Spending and Shopping with the NRA

Today the NRA issued its official response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. As you’re likely aware the core of that response—a public, no-questions-afterward statement read by the organization’s Vice President Wayne LaPierre—was this statement:

I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation.

We’re sure Mr. LaPierre knows what he’s doing. After all, in 2010 he was being paid $845, 469 a year to do it. So surely he and the other NRA leaders have diligently thought this recommendation all the way through.

But what the heck. Let’s try a little of that ourselves, shall we?

So as of May 2008 the national median salary for police officers was $51,410. Given the state of our economy for the last four years, let’s assume that salary hasn’t since risen (though I certainly hope that it has). On top of that salary let us assume a 30% benefits page. That’s another $15,423.

So the price for each of the officers that we would deploy to our schools would be $66,833 annually. Each of those officers generates training, equipment, supervision, and administrative costs. So let’s add another 10% ($6,683) to the cost of deploying them. That brings us to a total cost of $73,516 per officer per year.

There are 132,183 schools in America. So that’s $73,516 x 132,183 schools, which brings us to a total annual cost of $9,717,565,428 for putting for one officer in each of our schools.

Now, that’s only one officer per school. That hardly seems like enough security to achieve the “absolute protection” Mr. LaPierre enjoins us to strive for, does it? After all, there were two armed law enforcement agents present at the Columbine High School tragedy, in which fifteen people were killed and twenty-three wounded.

Clearly we’re going to need more than one armed officer per school.

So let’s see. There are 55,100,000 American school students. There are approximately 24 students per classroom. That makes for about 2,295,833 classrooms total. Putting one cop in each of those classrooms means spending $168,781,172,083 dollars per year.

Boy. That’s pretty steep. America—not to mention America’s schools—aren’t exactly flush these days. So, as we are all doing now anyway, let’s scale back a bit.

Let’s make it one cop for every five classrooms. That seems safe enough, doesn’t it?

So we have $168,781,172,083 divided by 5. That equals $33,756,234,417.00.

So effectively implementing the NRA’s plan would mean spending between $34 and $170 billion dollars per year—but would hardly be worth doing if we didn’t spend about $34.7 billion.

At first blush that might seem like an amount that no fiscally responsible person with a sophisticated understanding of our national economy would put forth in such a manner at such a time. But we’re talking about the NRA here. They’re hardly financial amateurs. According to the group’s 2010 tax return, the NRA has an annual revenue of about 227.8 million. That’s pretty good for a non-profit organization.

So what makes them so financially successful, you ask? For one, the NRA receives substantial funding from gun manufacturers. This year the guns and ammunition industry is on schedule to earn $11.7 billion in sales and $993 million in profit. And as the good people at The Center for Public Integrity have kindly pointed out, any number of gun-manufacturing mucky-mucks are also on the NRA’s board of directors. And don’t concern yourself worrying about any kind of conflict of interest there. Would the NRA be so open about its hand-in-hand relationship with the gun industry if there was anything improper about that relationship? Of course not. Why, on the NRA website just now is prominently displayed this peaceful image:

See? The NRA and Smith & Wesson are just as cozy as two shells in a shotgun—and neither cares who knows it. Click on the image above (on their site, I mean), and you get shot directly to the NRA Women’s Network Smith & Wesson website, which looks likes this:

Note the button on the lower left urging visitors to join the NRA. Again, if this sort of cozy intermingling between a for-profit and non-profit organization doesn’t bother the government officials who oversee the IRS, why should it concern you or me?

In addition to contributions from gun manufacturers, the NRA also does a brisk online retail business. At the online NRA store you can buy such items as the NRA Tactical Bipod Foregrip. (“One-handed operation means you can quickly switch from close-combat foregrip mode to longer-range prone support.”):

Or how about this nifty Steer Clear Vehicle Holster Mount, which lets you keep your gun right underneath your steering wheel? How handy is that? After all, as the ad copy says, “The open road is a dangerous place for the unprepared.” And there’s no way your knees would ever hit this!

Speaking of being frustratingly unprepared, how many times have you thought, “Dangnabbit, I wish I had a firearm strapped to my ankle”? Well, you’ll never think that again after you purchase the:

Or maybe that wouldn’t work all the time for you; maybe you wear shorts or a dress to work. In that case, you’ll definitely be wanting this Dwight Shrute must-have:

Sometimes, though, a gun just doesn’t feel right for a job that needs being done right. For those times when you’re in the mood for an approach a little more direct, try The Lacerator Machete. How can you resist, once you’ve learned it features “a naturally relaxed wrist position for thrusting”?

And The Lacerator comes with a “four-way leather sheath,” so that you, too, can enjoy doing whatever this guy’s about to do:

And finally, of course, we cannot forget the one thing no responsible gun owner should ever be without:

Anyway, it’s clear the NRA understands how to make and handle money.

Some have called Mr. LaPierre’s statement nothing more than an opportunistic attempt to use the senseless murder of twenty young children to ultimately further increase profits for itself and the gun manufacturers it represents. But is it really reasonable to think that the NRA could be that morally bereft?

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  • charles

    San Diego is doing a gun buyback at the moment- certainly a good thing- It is paying $50 dollars per rifle or shotgun and $100 per handgun or assault rifle. at a cost of 33Billion dollars, it would be possible to buy back the 330 million legally held guns in America for $100 dollars each…. I have no idea of how many illegal guns there are though… but certainly getting any of them out of circulation wouldnt hurt.

    the question for any of those things are of course. who gets to pay for the buyback?

  • Jill H

    Self-restraint is my watchword… I’m trying not to get too amped-up about the humanity-deficient types buying and selling fear. The only thing I can say right now is that ache for the children who are waiting for the adults to step up and make them safer than this.

  • Jill H

    And I *don’t* mean armed security forces in their schools.

  • To summarize the NRA response:

    Fewer imaginary guns + more real guns = profit safety!!

    What’s sad is that I have relatives in the NRA who I know in point of fact would support restrictions on assault weapons and other laws, but the people at the top couldn’t care less, for precisely the reasons you outline here.

  • Allie

    My primary argument against armed police in schools is that we have them already at most Memphis schools, and they aren’t used for security, they are used to control the children. We get weekly crime reports from our schools in the paper. Offenses that used to get you sent to the principal’s office for “a licking” now get you put in jail. Whatever you may feel about corporal punishment in schools, surely you agree that a paddling is better than ruining a child’s future by dragging him off to be arrested?

  • Allie

    Bigger question is who would sell a $500 gun for $50?

  • n.

    that is a seriously NICE machete. Where my husband comes from they use those around the yard for dealing with pesky shrubbery. But maybe not such a fancy one like that…

  • n.

    Great point… I had forgotten about the “school-to-prison pipeline” which is a real threat to the future of many populations of kids in this country.

  • n.

    Yeah those ones the shooter used were selling for like $500 to 1k at walmart, right?! being a hippie, i had no idea guns were so expensive…

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    Thank you, John! I don’t know why I’m at all surprised by the NRA response, but I was hoping that they would be at least somewhat reasonable. It’s official – they care more about guns than humanity.

  • Dave Bowling

    Thank you John for posting this.

    Although I do not mean to get into a political discussion about this here, but the NRA appears to be a large supporter of GOP candidates in elections. I always have heard these candidates support ‘less government’ involvement/intervention in our lives and less restrictions. So where is their logic to ask for more government involvement in order to provide an armed guard at each school?

    I was really hoping that the NRA’s statement would be much better than what it actually turned out to be.

  • Lymis

    Setting aside both the cost and the absurd moral implications, the other huge issue for me is the idea that we’d be paying these people to actually be doing something.

    I don’t in any way want to minimize the incredible tragedy involved for everyone associated with Sandy Hook, but it was a thing that happened in one school on one day and isn’t likely to be repeated there, and there was no warning that it would happen.

    This “solution” involves having armed people paid to stand around all day, every day, everywhere, ready to leap into action on a moment’s notice for something that is, statistically speaking, never going to happen.

    The schools where this happened were unspeakable tragedies. But we are speaking how many schools that didn’t and haven’t had such incidents? We’re talking well over 132,000 schools here. How in the world are these people supposed to stay on edge all day every day, and be ready in an instant? And what keeps the next killer who, knowing that there will be an armed cop on duty, from simply taking that necessarily bored and unsuspecting cop out first before opening up on whoever they’ve targeted?

  • Kool-Aid, of course.

  • Steve Ramsdale via Facebook

    So, more guns is the answer. I am British. This makes no sense to me.

  • Al

    It occurs to me, as well, to think about what might happen if a shooter and an armed guard started shooting at each other across a crowded school room. How many would be killed in the crossfire?

  • Al

    The best idea I’ve come across so far is from someone named Jeff Johnson who said, “I suggest we place a teacher in every gun shop”.

  • mike moore

    To show the respect the topic is due, the answer to the question you pose at the end is, sadly and absolutely: Yes.

    As a Zevon fan, I can only add … “Dad, get me out of this. Heh!”

  • (I was gonna call it, “The shit has hit the fan.”) [For people who don’t know, that’s a line from the song Warren Zevon song “Lawyers, Guns and Money” (I think that’s the title of the song), off … the album of his that has on it his hit “Werewolves of London.” If anyone cares/is even vaguely interested, that album, along with Zevon’s earlier “Warren Zevon,” are two of the albums I’ve most listened to in my life. They’ve just been … a constant for me for some 35 years. TMI, I know. But there it is.]

  • This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetically sad…

  • David S

    Fruendly Reader-

    The whole conversation is mind shredding. I’ve seen recent polls that suggest your relatives’ views are shared by the majority of NRA members. So why are we even discussing reducing access to the tools of mass murder? It’s such a vivid reminder that money and influence often trump concern for people (including their very lives).

    So. Very. Very. Sad.

  • You don’t have to be British for it to make no sense to you.

  • charles

    actually the gun buybacks are usually reasonably successful…. I think actually a $100 recycle fee would be a great add on levy for gun purchases…

    one interesting point about the NRA thing though- the NRA according to La Pierre has 4 million members…. there are 330 million legal gun in the publics hand now…

  • mike moore

    “… and his hair was perfect.”

    Album: Excitable Boy. In 1978, my Sr. year, Zevon was a guest during the break at a Jackson Brown concert in Santa Barbara, one of The Best Concerts Ever. (Better get ready, to rock steady … when Johnny strikes up the band.)

  • vj

    This is astonishing! As someone who works in education (not in the US), the first question that springs to mind is “how are children supposed to learn in an environment policed by armed officers?”… I get twitchy when I’m near an ATM being restocked with cash by armed security (I always give them a wide berth), and the sight of armed police patrolling Heathrow airport gave me the serious heebie-jeebies – I cannot fathom how anyone is supposed to concentrate on learning when there are guns around all the time! 🙁

  • Luke

    That steering wheel holster just stuns me. What a great way to turn a routine traffic stop into a tragedy, or at least a tense situation. In NC w/ permit one is supposed to keep one’s hands on the wheel and inform the officer that you have a permit and a weapon, and where it is concealed. How is the officer supposed to render that situation safe with the gun under the steering column? That turns a “license and registration please” into “hands behind your head and get out of the car slowly”, and really messy if the door is locked or the window closed.

  • Mark Godsey via Facebook

    The NRA has belied its inherent insanity…….let the demise begin.

  • Benjamin Sullivan via Facebook

    I am not old enough to remember this myself, but I am told that once upon time the NRA and many gun manufacturers once supported gun-control….

  • brilliant.

  • That’s a fact, Benjamin. That changed in the 70’s.

  • Richard Lubbers

    Never mind about the prophets of God when you have the obvious profits of mayhem. Gun sales eclipse the conscience of America for reasons not lost on the NRA. Long live the violence that nets record sales of American made products.

  • Matt

    I remember the freakout after Columbine. I remember everyone looking for someone to blame, whether “devil music,” violent video games, or what have you. I was in high school during “zero tolerance” where people got expelled for having little (toy plastic) gun key chains. I am used to seeing an armed officer in my school already; the NRA doesn’t need to make it happen. I remember “intruder drills,” where we had to hide, and the principal came down banging on every door to make sure it was locked. Every time, someone wants a sweeping solution. Every time, people make dramatic statements that never get anything done except make them look good. Every time, people just seem to forget themselves in the scramble to make the shooters (and their families) irredeemable monsters and themselves the savior who will fix it all.

    We are doing everything we know how to, and I don’t think people will stop dying in school shootings. It’s not guns, it’s not lack of guns, it’s not security officers or lack thereof. It’s somebody who makes a choice and we have to pay for it. I know that’s a scary thought, but it’s the truth. The world is risky, and we just have to be grateful for those we have.

  • The ads are stunningly revolting.

  • Shirley Valleroy Buntin via Facebook

    did you figure in insurance premiums, y’know for injuries, accidental shootings, etc?

  • Ken Leonard via Facebook

    Huh. Using Steve’s logic, I think that I might be British.

  • No! I should have! I only did standard benefits and more-than-reasonable admin costs. But … yeah, really good point.

  • Judy Volkar

    First question… Did your spleen explode when you heard the NRA statement? I expected it to be stupid, but he exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds!

    But to take his insanity to a logical conclusion, the only way I can reasonably see to make this plan work financially is to tax very single gun in the country to pay for it. You would have to include, of course the administrative costs of the taxation in the tax itself.

    I would move to Canada if it weren’t so cold…

  • In guns we trust.

  • Oh. My. Goodness.

    That is THE best response.

  • No, no, no …

    Good guys ™ always hit the bad guy, just like in the movies!

    Of course, I suspect that if Wayne LaPierre, whose love of patriotism and guns never seems to have led him to serve in the military, met a real bad guy he’d do little but wet himself.

  • My spleen didn’t so much explode so much as slowly start biliously leaking. (Good to hear from you, Judy!)

  • Andy Bury

    When you calculate the cost of a security guard, you have to take into consideration the overhead of the security company, which is probably a multiplier of between 2-2.5. That means that if you’re starting salary is right, then you are way too low. However, security guards are typically paid less than policemen, so maybe you’re OK. Salary.com put’s it at between $25-$32,000 a year, so the actual cost to the schools would be around $50,000 to $64,000/year, minimum.

    So what. It’s still a stupid idea for so many other reasons.

  • They’ve also trotted out the violent video games argument. Hasn’t that already been debunked?

  • Donald Rappe

    The NRA, like any corporation is an organization, not a person, and is thus incapable of having a conscience or morals, either reft or bereft. Just as companies try to profit, non-profits try to increase their fund balance. This is the force that drives them, not conscience. To influence them one must affect their bottom line. A fair way to deal with this kind of situation is to build the cost of repairing or compensating for the damage done by bullets into the bullets. I’ve always wondered who’s going to retrieve all that poisonous lead that’s being shot into the woods and fields. Not to mention the damage to people. The proportionate cost should be built into each bullet and paid when the bullet is sold. the freedom to shoot responsibly should involve being responsible for paying for the damage that shooting does. At present these social parasites are passing this expense off on the taxpayers. Until every penny of it is built into the price of a bullet, the present disasterous situation will continue.

  • I just read where some idiot shot a bunch of firemen responding to a structure fire. It’s time to do something! I admit I don’t own guns and probably don’t understand their allure, but this is not Buffalo Bill and the wild west times anymore. It’s time to grow up kiddies and have some reasonable dialogue and action on a monstrous problem that the NRA helped to create.

  • Well, you don’t have to be a member of the NRA to own a gun.

  • Sadly, it’s true. You could disarm all citizens, but those who want to shoot up a school (or shoot firefighters as they are doing their jobs 🙁 ) will find a way to do it. It is not the guns. It is people who make inhuman decisions.

    As a woman, I was raised to watch around me at all times, to be aware that someone might attack me. I have been taught to not make myself a target and I know how to do that. It’s sad that I have to know how to do that, but the reality is, people rape. People mug. People kill.

    I’m not against putting measures in place to limit access to guns, allowing citizens to only purchase small cartridges, making mental health care affordable and available to all citizens. These things may indeed thwart many tragedies. But we have to understand, nothing we do will ever avoid them all. Nothing will make us 100% completely safe ever. Because, as John says over and over, human beings have free will.

  • I don’t believe the NRA was around when the 2nd Amendment was ratified by Congress. So I wouldn’t say the NRA created this problem.

    Vilifying legal gun owners is not going to help. We have to figure out how to stop CRAZY. Until we can stop crazy, we’re going to have these tragedies. If you came across a gun, would you go shoot firefighters as they do their job? Of course not. Because you’re not CRAZY.

  • one has to wonder if the Mayans weren’t right and we are simply living in the hell of our own creation….

  • charles

    the guy also murdered his grandmother and had served 18 years in prison for the crime….

  • Brilliant John. Thanks for your research. I could not be so restrained. But your style has a way of making people think better than outright clobber language. I wish you a Merry Christmas despite the news.

  • Except that there are plenty of countries with plenty of crazy that don’t have a miniscule fraction of the gun violence we do. I’m living in one right now (Japan), and it makes me feel much safer than I ever did in America.

    And you can cry out “Second Amendment!” as much as you like – yes, the founders put it into the constitution. They also included slavery and only allowing white property-owning men over the age of 21 the ability to vote. So unless you can give me a better reason why people need semi-automatic weapons or easy access to concealed weapon licenses or even easy access to guns period (I think we should have a very stringent licensing system; it should be tougher to use a weapon than it is to use a car), then I don’t care what the Second Amendment says. There are ways of changing the constitution, and if the Second Amendment is standing between us and our safety, than I say we modify or even eliminate it.

  • Anonymous

    Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.

    “Improving access to mental health care” and “improving gun control” are not mutually exclusive solutions, you know. Personally, I am all for both.

  • Completely agree.

  • I’m not a fan of governmental entities being the only ones with firearms. Not to mention times when the government can’t help you. During the LA riots in 1992, Korean store owners desperately called for the police as their stores and families were atttacked (with guns) by looters. They very quickly realized the police weren’t coming and begand to defend their families and properties themselves (with guns). Sometimes the government just can’t be there for you. People have a right to defend themselves.

    And I agree that getting a gun and a license to carry concealed should be at least as difficult as getting a drivers license. I have no problem with that.

    How is the crazy expressed in Japan?

  • I’m not a fan of governmental entities being the only ones with firearms. Not to mention times when the government can’t help you. During the LA riots in 1992, Korean store owners desperately called for the police as their stores and families were atttacked (with guns) by looters. They very quickly realized the police weren’t coming and begand to defend their families and properties themselves (with guns). Sometimes the government just can’t be there for you. People have a right to defend themselves.

    Aaaand if the looters hadn’t had guns? And if we didn’t have the institutional racism that led to the the LA riots in the first place?

    Violence doesn’t just “happen.” You treat gun violence (and, in another comment, rape) like it’s a natural disaster, you just have to prepared for the inevitable. Bull pucky. That kind of fatalistic attitude is a large part of why nothing is ever done in this country about guns.

    How is the crazy expressed in Japan?

    They have universal health care for starters, which picks up a lot of the problems.

    But when the worst weapon you can get is a knife, that means that when one of the fast food places here experienced a rash of stick-ups, no one was ever killed. It means that when one sad, disturbed young man decided to go on a rampage in the most crowded area of Tokyo, he did manage to kill about 6 people, but (1) it was shocking and virtually unheard of rather than a daily occurrence and (2) he would have killed scores if he’d had a gun in a place as packed as Akihabara.

    Gun violence is preventable. And a major part of that is fewer guns. But in order to achieve that, people have to stop just assuming that “gun violence happens.” It doesn’t.

    Oh, and not being comfortable with the government only having guns? Please tell me you’re not part of the paranoid set that somehow imagines that they, with their rifles, handguns, and even semi-automatics, could stand up to the US government if it ever turned on its people. The US government has bazookas, tanks, fighter jets, anti-aircraft missiles, and enough nuclear warheads to destroy the entire word several times over. Unless you want all of those to be in private possession, we wouldn’t stand a chance. Better to use the democratic system we have in place to keep a check on the government’s power than clinging to weapons that kill more innocent victims than save lives.

  • I don’t see gun violence and rape as a natural disaster. Humans commit those crimes and humans are responsible for them. Human beings can be violent. I don’t see anything wrong with being aware and as prepared as possible to avoid being the focus of that violence. That doesn’t mean I think measures shouldn’t be taken to curb, if not, eliminate all forms of violence between people. I believe and pray that this will happen as we mature as a species through God’s grace.

    I can see we aren’t going to agree on other areas of this subject, but I sure do appreciate reading your opinion, FR.

  • boy jesse

    When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

  • Judy Volkar

    I do have to thank organizations such as the NRA for helping refine my end of year charitable donations…

    In honor of the NRA…a donation to the Brady Center

    In honor of the Westboro Church of Haters…a donation to PFLAG and my local LGBT Center

    In honor of the the Republican House Members …..a donation to my local Food Bank

  • The problem with the mindset in some political circles about less government involvement/intervention, is that it is simply not true.

    They want less restrictions on some things, and much tighter ones on others. Less restrictions=low taxes, lax employment laws,(which benefit employers, not employees), the “let me own a bazooka and take it to McDonalds” idea of personal armament

    More restrictions, tighter restrictions on women’s health care options, tighter restrictions on access to services for the poor and sick, tighter restrictions on social freedoms, like marriage or residency.

  • Jill H

    So good!

  • I’ve been taken gun shopping a few times, and every time I think, “What in the hell would I do with such a ridiculous item?”

    If I kept it in my purse, well I can’t find my keys, my cell phone or the damned checkbook when its in my purse, so anyone think I can dive into that black hole contained by pleather on the quick and have immediate success? Me neither.

    If I kept it in the glove compartment, or the console of my car…so where will my cell phone charger, my gps, the insurance papers and a few napkins go? You seen what passes for storage in cars these days?

    That steering wheel holster? Pa-lease. I’d give it a week, before it would become dislodged and fall around my feet while on the freeway. Soon afterwards I’d be on the six oclock news, the headline reading “Idiot shoots out bottom of her car with Ruger, causes 12 car pile-up” film at eleven.

    In my house? Well we have one in the house. I keep the house locked when I am at home. IF someone managed to bypass the locks and the guardcats, and get in, I have a better chance of attacking him with my laptop then getting to that gun. We don’t exactly keep weapons in our sweatpants pockets at my house, but tucked away, hidden, like most everyone else. I could throw a cat at the attacker, but the cat, either one, would merely bounce off, give me a look of disdain, and meow at the attacker to fill the foodbowl.

    Even if I was able to get past the intruder and to the gun, I’ve never fired it, I dont’ know if its loaded, how to deal with the safety, panic doesn’t instantly turn me into Annie Oakley. Plus grace and finesse are not my strong suit, any object in that room is in greater danger than the intruder. I’d either scare him away, or he’d expire of laughter.