Lets’ say for the sake of argument that HRC kicks his ass on November 8th. And she does such a good job of ass-kicking that the Senate turns blue. And the ass-kicking is so remarkably well done that the House comes within three or four seats of also no longer being red. Now you probably couldn’t have imagined such a scenario just a few short weeks ago, but Trump just keeps saying what he shouldn’t say to the point that the unthinkable is no longer shorthand for a Trump victory next month, but is what some of us are beginning to whisper as regards a blowout victory for HRC.
And if this does happen, you can bet that one of the first orders of business will be sending a gun bill up to the Hill that has a fairly good chance of getting passed. And you can further bet that if there is such a bill, that its core provision will be revival of the extension of background checks to downstream transfers and sales, not only because this was the core of the post-Sandy Hook bill which almost made it through the Senate, but it’s an idea which even Gun-nut Nation, or at least some part of the Nation, appears to support.
Last year a CBS/New York Times poll asked the following question: “Do you favor or oppose a federal law requiring background checks on all potential gun buyers?” A whopping 92% said ‘yes.’ And a positive response to this question was even registered by 87% of the poll respondents who identified themselves as Republicans, which for an issue as divisive as gun control, that’s about as near to absolute unanimity as you’re going to get.
Since there’s nothing like voting for a bill which appears to have near-universal support, you might think that after more than twenty years of wrangling over the extent to which gun regulations can be implemented that will keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ that finally some common sense will prevail, the NRA will make an attempt but not too much of an attempt to keep expanded background checks from becoming law of the land and – glory hallelujah – thy will be done. Duh, not so fast. If you think for one minute that Gun-nut Nation will roll over and play dead, even if a lot of gun nuts are telling pollsters that on the issue of background checks they really don’t care, then you don’t really understand how gun owners think about guns or why the NRA can continue to defeat legislation that even many of its members are willing to let fly.
In 2012 (Sandy Hook happened in December) the NRA collected $107 million in dues. In 2013, while Washington argued back and forth over extending background checks, revenue from dues shot up to $175 million bucks. The following year when the heat was off, revenue from dues drifted back down to $128 million. So how do you explain the fact that the NRA fought an unyielding battle against extending background checks, virtually all Americans agreed that it was a good idea, and yet dues collected by the NRA went up by a staggering 60%?
I’ll tell you how to explain it. There is simply a complete disconnect in the brains of gun owners between their ownership of guns and the 115,000+ deaths and injuries which occur each year because of guns. After all, you can’t buy a gun legally unless you pass a background check, so by definition, with the exception of suicides, law-abiding gun owners rarely shoot themselves or others with their guns. And even though it’s not true, most people believe that if someone wants to commit suicide it will happen, access to a gun or not.
So if the NRA wants to wage an all-out effort to defeat a new gun bill next year, they’ll get the same support from their members that they always get, and that will be the most active support. Will they also be passively supported by the millions of gun owners who aren’t dues-paying members? I’ll take the short odds on that one, too.