The NRA: Nothing for politicians to be afraid of

By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

There’s no secret why, for years, politicians of both parties have been afraid to stand up and support tighter controls on guns: Because they’re afraid of the NRA. But, after the slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that fear is all but gone.

In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., many Republican and Democratic members of Congress, once loyal supporters of the NRA, have broken with the organization by their willingness to endorse sensible new restrictions on guns. And they’ve done so for three reasons.

The most powerful reason is that the horror of what happened at Sandy Hook — 20 beautiful little kids mowed down in their classrooms — surpasses anything we’ve experienced so far. Sadly, we’ve seen too many similar scenes: at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Columbine, Aurora, Portland, and other locations. But Newtown touched us most of all.

The other two reasons center on the NRA. For starters, it’s now clear that the National Rifle Association is no longer what it pretends to be: a nationwide grassroots organization representing sportsmen, hunters, and law-abiding Joe Six-Shooters of America. Today, it’s little more than a front for America’s big gun manufacturers — companies making the guns that are killing our kids.

Since 2005, according to a 2011 report of the Violence Policy Center, the NRA has raised up to $52.6 million from its “corporate partners,” 74 percent of which are members of the firearms industry. They include manufacturers of high-capacity ammunition magazines and such well-known gun makers as Remington Arms Co., Smith & Wesson Corporation, Beretta USA Corporation, Browning, Springfield Armory, and the Freedom Group, the parent company of Bushmaster, maker of the semi-automatic rifle reportedly used in the Newtown mass murder.

That explains why the NRA opposes every gun-control proposal, no matter how reasonable, no matter what its members believe. Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members support a criminal background check for purchase of all guns, even at gun shows, and 71 percent support banning those on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun. The NRA officially opposes both. Why? Because they might prevent manufacturers from selling so many guns.

Next reason why many politicians are now willing to defy the NRA: Because it’s also clear that, politically, the NRA is nothing but a paper tiger. Opposition from the NRA is no longer anything to be afraid of, and support by the NRA is no winning guarantee.

No doubt you’ve heard why the NRA is so politically powerful: because it single-handedly won control of the House for Republicans in 1994 and won the White House for George Bush in 2000. That’s what the NRA claims. That’s what many Republican and Democratic politicians repeat. But it’s simply not true.

The most exhaustive study of what really happened in 1994 and 2000 was conducted by Paul Waldman for Think Progress. After analyzing every House race in 1994, Waldman concluded that, even without the endorsement of the NRA for any of their candidates, Republicans would still have won 45 states and control of the House. And the NRA didn’t make Al Gore lose to George Bush in 2000. Ralph Nader did. Not to mention the Supreme Court.

This year the NRA didn’t show much muscle, either. As Waldman documented in The New York Times, the NRA spent more than $13 million trying to defeat President Obama, and lost. They spent more than $100,000 in eight Senate races, and lost seven out of eight. In the House, more than two-thirds of incumbents who lost seats in 2012 were endorsed by the NRA. Waldman concludes on Think Progress: “In all but a tiny number of races, the NRA endorsement is essentially meaningless.”

Two members of Congress could testify to the fact that the political clout of the NRA is pure myth. In November, veteran California Congressman Joe Baca campaigned for re-election with a B-plus rating from the NRA. His opponent, Gloria Negrete McLeod, earned a D. She won. Congressman John Yarmuth, sole Democrat from Kentucky, was re-elected with an F rating. Yarmuth told me on Current TV that the NRA is like “the Wizard of Oz.” “You pull the curtain back and they really don’t have that much influence in elections.”

We will never forget the massacre in Newtown. In one way, it’s already changed the political landscape. The NRA is no longer to be feared. And fear of the NRA is no longer an excuse for politicians not to do the right thing.

© 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

17 Responses to The NRA: Nothing for politicians to be afraid of

  1. Ok Bill, using information from the VPC is like asking your Chairwoman, Debbie Shultz, to tell the truth.

    How in any way is the NRA responsible for any of these shootings? The NRA supports right to carry laws where if you had an iota of honor in your profession, you would see that all these acts occurred where the victims were legally unarmed, by laws you supported. The Aurora shooter specifically sought out a theater that disallowed citizens their legal right to carry. Events like the Oregon mall shootings were stopped by citizens allowed to carry. Of course you and your ilk will never acknowledge these events.

    Do you not blame the ACLU for keeping this nut case kid free of any restrictive laws based on his mental health? You support the ACLU don’t you BIll. Funny, I see the NRA having supported peoples rights over the past 100+ years far less responsible for these events than the likes of the ACLU who allowed these freaks to commit these murders. If you ever gave a dime to the ACLU Bill, you are directly responsible for the events of the past week. Pay your penance Bill, do the right thing.

    Bill, once again, you are lying. All firearm purchases from dealers must have an associated background check. It does not matter if it is at their store or at a gun show. This has been the law since 1968 and it certainly has been beat into the soft headed liberals brains every time they make up lies to support their agendas (but you people either don’t listen or are just too dumb to understand).

    What is wrong with the NRA accepting support from sporting goods manufactures? Are you saying there are no left wing organizations that accept industry support? (Yes, I’m calling you a hypocrite AGAIN).

    One of the big reasons for the fall of Democrats in 1994 was the weapons ban. People were pissed that elected representatives after displaying appalling lack of knowledge on the subject, voted to curb their rights. I was one of those people Bill. It may not have been the only reason, but I see it as the straw on the camels back.

    You still seem sore at the SCOTUS, well BooHoo Bill, you only agree with the laws when they support your jaded little view of the world. Get over it.

    Thew sad truth today is people in this country are drifting away from electing officials that support their rights and freedoms and instead are supporting the fools that promise to give them free stuff.
    You are a wealthy person Bill, I hope you enjoy giving away more of your earnings and having only a fraction of you estate left for your children after Obama takes his cut.

    I’d really like to see your future tax returns to see how you play the tax codes to avoid paying your fair share to those who are entitled to your money….

  2. 100 people die each day from prescription drug overdoses
    88 people die each day from car accidents
    45 people are murdered each day
    23 of those are killed by a gun each day
    0.9 of those are killed by a rifle each day, of which assault weapons are a subset.
    0.8 children drown each day

    Yup, we have an assualt weapons problem.

  3. How many are killed by papa johns pizzas?

    The NRA lost all their teeth a long time ago when american arms makers sold off everything to foreign companies. These foreign companies dont care if you have gun rights or not, so they dont contribute to the nra like the american companies did.

  4. All of the mass shootings over the years have affected me, but none so much as the slaughter of innocent 6 year olds in Newtown Connecticut. I don?t know any of the children or their families, but I know Newtown. I know Sandy Hook.

    I lived in nearby Danbury for the first 25 years of my life. The house I grew up in was only 10 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School. My father?s real estate office was on Main Street in Newtown, a town so picturesque that it could stand as an icon for all that is ?New England?. As a young adult, I often drove by the location of the school in Sandy Hook on my way down Rt. 34 to New Haven to visit my then fianc?e, now wife, Donna.

    For many Americans, and other people across the globe, the senseless murder of 20 young children, just beginning their lives, has become a watershed moment in the discussion of guns. The Newtown shootings are as much a significant wake-up call about violence as 9/11 was about national security. There is no turning back now, Americans want action, and will settle for no less.

    There are some who blame media attention. They say that showing school shootings on TV produces more school shootings. But, it?s not the media reporting the news that provokes a mentally disturbed person to commit horrible acts of terror…it?s America?s acceptance of violence as a resolution to conflict that increases that likelihood.

    Media attention would not be on my list of reasons for the epidemic of mass shootings in public places. First and foremost is the proliferation, and relatively easy acquisition of guns. I?m speaking specifically about assault weapons. The National Rifle Association continues to spread lies that the government is plotting to take away guns from law-abiding citizens. This paranoid approach by the NRA is a disservice to its membership. No one wants to take away guns from people who hunt, use them for skeet-shooting and target practice, and collect old guns as a hobby. The current discussion is only about making it extremely difficult to obtain and use assault weapons, like AK-47s, Uzis, and rifles like the one used in the Newtown slayings, which can fire dozens of bullets without reloading. There is only one reason for assault weapons. It?s not about hunting deer…it?s all about killing people. No one other than a soldier in combat needs automatic assault weapons. This is a common sense issue. America needs to stop access to those types of guns.

    Secondly, is the issue of mental health, which even in this century carries a social stigma preventing people from seeking it, and parents, when they notice aberrant behavior in their children, closing their eyes to assistance. Also, for those who do try to obtain counseling and therapy, recent funding cuts for state agencies reduce their chances. America needs to make it easier for all of us, especially children, to get counseling. Therapy and medical treatment could do a lot for a child, so they don?t develop into an alienated teen, or sociopathic young adult, who decides one day to burst into a school to end their misery and take a lot of people with them.

    The schools can also play a leading role in promoting good mental health for their students. Around 15 years ago, when my daughter was in middle school, I was among several parents and educators who were on a committee devoted to character education. We attended a 4 day workshop at a local college, and met at regular meetings thereafter. The goal of character education was to teach respect and tolerance for all individuals, to realize that everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equitably, that there was no place for bullying, and that each and every student had self-worth. The outcome of this type of education was to realize that every human being had dignity. In short, it was teaching children about ethics. Perhaps if schools across the nation emphasized this type of education…devised it according to the needs of their community…devoid of religious or political beliefs…our children?s mental health would start to improve, and their need to express themselves violently would dissipate.

    I don?t pretend to have all the answers. Hopefully, the new study helmed by Vice President Biden will come up with meaningful and practical results, and then Congress, shedding its partisanship for once, will implement into action.

    Keep on pressing, Bill


  5. I forgot to mention this in my original post:

    “Ironically, the town of Newtown, not far from Sandy Hook, was the home to the Fairfield Hills Hospital, a psychiatric rehabilitation and treatment center, which at one time had over 4,000 patients and a staff of almost 200. It closed down in 1995 due to the deinstitutionalisation movement which was partially successful in finding smaller facilities for those who needed psychiatric care, but also forced many into the streets and homelessness.”

  6. “How many are killed by papa johns pizzas?”
    Probably fewer then were killed by hostess and other fattening products made by members of the bakers union.

  7. If only eliminating massacres like the Sandy Hook one was as easy as toughening gun laws. Illinois has some of the strongest gun control laws in the country and look at all the shootings around Chicago. Case in point that it doesn’t work. Also, Richard Daley was a big proponent of gun control laws but his security detail is allowed to carry guns. Guess you have to be a Liberal to understand why this makes sense.

  8. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical; our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood; for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me, I say, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel! Who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines, you are not cattle, you are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate; the unloved and the unnatural. Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man, not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power. Let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”
    ? Charles Chaplin-

Leave a reply