Editor’s note: Li Yun is a researcher at the Institute of Foreign Military Research of the Department of War Research, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Sciences. The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
On August 6, New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit calling for the dissolution of the National Rifle Association (NRA). She said that the association is full of corruption and some executives are wantonly squandering public funds, causing irreversible damage to the association’s ability to operate as a non-profit organization. The lawsuit caused an uproar as soon as it was announced.
As we all know, in the United States, the “right to bear arms” is not only a social issue, but also an ideological and political one. Its direct legal basis is the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The NRA is not only the largest organization supporting this right in the United States, but also one of the most powerful lobby groups. Moreover, even if the NRA’s executive corruption case is established and some executives are brought to justice, it does not mean that the NRA can be dissolved. Even if the NRA is dissolved, it doesn’t mean that gun violence, a chronic disease of American society, can be solved overnight.
So why is the New York State Attorney General doing this? Given that New York State is governed by the Democratic Party, Letitia James is a Democrat, and that it is less than three months to the presidential election, the lawsuit is more like a tool of party struggle. With the U.S. economy falling by as much as 32.9 percent in the second quarter, the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is approaching 5 million, and Trump still lags far behind Biden in the polls, the Democratic Party may intend to take this lawsuit to launch a new attack on Trump.
The NRA has been a firm supporter of Trump since the 2016 election. Last month, the NRA once again made it clear that it supports Trump’s re-election. The prosecution of the NRA at this time will not only divert the association’s resources from the Republican Party, but also make it unable to play its full role in supporting Trump’s election.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a news conference to announce a suit to dissolve the National Rifle Association, In New York, the U.S., August 6, 2020. /Reuters
At the same time, the Democratic Party can also use this lawsuit to unite its own voters and further mobilize voters to actively participate in voting. Many experts regard the failure of Democratic voters to actively participate in voting as an important reason for Hillary Clinton to lose the presidential election in 2016. To prevent history from repeating itself, the Democratic Party will have to use various issues to mobilize its own voters.
However, the Democratic Party’s move may backfire and help the Trump’s campaign. The “right to bear arms” is a highly controversial topic in the United States. Raising this topic at this time can divert people’s attention from the dismal economy and the Trump’s failure in handling COVID-19. Also, it could cause a fierce response from Trump supporters, given their ardent support for the NRA, and help the Republican Party mobilize its base.
Obviously, the Republicans are also aware of this potential. As soon as the New York prosecutor announced the lawsuit, Trump scolded it as a conspiracy by the Democratic Party. He said: “Just like Radical Left New York is trying to destroy the NRA, if Biden becomes President your GREAT SECOND AMENDMENT doesn’t have a chance. Your guns will be taken away, immediately and without notice. No police, no guns!”
No matter what the real purpose of lawsuit is or whether the lawsuit is successful, the lawsuit will further tear apart the American society which has been extremely divided ideologically. Politicians, both Democratic and Republican, are well aware that the lawsuit will further exacerbate social fragmentation. The lawsuit and the response of the two parties to the lawsuit have shown that, for the sake of party interests, the two parties have given up their efforts to bridge social fragmentation and unite the people and no longer hope to win votes from the opposing camp. The campaign strategy of both parties is to take advantage of the extreme fragmentation of American society to mobilize their own voters to vote.
Therefore, our next focus should not be on the final outcome of the lawsuit and its impact on the Second Amendment to the Constitution, but on the impact of the lawsuit on the presidential election in November. Whether this lawsuit is the “last straw” that overwhelms Trump or Trump’s “August surprise,” let us wait and see.