The National Rifle Association is facing a new adversary in the form of a political action committee formed by parents in a Florida community scarred by a school massacre.
Families vs Assault Rifles aims to defeat the electoral ambitions of congressional candidates bankrolled by the gun rights lobby and is seeking amendments to the National Firearms Act of 1934, including a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons.
“NRA-supporting politicians have a decision to make: do they want to accept the NRA’s filthy blood money?” Jeff Kasky, a co-founder of the committee, said. “If they do, we will shine a big fat spotlight on the fact that they are selling their vote to a nefarious, unprincipled organisation that exists only to enrich its executive board. It’s a vicious cycle between certain politicians and the NRA — and we are going to break that cycle.”
His sons, Cameron, 17, and Holden, 15, are pupils at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where 17 teenagers and staff were shot dead by an assailant armed with an AR-15 rifle in February. Cameron co-founded March for Our Lives, a pupil-led protest movement that has become a powerful voice in America’s gun reform debate.
Gun stores are now taking online orders for a more powerful weapon, the Gilboa Snake, a double-barrelled version of the AR-15.
Families vs Assault Rifles registered as a political action committee two weeks ago, on the day that ten pupils and teachers were shot dead at Santa Fe High School near Houston. President Trump visited some of the survivors of the shooting yesterday, but caused controversy by telling reporters as he boarded Air Force One for the trip to Texas that he was “going to have a little fun”.
The committee is soliciting $17 donations from supporters, representing the 17 lives lost at the Florida school. In the first few hours after its launch yesterday it received thousands of payments.
Mr Kasky, a lawyer, said that the committee would spend against congressional candidates backed by NRA money, bombarding media with advertising to expose their financial ties.
The NRA’s wealth has made it influential in US politics. It has spent $132 million over the past 15 years on supporting pro-gun candidates in elections, including Mr Trump’s campaign for office in 2016. Mr Trump said in March that he was ready to defy the NRA by banning bump stocks — accessories fitted to semi-automatic rifles to boost their firepower — and raising the age for buying a gun, but he has since backtracked.
Ted Nugent, 69, an NRA director, has dismissed the Parkland pupils calling for reform as mushy-brained children who have no soul.