Alibi V.27 No.9 • March 1-7, 2018 

Guest Editorial

The NRA Has Changed—So Have I

Martin Heinrich
Martin Heinrich served as the US Representative for New Mexico's 1st Congressional District from 2009 to 2013. He currently serves in the US Senate in the seat vacated by Jeff Bingaman.

Eight years ago, the NRA supported my re-election campaign to the US House of Representatives, along with other Democratic incumbents in New Mexico. They did not support me when I ran for the US Senate in 2012, and I have since donated their 2010 contribution to charity.

I am an outdoorsman, a hunter and gun owner, and I have always supported responsible gun ownership and public safety policies. I have also been heartbroken by our inability to take even the most basic steps around gun safety and the NRA’s role in fighting them at every turn.

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary took place just a month after I was first elected to the Senate. It was one of the worst and most horrific mass shootings in American history. The American people clamored for action—anything to help reduce the threat of gun violence, especially in our schools.

The reforms people demanded were common sense and bipartisan; simple steps that would allow us to tell our children, “never again.” The president rallied to the cause, and so did many of my new colleagues. And yet when it came time to deliver real legislative change, nothing happened.

Nothing happened because the NRA opposed any common sense reforms. I watched as many of my colleagues in the House and Senate fell in line.

In my five years in the Senate, we’ve seen dozens of mass shootings. After each incident, we clamor for action. We promise ourselves, “never again.” And yet here we are again.

While it’s no secret that Congress is the most polarized it’s been in generations, it is far past time we take action to ensure we keep guns out of the hands of those that would turn them on our communities.

Since my first days in office — just after the tragedy at Sandy Hook — I have reached across the aisle to put together common sense legislation that could actually pass in this polarized environment. I have been willing to work with anyone to actually get something —anything! —done, and yet at every turn the NRA and their supporters in Congress have blocked our efforts.

I have called for expanding background checks on all commercial firearms sales, limiting magazine capacity and cracking down on straw-man gun purchases that allow guns to fall into dangerous hands. I’ve gone through the background check process enough times to know that anyone who can’t pass a background check has no business buying a firearm.

I’ve worked with my friend and Republican colleague Senator Jeff Flake to try and close the domestic violence loophole that allowed the shooter in Sutherland Springs to buy a firearm.

After the Orlando shooting, I worked feverishly with a bipartisan group of senators on a ‘No Fly No Buy’ bill to prevent those on the ‘No Fly’ list from purchasing guns —something I assume most people think is already the law. But only eight Republicans supported the bill — probably because the NRA came out against it.

Just this week I called for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment. Passed in 1996 at the NRA’s request, this amendment effectively froze all federal research into preventing gun violence. There is no reason to keep this law on the books.

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School feels like a turning point. Like so many of us, I am inspired by the students demanding lawmakers act to protect them. We need to listen to them. Since so many of my NRA-backed colleagues claim to need the facts before they can make decisions, let’s start by making sure those facts are readily available.

While the NRA hasn’t rated me for this election yet, if my work in the Senate to pass gun violence reform hasn’t earned me an F rating, I suspect this op-ed will. And that’s fine by me.

We need to get something done. How many more times can we say, “never again?” If we can’t get something as logical as keeping suspected terrorists banned from flying on planes from purchasing guns, we have to ask ourselves why. We all know it is the NRA’s influence and it is time for my colleagues to do what I have done, and that is to part ways and actually seek solutions.