The U.S. Senate Finance Committee released a report in September, claiming the National Rifle Association (NRA) acted as a "foreign asset" for Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election. The 77-page minority report released by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) focuses on a 2015 NRA delegation to Russia, and the relationship between the NRA and Russian nationals, Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin. The report capitalizes on the anti-Russia attitude that is so prevalent today in US politics and seems like nothing more than an attempt to smear and embarrass the NRA.
Maria Butina is the founder of the Russian gun rights organization Right to Bear Arms. She is currently serving an 18-month sentence for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). FARA requires "persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal."
While the media has portrayed Butina as a spy, in reality, Butina is an ambitious gun rights activist who was caught up in the Russia hysteria of post-2016 election America. FARA was created to keep track of foreign lobbyists and has nothing to do with spies. Butina plead guilty to the charge to keep her sentence shorter.
Alexander Torshin is a former Russian politician, a gun rights enthusiast, and a friend of Butina since 2012. Torshin met Butina while he was serving as a senator in the Duma (a Russian legislative body). After the two met, Torshin tweeted, "We will start organizing our own Russian NRA." Torshin brought Butina and her organization to the Duma and discussed the possibility of loosening gun restrictions in Russia through legislation. In January 2015, Torshin finished his service as a Senator and was appointed deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia.
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