Is The NRA Over The Hill?

Our friend Bob Spitzer has just published an interesting op-ed in The [‘failing’] New York Times, which not only goes into detail about how the gun issue impacted the outcome of various political races, but also raises the idea that maybe the vaunted invincibility of the NRA is coming to an end. In a careful and well-documented piece, Spitzer shows that the NRA was not only outspent in this election cycle by the gun-safety side, but also saw a number of House seats flip from red to blue in districts where gun-control messaging had previously been a dead end.

              I was pleased to review the latest edition of Spitzer’s book, The Politics of Gun Control, and I’m happy to give it a plug here as well. And while he makes it clear that he’s no advocate for Gun-nut Nation, both this book as well as the op-ed piece are balanced efforts to explain both the recent failures as well as previous successes of the NRA.  His basic point is that the election returns ‘suggest’ that the NRA may not possess the clout of former years, but this doesn’t mean that the boys in Fairfax are just going to shut up and fade away.

Not only is America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ not about to disappear (pardon the double negatives)  but anyone who thinks that the NRA can’t recapture its dominance in the gun debate doesn’t appreciate how or why the organization has been in the forefront for so long.

Looking first at the money:  Spitzer says that gun-control groups outspent the NRA by $12 million to $11 million in the mid-terms, largely due to the combined efforts of Gabby and Mike.  As of October 26, Open Secrets put the amounts at slightly less than $10 million and $8 million respectively, but either way, gun-safety groups come out ahead.

On the other hand, what counts going forward is the amount spent not just on political campaigns, but on day-to-day lobbying of elected officials. After all, when it comes to gun-control laws, this is where the rubber meets the road.  Over the last five years, gun-safety groups have spent a total of $8.6 million on Capitol Hill; lobbying for gun ‘rights’ during the same five-year period adds up to $60 million bucks! Even in 2018, the impoverished NRA has outspent Gun-control Nation’s lobbying efforts by almost ten to one – $10 million to $1.5 mil.

Can our friends at Everytown and the Giffords Law Center begin to match those numbers year after year?  I doubt it and my doubt is based on the NRA’s one basic strength which the gun-control groups simply do not share. This has to do with the fact that when all is said and done, at heart the NRA is a membership organization, and they have the care and feeding of their members down pat.

In addition to the NRA, I also belong to the Wilderness and Audubon Societies, along with AARP.  Like the NRA, I pay annual dues to these groups, monies which they use for lobbying and donating to political candidates who protect their interests and promote their views. Every year I receive a lovely calendar from Audubon and Wilderness, every month I get a magazine from AARP. That’s it.

I not only receive at least one email from Wayne-o and Chris Cox every day, I also get the monthly magazine and most important, I can meet other gun nuts at frequent NRA dinners and other social events, or attend hundreds of gun shows every weekend where the NRA has a hospitality booth right at the front door.

I’m happy that Gun-control Nation has begun to level the playing-field when it comes to the public debate about guns. But if my gun-control friends want to get the football across the gun-nut goal line, they have to understand it’s not just money that counts. People support the NRA because they like guns. Can the other side advance an argument as compelling as that?

 

 

Advertisements

Want To Read A Good Book About Guns? Here It Is And I Didn’t Write It.

Philip Cook and Kristin Goss have published a very important book which deserves everyone’s attention for two reasons: First, the authors are without doubt two of the best-informed and serious gun scholars publishing today, and second, they have written a very balanced and well-documented essay that objectively summarizes the state of the gun argument on both sides of the debate.  The Gun Debate is a book that needs to be read and then discussed seriously, which is what I am going to do right now.

cookWhat I like most of all about the book is that the authors, as they cover each and every point, are careful to demonstrate that there’s a kernel of truth in every argument presented by both sides regarding the good news and bad news about guns.  Whether it’s the pro-gun position that guns protect us against crime, or the anti-gun position that more guns equals more violent crime, Cook and Goss are careful to show that there’s at least some data that either side can use to bolster their point of view.  In other words, what we finally get in the gun debate is a book that sets out to be balanced in the hopes, according to the authors, “that there’s still a possibility of a reasoned discussion based on the best available information.”  The foregoing is how the book ends and there’s no question that by the time you get to that closing sentence, you will have been treated to the best available information.  The book really is that good.

But here’s the bad news.  In aspiring to produce a work that treats both points of view seriously and objectively, the authors assume a degree of parity in terms of the motivations and objectives of both sides in the gun debate which simply isn’t true.  The tip-off in this respect is the frequent use of the words like ‘scholar’ or ‘scholarship’ when referring to articles and books published by authors whose positions on issues can be basically described as pro-NRA.   For example, they refer to the “terrible oversight” committed by historians who paid little attention to gun control policies as an aspect of the consolidation of Nazi power after 1933, an omission now thankfully corrected by the “scholarship” of a self-proclaimed expert on Constitutional gun law named Stephen Halbrook.  He has been peddling this Nazi nonsense for years, and it is brandished about by the NRA as part of their ‘slippery-slope‘ strategy to shoot down gun control regulations of any sort.  The reason why historians have ignored this aspect of the Nazi regime is that it is of no consequence in explaining how and why the most educated and advanced society in Western Europe could embrace a government that was based on such savagery and hate.  One doesn’t become a ‘scholar’ simply by writing about something that real scholars have decided doesn’t need to be discussed.

The strength of the NRA lies in the fact that they represent a constituency which, when it comes to gun control, has something tangible to lose; namely, their guns.  You can dress it up any way you choose – fighting for America’s freedoms, fighting for civil rights, fighting for family values.  But none of those fights would engage even a fraction of the current NRA membership if behind all those battles wasn’t the possibility that their guns would be taken away.  And to the author’s credit, they understand why this tangible loss faced by gun owners far outstrips the theoretical gains that gun control would yield for the other side.

The NRA and its pro-gun allies has absolutely no interest in supporting real scholarship or coming to the table for a ‘reasoned’ debate. Because abandoning their hard-core, extremist position would mean they were perhaps willing to admit the possibility that the other side had something worthwhile to say.  In which case, what’s the point of being a pro-gun advocate at all?  If only 25 percent of Americans own guns, then the job of the NRA and its ‘scholar’ allies is to figure out how to get guns into the hands of the other 75 percent. Isn’t that what the gun debate is really all about?