Table of contents:
1 The history of settlement in the U.S
2 The Second Amendment
3 Development of arms
4 Economic factor of the weapon Industry
6 Politics and Lobbyism
“All Democrats want to get rid of dark money, but we have to win to reform campaign finance. Everyone is realizing that in order to do that, we need a shit ton of money.”1
Ian Sams, the Democratic strategist mentioned this during the recent situation, concerning the 2020 presidential elections. The democratic candidates fought together against the “corruption” caused by several organisations wanting to influence the politics. They all wanted to deny the so called Super PACs, which is an opportunity for the very rich population of America to influence the politics. But now Elizabeth Warren, one democratic candidate who only said one week ago that she will always be against these corrupt campaigns, just received an amount of money from a Super PAC. This shows how difficult it is to reject offers like these. They are nearly forced to accept theme.
These shocking information were published during the research of this school essay. This affair is reinforcing the importance of this topic even more. One of these organisations, which influence the political situation is the National Rifle Association, NRA. It frightened me, considering their strong input on the US policy. I never thought that big businesses and politics can be connected in such an undaunted way.
1 The history of settlement in the U.S
In order to understand the American spirit, it seems of importance to present a short review of the American history. North America has been shaped by a series of immigration waves, conflicts and occupations. As matter of fact, Christopher Columbus had not been the first discoverer of North America, for several ethnic groups immigrated to the continent from Asia during the ages. After the arrival in 1492, Columbus initialized the process of European colonization, dominated by Spain, Portugal, England and France. In 1620 the next major wave of immigration followed by the so called ‘Pilgrim fathers’ who came in pursuit of religious freedom. They sailed aboard the Mayflower to the ‘New World’ and landed on November 21, 1620 at Plymouth on Cape Cod. Before the Pilgrims left the ship, they had signed an agreement, the “Mayflower Compact” being “the authority by which the settlers made their own laws and chose their own officials”. In 1765, the British passed the so called “Stamp Act”. By force of this act, a tax stamp had to be placed on newspapers and any other paper which imposed a tax on the colonies without involvement of the colonial legislative bodies. Afterwards, it came to further acts like the Sugar and Quartering Act. All these laws were refused by the colonists on the basis of the principle “No taxation without representation” and escalated into the famous “Boston Tea Party” in 1733. As a reaction of this “act of rebellion”, patriot leaders from all 13 colonies convened the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance. When the British tried to arrest the patriot leaders in 1775, they triggered the American Revolution war.
Under the leadership of General George Washington, this war had been won by the colonies, so that the British army retreated in November 1783. The new nation was founded on the principles of liberalism and individual rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, rejecting any aristocracy and corruption. Moreover, it was based on the strong religious conviction that the United States were a special and “chosen nation” which had received its cavaliers and rights as a ‘direct gift’ from God. As consequence every man had not only a right but also a moral duty to defend such rights and values. Finally, in 1791 the United States Bill of Rights was signed.
2 The Second Amendment
The first ten amendments of the US-Constitution were found in the Anglo-American history as part of the Magna Carta of 1215. All of the Amendments included several rules and regulations for an individual . The Second Amendment reads as follows:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”2
This law had been written by James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, who had not regarded some specific aspects, which led to remarkable misinterpretation. First of all, the definition can raise to question, whether this law concerns everyone in general or only the American citizens. This might exclude Afro-Americans and Indians. The second important aspect Madison had not expected, was the huge development and progress of technical weapons. Therefore, he used the words “A well regulated Militia”. Nowadays, even the M16 assault rifle is classified under the US constitution as a “well regulated Militia” and is practically available in each weapon store in America or can be easily ordered online. In 1791, Madison created a right only considering weapons which were capable to shoot at least three shots per minute. The technical advance of nowadays weapons, which shoot up to 950 shots per minute, as the M16, depending on the model, was not even imaginable for James Madison.
3 Development of arms
The Second Amendment allowed the weapons to develop even more. In the early days the American Long Rifle was used a lot by the American Settlers because of its accuracy. But of course more and more weapons were invented. The first semi-automatic and automatic weapons were invented in the 20th century by John Moses Browning. Of course, these have been developed over the last century and new versions have been invented. Today, the M-16 machine guns are in use in America. In contrast to the American Long Rifle, these can fire not only three but up to 900 shots.3 But not only fire arms have developed. The much more dangerous weapons such as tanks, missiles, aircrafts or naval units were extremely researched due to the two world wars in the 20th century and used by most countries. Due to the huge development started to rise rapidly. Nowadays the equipment of the American Military comprises thousands of different ground units, aircrafts and naval units. An example for the high prices of these weapons is the Nimitz CVZ. This aircraft carrier has an unbelievable price of 7 billion dollars.4 According to these facts it is obvious that this must have an impact on the economy. This will be discussed in the next aspect.
4 Economic factor of the weapon Industry
The arm industry in America is a key factor of the economy. This is obvious because America is the world's largest arms exporter. This is partly due to the fact that the three biggest weapon manufacturers are based in America. Their names are Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.5 In 2001 alone, these companies created $ 100 billion and hired 400,000 people. Since then the weapon industry expanded even more and especially the Trump Administration pushed the development forwards. From the start, Trump saw himself as a promoter of the American defence industry. He increased military spending by more than 10 percent and promoted American armaments products while traveling. As an example his first trip to Saudi Arabia was in May 2017. To form a coalition against Iran and Israel, but also to announce a major arms deal. In addition to the many jobs created by these sales, the economy is of course enormously strengthened.6
To come back to the three biggest defence companies it must be said, that the weapons production is actually not their main business sector. Nevertheless putting the focus on Electronic Systems, Information Technology, Space & Communications distinguish those companies are the biggest arm producers and vendors. Referring to the statistics of Stanford University about weapon exports, they are exporting weapons which have a price up to $93 billion to Asia and the Near East. If every country in the world stopped buying US arms, the annual loss would reach $13 trillion. Nevertheless, the demand of an enlarged military arsenal keeps increasing all the time, which reinforces the American economy more and more. In 2000, $ 157 billion arm sales were made worldwide. 60% of this amount went to American companies because of their enormous influence . 8 of the 10 largest arms companies are American. This is the reason for the extremely large market share of the Americans in the arms industry.7
But America is not only exporting military goods. Most importantly a huge amount of weapon systems are sold to the American ministry for Defence which purchased military goods for about 122 billion Dollars in 2017.8 On the private sector handguns are very popular and gain high profits for their producing companies. Accordingly, the Second Amendment allows every American to bear arms. In 2019 around 310000 thousand jobs were created due to these sales. Since 2008, the economic impact of handguns, firearms and ammunition sales increased by 171%. This means that in 2018 the total output was 52,1 billion dollars, while in 2008 it was by 19,1 billion dollars.
Resuming the importance of this economic branch, a strong troop of lobbyists might protect and enlarge the interests of the military goods producers and their associations, influencing politicians and other decision leaders.
“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun”
In 1871, the National Rifle Association was founded by William Conant Church and George Wood Wintage. The ancient veterans formed this association with the goal to “promote and encourage rifle shooting basis” and to train the handling of weapons as well as skilled soldiers. Therefore, the US would be better prepared for prospective wars and attacks, due to qualified troops. The fact that the first president of the NRA was general and governor Ambrose Burnside, proves that there have already been strong political connections. In the early days , the NRA did not only built up sport shooting clubs or hunting amalgamations. Moreover, NRA youth program was also financed by the State of New York. This program introduced a huge amount of children in the USA to several sport shooting events. In 1934, the Legislative Affairs Division was founded, protecting the Second Amendment which was disputed multiple times. One of NRA’s main goals is also trying to prevent any restriction of this civil right helped by political connections. In addition, the NRA informed the American citizens, that the Second Amendment is essential for self-protection. After both World Wars, NRA focused on the hunting community, because this sector was getting more popular, as well as the so-called firearms education. At police stations, the association introduced training sessions named “NRA Police Firearms Instructor Certification Program” for a law enforcement. They organized courses for civilians as well as for children in kindergartens and preschools. The civilians have been trained how to handle all kind of weapons.9
Due to these programs the NRA gained a big amount of members, which reached five million in the last years. Therefore the NRA was able to receive up to 350 million dollars in 2013. But this money did not just come together because of several programs and shooting events. Donations are an important financial arm for the NRA. Mostly, average people are donating small amounts of money to the NRA. They just want the current laws concerning the Second Amendment, stay as there are. The NRA gives a special recognition to the “best” donators by putting them on a list for the most loyal members. But not only normal citizens are giving money to the NRA. The actual important donators are coming from the gun Industry and often exceed the donation limit by far. Millions of dollars are donated to the NRA by these companies. This is possible since 2010, when the Supreme Court decided that companies are able to donate because it is seen as an expression of opinion. The NRA is working together with the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). This organisation is the lobbying arm of the NRA next to the so called PACs.10 How these organisations work and what their duty is, is going to be explained in the next aspect.
1 Kevin Robillard: How Super PACs took over the 2020 Democratic Primary, 2020 (online) (02.03.2020)
2 Waldman 2014
3 History.com Editors: Firearms, 2018 (online, 09.02.2020)
4 Modern Day Pricing List, (online, 09.02.2020)
5 The U.S industry and arms sales, (online, 09.02.2020)
6 Florian Rötzer, Schaffen Waffenexporte viele heimische Arbeitsplätze?, 2019 (online, 09.02.2020)
7 The U.S industry and arms sales, (online, 09.02.2020)
8 Ivo Mijnssen: Wofür das Amerikanische Militär 700 Milliarden ausgibt, 2017 (online, 21.02.2020)
9 About the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, (online, 16.02.2020)
10 Blake Ellis, Melanie Hicken: The money powering the NRA, 2015 (online, 21.02.2020)