"The NRA appears to have evolved into the lobby for gun and ammunition manufacturers rather than gun owners,” Adolphus Busch IV, of the Anheuser Busch beer fortune, wrote in a 2013 letterresigning his life membership in the N.R.A. “Your current strategic focus places a priority on the needs of gun and ammunition manufacturers while disregarding the opinions of your 4 million individual members. One only has to look at the makeup of the 75-member board of directors, dominated by manufacturing interests, to confirm my point.”NRA is campaigning to allow silencers, arguing that they reduce the hearing loss associated with gunfire.
The backdrop is several challenges faced by the gun industry. It is a mature business whose products last generations, and whose traditional constituency — hunters — is aging and shrinking, and it is also facing the kind of liability risks that struck the tobacco industry. Yet in fact, the gun industry has prospered in recent decades — in large part because it has been rescued by N.R.A. fear-mongering that drives gun owners to buy more weapons and accessories before they’re banned. This is brilliant marketing.
No one takes this public health argument seriously, but allowing silencers would be a huge boon for the gun industry. If five million Americans each bought a silencer for two firearms, it could amount to $1 billion in sales.
Moreover, most firearms today don’t have the threaded barrels needed to accommodate a silencer. So a gun owner who wanted both a rifle and a handgun with silencers would also buy two more firearms — a further benefit to the industry.
“The N.R.A. has policy positions and rhetorical positions that are aligned with where the gun industry makes its money,” notes J. Adam Skaggs of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Still, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the gun industry has hijacked the N.R.A. Mike Weisser, a gun store owner and frequent writer about gun policy, argues persuasively that it goes too far to say that the N.R.A. is controlled by gun manufacturers; he says that the gun industry and the N.R.A. work together not out of a nefarious conspiracy but because together they can maximize both N.R.A. influence and industry revenue.