Newsday/News 12 report: Money, politics and the NRA
The mass shooting two weeks ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has once again sparked a fierce debate over gun control and focused attention on the National Rifle Association's role in shaping gun laws throughout the country.
In New York, a Newsday investigation revealed that the NRA and its affiliates have given more than $500,000 to various candidates and political organizations since 1999.
The lion's share went to two political parties: about $140,000 to New York's Senate Republican Campaign Committee and roughly $130,000 to the state's Conservative Party.
Conservative Party chairman Mike Long made no apologies Wednesday for the money they have received.
"I'm very appreciative of the help that I have received from the NRA or their affiliates to help us promote good solid policy here in the state of New York," said Long.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-1st District) is another unapologetic recipient of NRA money.
"In a campaign cycle where I might raise $4.5 million, .002 percent comes from the NRA," said Zeldin.
Zeldin has received about $10,000 this election cycle from the NRA and its affiliates, tied for third most of any congressman in the country. Despite that, he says the money will not in any way affect the way he votes on legislation.
"I'm not for sale, I would say that to anyone on either side of this issue or any other issue," said the congressman.
Many people believe that money talks when it comes to gun control on Capitol Hill and, increasingly, in state capitals throughout the country.
"The NRA has been focusing on the states more than they have before, I think, because they have been having more success," says Craig Burnett, a Hofstra political science professor. "They find that their influence is a little stronger there than on the national level."
Despite the NRA's efforts, financial and otherwise, New York has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
Paul May, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, says the state has become a target for the NRA. He told News 12 that the NRA would like to "change the New York State Legislature's culture" and that gun control advocates should not be complacent.
"The NRA is a powerful force wherever they are," he said.
The state Legislature is considering several pieces of gun control legislation. Among them is a bill that would allow judges to prohibit people from buying or possessing a gun if it's found that they're likely to harm themselves or others.