Suzanne Anglewicz, research attorney for the Institute for Legislative Action division of the National Rifle Association, began her seminar by acknowledging opposition to the NRA on college campuses: “Disagree with us, but at least disagree with us on the facts.”On Tuesday night, the University’s chapter of College Republicans hosted a seminar in partnership with Anglewicz to discuss the NRA, gun control debate and the Second Amendment.
NRA University, an interactive presentation on gun rights, was founded in 2008. Anglewicz said NRA U’s mission is to educate college youth on the gun control debate and Second Amendment, as well as clarify misinformation about the NRA. About 45 students gathered in the Michigan League to hear Anglewicz’s presentation.
The NRA currently has nearly five million members. Anglewicz addressed the distinction between the lobbying body of the NRA and the rest of the NRA’s work with education and safety training. Anglewicz said the NRA annually trains more than one million civilians about gun safety and has more than 125,000 firearm instructors nationwide.
“We are not the lobby for gun manufacturers and dealers,” Anglewicz said. “We are a non-profit, civil rights organization that serves people.”
While Anglewicz highlighted the education efforts by the NRA, political lobbying by the NRA has been at the forefront of national news. The Center for Responsive Politics reported the NRA spent more than $3 million on lobbying expenditures in 2019.
Anglewicz mentioned the NRA’s extensive efforts to ensure gun safety and its dedication to education.
“Even if we can’t find common ground on policies, we can always find common ground on how we can be safe and responsible gun owners,” Anglewicz said. “So, a lot of what we do is really, the majority, about safety education and training.”
LSA senior Taylor King, co-founder of Students Demand Action, an activist group dedicated to combating gun violence, said gun safety must be a priority in a conversation of gun control. King said she has done gun violence prevention work for 11 years, is a survivor of gun violence and previously worked with Moms Demand Action before launching Students Demand Action on Michigan’s campus.
“I and Students Demand Action as a whole really have no problem with members of the NRA,” King said. “We promote gun safety. We think gun ownership, it is a constitutional right, but we think there are some people who are a threat to themselves and others who probably should not have guns, and that people that do have guns should be using them safely and responsibly … If (the NRA U event’s) focus is on gun safety and gun education, more power to them.”
Anglewicz discussed the debate surrounding universal background checks. She said the term Universal Background Checks is “dangerous” because it gives the impression there are no background checks in place. She noted the NRA has been in support of the National Instant Criminal Background System, also known as NICS, since it was introduced in 1998; however, the NRA does not support H.R. 8, which requires background checks between private parties. The NRA argues this is a private transaction and opposes legislation that would enforce a universal background check requirement for gun transfers between unlicensed sellers, such as transfers between family members.
“You want to know what ‘universal’ is?” Anglewicz said. “It’s ‘I want to transfer a pistol to my father, I have to go get paperwork, run a background check on him, do all of our fingerprinting, then sell him the firearm and re-register it’ and that sort of thing. That’s what they’re calling ‘universal.’ We already have background checks.”
Anglewicz admitted current background checks fail to prevent threatening individuals from obtaining firearms, but gun reform should not come from bans on types of assault weapons.
“We already have background checks,” Anglewicz said. “They are failing. It’s a terrible system and it needs help. People who are convicted felons, adjudicated mentally ill and a danger to themselves and others, should not have access to firearms. So, this system is broken. So, instead of focusing on the system, people are talking about assault weapon bans. Congress is wasting our time with these silly things that are going to keep nobody safe.”
Anglewicz discussed the term “assault weapons” and said the term did not exist prior to 1989, calling it a “made-up political term.”
In a 2018 article, CNBC reported that the firearm industry often refers to “assault rifle” as a military weapon with “select fire capabilities,” or the capability to switch between semi-automatic or a fully automatic mode. The AR-15 only has semi-automatic settings and is therefore not an assault rifle by this definition. Anglewicz referenced rifles more powerful than the AR-15, and said despite AR-15 high profile media presence, assault weapon bans are not the most effective approaches to reform.
“Any gun can be deadly,” Anglewicz said. “But to demonize one particular rifle in the effort to ban it so they can create a slippery slope, you have to see through that. It’s very dangerous rhetoric.”
LSA freshman Nick Schuler, College Republicans freshman chairman, said he hoped the event fostered an educational dialogue about the Second Amendment and gun control debate.
“Our goal is not to convert everyone into a gun lover, but just to have more understanding on campus,” Schuler said. “We think it’s very important to understand both sides of the political spectrum no matter where you lie, and to create more of a culture and foster a good campus that has diversity of thought.”
Reporter Callie Teitelbaum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.