Story and Photo by Paula Antolini
On March 7, 2013, U. S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) sent a letter to Brian France, chairman and CEO of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), urging him to reconsider an agreement to make the National Rifle Association (NRA) the title sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on April 13—the NRA 500.
Murphy believes that NASCAR is "taking sides" in the "heated political debate" regarding the proper response to the Sandy Hook tragedy, by letting the NRA sponsor a major NASCAR race. Murphy stated they NASCAR has "crossed the line" and that they have "taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform." He said even though it might not have been their intention, fans will infer NASCAR and the NRA are allies. Murphy feels that by announcing this new partnership at the height of Congress’s deliberations over gun reform, NASCAR has entered into a political debate that has nothing to with the business of NASCAR.
In Murphy's letter to France, he gave examples of how NASCAR has had a history of supporting our troops, our children, and our communities. For example they donated $50,000 to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Also two weeks ago, one of the cars at the Daytona 500 advertised a way to donate money for the Newtown community, and was dubbed number 26 for the number of lives lost on December 14.
Now the NRA is different, Murphy indicates. "92 percent of Americans, 91 percent of gun owners and 74 percent of NRA members support proposals to require background checks for all gun purchases. Yet, instead of playing a constructive role in this debate, the Washington-based leadership of the NRA has become more radicalized. For example, in 1999, after the horrific shooting at Columbine High School, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gave a full-throated endorsement of universal background checks. Yet, after Newtown, the NRA reversed their position, testifying recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the organization now opposes this proposal, " Murphy said.
Over the past two months Murphy has released a series of reports looking at the NRA, its sources of funding and its agenda on the state and federal levels. Murphy said, "The NRA increasingly relies on support from the firearms industry, including manufacturers of military-style assault weapons that have been used at Newtown and other mass shootings. The NRA also pushes an extreme agenda in state capitols across our nation."
Murphy urged NASCAR to "reconsider affiliating with the NRA at this time."
Note: File photo of Senator Murphy is from the Conference on Gun Violence with Vice President Joe Biden, at WCSU on February 21, 2013. Photo by Paula Antolini / picturesbypaula.com.