Axis of Evil: Trump, Putin, and the NRA

In Trump’s Mad Max presidential campaign to Make America Hate Again, he enthusiastically welcomed the support of anyone who came forward, regardless of how despicable they might be: the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, far-right intolerant religious fundamentalists, haters of women, of foreigners, of Muslims, of Jews, etc. As Trump rose to power, such groups came out from under their rocks in the shadows, blinked at the sunlight, and delighted at the message that their voices no longer had to be muffled. No group was welcomed with open arms more than the Nation Rifle Association, with their ability to write checks for an estimated thirty million dollars to Trump in direct, above-board donations and, even more so, “dark money” pools of anonymous contributions to pay for ads, campaign expenses, etc.

Trump explicitly stated his profound gratitude for the NRA support and his full intention to reciprocate, thereby ensuring greater success in their campaign to steadily chip away at existing gun control laws, much of which has transpired under the public radar.

For example, Missouri no longer has background checks at all; concealed carry permits now allow for owners to cross state lines with impunity where concealed carry is illegal; Obama’s executive order regarding mental health assistance in December, 2016, was overturned by Trump’s executive order in December, 2017; in many regions, convicted violent felons, severely disturbed and potentially dangerous paranoid schizophrenic and bi-polar individuals can buy a gun as easily as a tube of toothpaste; funding for ATF staffing and monitoring continues to decline; records that might tarnish background checks have been destroyed; suspected terrorists may not be allowed to fly but they can still purchase guns. And so on.

Trump’s symbiotic relationship with the nefarious NRA is well known. Similarly, Russian interference for the benefit of Trump in the 2016 election has been proven beyond any doubt by Robert Mueller’s meticulous, far-reaching investigation, which is accelerating its pace of indictments, guilty pleas, and the inevitability of flipping those higher and higher on Trump’s food chain, homing in on the president himself. Though charges by Mueller of outright collusion by the Trump campaign with the Russians is not yet explicit, who among us does not regard such charges as inevitable. Again, the Russia-Trump connection has been front-page headlines since last summer.

Much less well publicized (for reasons impossible to understand) are reports in last few weeks that the FBI has recently begun to investigate credible allegations that Russia funneled vast sums of dark money to the Trump campaign laundered by the NRA! This incendiary information closes the loop in the ongoing examination of the relationships of Trump with the NRA, as well as Trump with Russia, by suggesting the third leg of malfeasance among the NRA, Russian meddling, and Trump himself. The potential of a sinister, triadic Axis of Evil is deeply disturbing for the obvious reasons, while also being hopeful that Mueller may be able to demolish all three in one devastating, comprehensive investigation.

The shocking, horrific killing of 14 teenagers and 3 beloved teachers last week at Stoneman Douglas High School by a deranged 19 year-old (well known to the police and mental health system) is agonizingly reminiscent of the 2012 slaughter of 20 six and seven year-olds, along with six devoted staff members, at Sandy Hook Elementary by a deranged 20 year-old (also well known to police and the mental health system). Both wielded AR-15 semi-automatic rifles. In both tragedies, there was an unmistakable sense that “this time might really be different” in breaking the death grip of the NRA over corrupt, overwhelmingly republican members of Congress.

The stunning composure, leadership and determination of the Stoneman Douglas survivors is unlike anything we have seen before in rattling the NRA and republican politicians in their thrall. In moving forward, it is essential that we learn from our history in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, in which a similar fervor gripped our country. President Obama unleashed the full power of the White House, led by Vice President Biden, in an all-out effort to ignite popular support nationally for the critical gun control vote in the Senate in April, 2013. The three month gun control campaign was overwhelmingly successful. As the following well-respected national polls demonstrate, fully 90% of all Americans favored some form of common-sense gun control, including 75% of NRA members:

— Gallup: 91%
— CNN/ORC: 92%
— CBS/NYT: 91%
— Morning Joe/Marist: 87%
— Quinnipiac: 92%
— Fox News: 91%
— Pew: 85%
— USA Today: 92%
— ABC/Washington Post: 91%

Gun control advocates couldn’t have been more hopeful. This time would surely be different! Then, in the days leading up to the Senate vote, indications began to surface that something was not quite right. Senator Diane Feinstein exploded when she learned that Majority Leader Harry Reid was bringing legislation to the floor that contained only mild provisions for stronger background checks; no bans on semi-automatic Rambo weaponry, 15–30 bullet magazines, or Kevlar vest-piercing bullets. And yet, in a devastating defeat, the legislation was voted down 54–46, with 41 Republicans voting against and only 4 voting in favor.

To repeat, fully 91% of all Republican senators voted against the wishes of 90% of the entire American public. Sickening, demoralizing and fully exposing the unimaginable power of the NRA to dictate votes.

As we collectively mourn the 17 lives stolen in Florida, it is essential that we remind ourselves that 17 gunfire homicides is approximately the average WEEKLY murder rate in the gang-infested neighborhoods of Chicago alone. We have become numb, even oblivious, to this national disgrace, for which the NRA has blood all over its hands,

The sense that “this time feels different” once again pervades the American psyche, entirely attributable to the superhuman efforts of the Stoneman Douglas survivors whose focus and dedication have the NRA and corrupt republican politicians on the run. And yet, however different this may feel, we need go no further than the Sandy Hook experience to understand the necessity of guarding against the demoralizing corruption we are up against.

Whether or not the “Never Again” movement will eventually succeed, we can depend on it to keep the Axis of Evil in the headlines, bolstering Robert Mueller in his determination to triumph over the national depravity that Trump has created.

Chicago, IL

Chicago psychologist, author, professor, psychotherapist. Co-author of NYT bestseller, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump and 16 Huffposts on Trump’s fragility