets. And when other coun­tries ease re­stric­tions, it helps bol­ster one of the NRA’s most prom­i­nent mes­sages.

“They can make the ar­gu­ment, you know, ‘Look, other na­tions don’t like stricter gun laws ei­ther,’ be­cause one of the de­bate points that has hurt the NRA is that pretty much ev­ery other demo­cratic na­tion has stricter gun laws than us and lower gun own­er­ship,” said Robert J. Spitzer, chair­man of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the State Univer­sity of New York at Cort­land and a long­time watcher of the NRA.

A doc­u­men­tary aired last month by Al Jazeera re­ported of­fi­cials with Aus­tralia’s far-right One Na­tion party met with two NRA rep­re­sen­ta­tives and other gun-rights ad­vo­cates seek­ing money to un­der­mine Aus­tralian gun laws. Dur­ing the meet­ing, cap­tured on video by an un­der­cover jour­nal­ist pos­ing as a gun lob­by­ist, they ask the NRA of­fi­cials for advice on how to re­spond af­ter a mass shoot­ing. They’re told to start with si­lence and then if it per­sists, to go on the of­fen­sive.

The NRA said it met with the Aus­tralians but did not pro­vide any of the re­quested money sought at the meet­ing.

The NRA has a long over­seas track record.

Per­haps its big­gest suc­cess has been in Brazil, where the NRA worked with ac­tivists to help re­ject a ref­er­en­dum in 2005 that would have banned the sale of firearms and am­mu­ni­tion to civil­ians.

Work­ing with gun-rights ac­tivists in that coun­try, the NRA helped shape the de­bate. A turn­ing point, some ob­servers have said, was a tele­vi­sion ad that flashed scenes from key mo­ments in his­tory: Tianan­men Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Man­dela’s re­lease from prison. The ad em­pha­sized gun rights as a fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom and lib­erty.

Brazil has a low rate of gun own­er­ship — an es­ti­mated 2 mil­lion among its 59 mil­lion res­i­dents — and gun con­trol was backed by the Ro­man Catholic Church and other pow­er­ful forces in the coun­try. One poll a month be­fore the ref­er­en­dum put sup­port for it at a stun­ning 73 per­cent. It was re­jected hand­ily.

Brazil suf­fers from high crime rates, es­pe­cially in the poor ar­eas around big cities, and what res­onated were the NRA mes­sages that are fa­mil­iar to Amer­i­cans: Own­ing a gun is a fun­da­men­tal right of free­dom, and if good guys have their guns taken away, only crim­i­nals will still have them.


An em­ployee looks through the scope of long gun at a gun store in Cal­gary, Alberta, Canada. When Canada first sought to re­strict gun ac­cess in the 1990s, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion threat­ened a boy­cott by U.S. hunters spend­ing tourism dol­lars in the coun­try.


A sales­per­son checks ri­fles in a gun shop dis­play in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. Ac­cord­ing to a doc­u­men­tary aired by Al Jazeera, two Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives met with an Aus­tralian far-right po­lit­i­cal party about gun laws.

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