Opinion

A way to stop the mass killings

Una vía para acabar con las matanzas masivas

It was not because of his hefty crimes that Al Capone ended up behind bars. It was his defrauding of the treasury that finally landed the most famous American mob boss of all time in jail. By association of ideas, it could now be possible that the as opulent as questioned National Rifle Association (NRA) would be dissolved, not because of the huge number of deaths caused by their weapons by sick minds, but because of the misappropriation of funds by their top leaders. 

The NRA is an immensely wealthy organization. It is estimated that over three hundred million firearms of all kinds, from the simplest revolver to the most sophisticated machine guns, are in the hands of American citizens. They have the legal protection of the Second Amendment, drafted more than two centuries ago when self-protection was virtually the only guarantee of defense against outlaws. 

The formidable prosperity of the United States, the creation of all kinds of police, the establishment of the National Guard and the development of the most powerful army in the world have not decreased the immense arsenal of weapons in private hands, but rather their number, quality and sophistication have multiplied exponentially. That enormous quantity of weapons, the acquisition of which has almost always been as easy as buying a pen, has not always been in responsible hands. El Paso (Texas), Dayton (Ohio) have been the latest scenes of great mass shootings of individuals, suffering from at least some episode of mental imbalance. That their authors, like those in Florida or Las Vegas before them, have ended up shot down or sentenced to death or life in prison does not bring back life to the hundreds of people who had the misfortune to cross their path, or more commonly to have been in the wrong time and place. 

Clash of values... and interests

Each time one of these mass killings occurred, voices grew up calling for the abolition of the Second Amendment, or at least a change in its wording. Also, the NRA immediately raised its protests, asserting the inalienable right of every citizen to defend himself, including of course his family and private property, which are fundamental pillars of American democracy. The biggest clash occurred in December 2012 with the massacre of Sandy Hook (Connecticut), in which 20 students and 6 adults were killed. Then President Barack H. Obama promised to take measures to prevent such events from happening again. This promise was forgotten, like so many others.  

The pressure from the NRA was, as always, of an extraordinary persuasive force. It had already been so over the previous decades, especially in the wake of the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, which banned private possession of assault rifles. But the final section of the law required that the law be renewed after ten years. This did not happen - the president in 2004 was George W. Bush - and the law expired. 

The NRA now faces New York Attorney General Letitia James, not for her aggressive campaigning or for pushing the boundaries of her congressional lobbying, but for the alleged illicit diversion of funds into the pockets of its four top leaders: its executive director, Wayne LaPierre, and his deputies Wilson Woody Phillips, Joshua Powell, and John Fraze. The prosecutor accuses them of "looting" $64 million, which they have used to pay for luxury travel and all sorts of expensive gifts for themselves or their loved ones, or to provide themselves with large pension funds without the necessary authorization from the Board of Directors.

Prosecutor Letitia James has found the legal loophole to demand the dissolution of the NRA. She has discovered that it is registered in New York as a non-profit charitable organization. This registration does not match her tax returns, which she says are laced with false reports. According to the indictment, these maneuvers "have prevented our nation from taking appropriate action against gun violence," adding that abuse of power is the standard course of conduct for an NRA, which throughout its nearly 150-year history - it was founded in 1871 - has invested billions of dollars in media campaigns, advertising and lobbying lawmakers to keep the huge business of selling guns alive. At the same time, however, it considers its thousands of victims as mere "collateral damage".