As the horrific news came out of Newtown last Friday, the National Rifle Association went silent.
Its Twitter was inactive, its Facebook shut off and no word came from the organization that was on everyone’s mind this weekend. It witnessed its strongest political advocates bail, with Sen. Joe Manchin and former Rep. Joe Scarborough both airing their personal switch in beliefs. As a gun control conversation rumbled outside its door, the most powerful anti-gun-control lobby in the country went into a temporary hibernation. Until yesterday.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 19, 2012
A statement was released by the Second Amendment activists, in which they told the nation that they were “shocked, saddened and heartbroken” by what happened on Friday. Also, the group cleared up the confusion as to where they’ve been: “we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.” But, perhaps the most interesting (and news-worthy) part of this press release was the ending.
“The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again,” the statement read.
This information will come to us on Friday but, with the nation breathing down its neck (check
the Daily News
cover yesterday), what could the NRA possibly offer to change everybody’s mind?
If the NRA was to cave on certain platforms, first and foremost would be the assault weapons partial ban proposed by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, set to hit Congress’s floor for debate in January.
As mentioned before, Mr. Manchin and Mr. Scarborough have doubled down on their previous titles as NRA darlings and it remains to be seen who else in Washington (namely, almost every House Republican) will backtrack on the lobby’s support. And rightfully so: after Newtown, this controversial issue carries with it yet another horrible weight and voters will react accordingly; in other words, it’s going to be hard to be pro-guns now and politicians know that. If a domino effect does occur, the NRA will be left with no one in Washington to represent its interests. Therefore, the organization could be forced to throw its support behind the bill.
Also, the NRA does not have to falter on one of its main ideals; pro-guns is not the same as pro-assault-weapons. Mr. Scarborough made this point in his internal monologue this week on ‘Morning Joe’: “our Bill of Rights does not guarantee that gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-styled, high-caliber, semi-automatic, combat assault rifles with high capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.” The Second Amendment is not a right to bear all arms.
With national emotions still extremely fragile, it would be wise for the NRA to offer a toned-down rhetoric going forward as well. No more of this ‘We need guns for the revolution’ or ‘Obama’s taking away our guns’ nonsense. You can lobby against gun control in Congress – frankly, you have all the right to do that – but you’re treading on very thin electoral ice if you continue the charged rhetoric used in the past. Keep your ideas, leave the obsessive, masochistic talk of owning a gun behind please.
Regardless if what these ‘meaningful contributions’ may be, these policy cessations tell more about the power of the NRA. It is without a doubt that the lobby is one of the most powerful groups in Washington; the New York Times
that the organization has a budget of $300 million or so. Its support is in the millions and the group decides elections in a few pockets of the country. But a lobbying group’s purpose is to influence policy through internal and external pressure; it shouldn’t have ‘meaningful contributions’ to give since, in essence, it’s promoting a single platform.
So, when a lobby is forced to negotiate its own stances on an issue, we finally see just how powerful that lobby has become. In this way, the NRA has become this weird socio-political amalgamation that is more like its biggest foe, Washington, than a simple pro-gun organization. Following this logic, it is swayed by the public and needs to cede sometimes in order to continue to exist in the national discussion. That’s a political strategy more than anything.
We’ll find out just what that strategy is on Friday. Stay tuned.