By Doug Martin
The day after a school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana left one teacher and a 13-year-old girl wounded, students and parents protested a recruitment tent set up by the National Rifle Association at the Hoosier Armory gun shop in downtown Noblesville. That day, yesterday, May 26, demonstrators from Noblesville and students from Warren Central, Lawrence North, and Carmel schools also attended the We Live rally for gun control at the Indianapolis statehouse.
According to the Noblesville gun shop owner, the NRA recruitment event was planned before the school shooting. Still, the recruitment tent was insensitive, to say the least, and it hasn’t been the first time the NRA has shown up right after a gun tragedy.
Noblesville resident Ashley Dick told WTHI TV: "It's ridiculous, especially in Noblesville. It happened yesterday - in Noblesville. They are trying to recruit new members. Why? Why? What's the point?"
Protestors were asked to leave multiple times, and five police cars arrived on the scene.
Former Indiana Republican lawmaker Luke Kenley’s grandson was one Noblesville student protesting the NRA’s Hoosier Armory tent. Luke Kenley was not funded by the NRA, but many lawmakers in Indiana and Hoosier politicians in Washington have packed their campaign chests with donations from the pro-gun group. Although there are undoubtedly other factors involved in school shootings, the NRA's fingerprint in Washington, in state houses, and in schools is enormous, as is its influence in Indiana.
Shortly after the middle school shooting, Indiana U.S. Republicans Susan Brooks and Todd Rokita, and Democrat Joe Donnelly, sent out either prayers or other statements.
Brooks visited teacher Jason Seaman at Noblesville West Middle School, after he was released from the hospital. Seaman was the one who tackled the gunman on Friday and stopped a major massacre. Brooks from 2013 to 2016 pocketed $3,000 in campaign donations from the NRA, but she also introduced the Jake Laird Law of Indiana which “gives law enforcement the ability to remove guns from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.”
Steering away from gun-lobby money in recent years, Joe Donnelly was once heavily funded by the pro-gun group, receiving $13,900 from the NRA from 2007 to 2010. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent more money opposing Donnelly than in his support.
Indiana's Todd Young, who went to Noblesville after the shooting, "has received $2,896,732, 9th-highest among all politicians", from the NRA. This includes "contributions from the NRA PAC and indirect support, and includes money spent against his opponents."
President Trump even personally phoned Jason Seaman, calling him a hero teacher. Mike Pence, who sent out prayers to Noblesville with his wife, tag-teamed with Trump at the NRA convention on May 4 in Dallas where, because of the attendance of the president and vice president, all guns were banned. The NRA gave “more than $30 million” to support Trump’s presidential campaign, “more than any other outside group.”
To state lawmakers, the NRA has given $113,900 since 1997 to both Republicans and Democrats in Indiana. Indiana’s current governor, Eric Holcomb, has grabbed $2,500 in NRA donations.
The NRA Foundation has handed out “$7 million in grants to hundreds of U.S. schools in recent years,” 34 in Indiana receiving a combined $280,000 from 2011 to 2016, as the Kokomo Tribune noted. The money was used for “the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, rifle teams, hunting safety courses and agriculture clubs.” The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, in March, found that northeast Indiana schools Concordia High School, Whitko Community School Corporation, Bishop Dwenger and Bishop Luers high schools, and the Bellmont High School Rifle Club all have accepted NRA Foundation grant money.
Indiana school board members are often unaware of the NRA Foundation money. According to the Associated Press:
Donna Corbett, a Democrat on the school board in southern Indiana’s New Albany-Floyd County School Corporation, said she never heard about $65,000 that went to a JROTC program at one of the high schools. Corbett said she plans to raise the issue with her board but feels conflicted about it.
“I am not a big NRA fan, but I also realize that ROTC is a good program,” she said. “I’m not sure I would be willing to pull it to the detriment of the kids and their programs.
South Bend school board president Stan Wruble also said he had no idea about the NRA funding to "Washington High School's Air Force Junior ROTC club in 2014 until he was contacted by The Tribune" newspaper. Wruble stated: "I'll be bringing this up with the school board and the superintendent. I do not think it's appropriate for any of our schools to receive money from the NRA because I don't want guns in our schools. My understanding is the NRA promotes arming our teachers and I think more guns in our schools is going to lead to more deaths or injuries."
Although it was not widely publicized by the mainstream media, Nikolas Cruz, the Florida school shooting suspect who allegedly massacred 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, was a member of the JROTC school rifle team that received “$10,827 in non-cash assistance from the NRA's fundraising and charitable arm in 2016, when Cruz was on the squad. The school's program publicly thanked the NRA Foundation on its Twitter feed.” Broward County schools, Stoneman Douglas’ district, has since said it will no longer take NRA money, as have several other school districts across the U.S.