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 myth is shattered forever.
Since last Friday, many Republican and Democratic members of Congress, once loyal NRA supporters, have broken with the organization by way of their willingness to endorse, or at least consider, sensible new restrictions on guns — 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 first-grade classroom — surpasses anything we’ve seen so far. Sadly, we’ve seen too many horrible scenes: at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Columbine, Aurora, Portland and other locations. But this one touched us most of all.
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, Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Browning, Springfield Armory and the Freedom Group, which makes the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the Newtown mass murder.
That explains why the organization opposes every gun-control proposal, no matter how reasonable. Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that 74 percent of NRA members, for example, support a background check for guns purchased at a gun show. The NRA officially opposes it.
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.
This year, as documented by Paul Waldman of The American Prospect, the NRA spent over $13 million trying to defeat President Obama, and it lost. It spent over $100,000 in eight Senate races; seven out of eight lost. And over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost seats in the 2012 elections were endorsed by the NRA. Waldman concludes, “In all but a tiny number of races, the NRA endorsement is essentially meaningless.” As veteran California Rep. Joe Baca (D) discovered. He had a B-plus rating from the NRA. His opponent, Gloria Negrete McLeod (D), earned a D.
Newtown has already changed the political landscape. The NRA is no longer to be feared. And fear of the NRA is no longer an excuse for not doing the right thing.
Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”