The NRA: Gen Z’s Big Tobacco

Call me a privileged Aussie who benefits from strict gun laws, but I don’t like guns. Especially the big ones.

But in the US, they have a pretty different position; they love their guns. And what better way to celebrate their almost religious affinity for guns than with an association that loves to shout it from the rooftops?

Well that’s where the National Rifle Association (AKA the NRA) comes in. The NRA has been around since the 1870’s, fighting for people’s right in the US to own as many guns as they want so they can protect themselves in case their government ever goes tits up.

It’s largely the reason why common sense gun laws haven’t been enacted into law yet despite the 115,000 people that are shot every year. This rate is the highest in the developed world by a long shot. But the thing is, we’ve seen this happen before; a high rate of people dying from a preventable death. Ring any bells?

20 years ago, Big Tobacco seemed like something that was never going to fall. Impervious to public outcry and scientific research, they got to keep their advertising through smart, persistent lobbying.

That was until 1998 where an agreement was reached between Big Tobacco and 46 states in the US that ordered Big Tobacco to pay out billions of dollars worth in damages and really cut back on their marketing. The past 20 years have seen other western countries like us follow suit and increase both taxes and restrictions on the tobacco industry, and with it we’ve seen a steady decline in smoking.

The risk of cancer has been hammered home for years by public healths campaigns, and I’m sure all of us could name about 3 types of cancer caused by smoking. The persistence of these campaigns are a big reason why the pro-cigarettes agenda of Big Tobacco has been largely put to bed.

After such a long battle, it’s clear now that Big Tobacco used a number of tactics to stay one step ahead of legal castration to their booming business. Now that we know how dangerous these tactics were, we can use them to identify growing problems in our day and age that need to be addressed before they get out of hand. You know what I’m going to say next, right?

The NRA has an eerily similar approach to Big Tobacco in order to stay relevant. It’s important that we restrict the NRA so that it doesn’t get too powerful, otherwise, like Big Tobacco, more people will die from a preventable death.

There’s three ways they both use in an attempt to remain in the status quo of society: here’s the first.

“The science lies! Buy more guns!”

One big hallmark of Big Tobacco’s advertising was that doctors trusted cigarettes and they even thought cigarettes had health benefits. 

While the NRA doesn’t really rely on doctors, they do use actors in their propaganda ads to call out movements they should be a part of to discredit the movement’s reliability, like using an African American person in an advertisement against the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a pretty ironic twist considering that a lot of pro-gun advocates think crisis actors are used in real shootings.

Counterclaim to Distract

Both the NRA and Big Tobacco are quick to point out the benefits of having a surplus of tobacco or guns in the economy. The argument for cigarettes are usually centred around their economic benefit, while the NRA argues that guns bring a surplus of wealth into the American economy. People made that same argument about slavery, but clearly that wasn’t any excuse for it to continue. 


They convince the American people that a law made over 200 years ago gives not only them, but also people incapable of using a weapon like psychopaths, sexual predators and even convicted domestic violence felons the automatic right to own as many slaughtering machines as they please. There’s just no real need for this excessive amount of guns; semi-automatic weapons are way too intense to be a ‘defend yourself’ type of gun.

Endorsement from Popular Figures

At the time, Big Tobacco poured their funding into getting support from individual celebrities. Popular figures like Arthur Godfrey, Bing Crosby and even Ronald Reagan were sending cigarettes as fucking Christmas gifts!

While Big Tobacco was semi-focused on gaining the approval from big celebrities at the time, the NRA takes this to a whole new level.


To make it as a Republican politician in the US, you need a good rating from the NRA. Before a candidate is even voted in, the NRA will give a rating from A-F based on how much they care about maintaining gun laws in their current state. The higher the rating, the more funding their campaign receives from the NRA.

Conservatives are way more likely to support a candidate that supports 2nd Amendment rights. This means that conservative politicians are primed from the beginning of their careers to adhere to the NRA’s agenda and prohibit common sense gun laws from passing through the House and Senate, all the while making sure that sweet, sweet cash continues to flow from the bloodied NRA’s pockets.

To further prove my point, I could not find one politician that has ever bad-mouthed the NRA after the NRA gave them their endorsement. That goes to show just how scared the NRA has made conservative politicians.

All the while, conservative voters are seeing how effective the NRA is at keeping politicians committed to gun laws; so they keep donating to the NRA so that they can keep their 45 assault rifles. And the cycle repeats. It is vicious and unfair to people who have to live in fear of becoming another statistic or photo on the news.

Big Tobacco was tough to beat. And while the battle still rages on, we can learn a lot from how we managed to take away their power. People know the risks and are able to make an informed decision about whether or not they wanna risk their lives. The same goes for the NRA. Their power is far reaching and, frankly, fucking scary. How many more people need to die before we decide their lives are worth more than guns?

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