Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

"This is how the NRA ends"

The New Republic covers the pending collapse of the National Rifle Association. Is it premature?

"This is how the NRA ends"

Have six sweeter words ever been uttered? The New Republic goes there:

On April 17, the bill to expand background checks on gun buyers failed in the Senate, and the fatalistic shrugs in Washington were so numerous they were nearly audible. The legislation had been a modest bipartisan compromise, supported by 90 percent of the public and lobbied for hard by the president. A group backed by Michael Bloomberg had spent $12 million on ads pressuring senators to vote “yes.” When the bill fell short—by just five votes—it seemed to confirm a Beltway article of faith: There’s no point messing with the National Rifle Association (NRA). And that, many assumed, was the last we’d be hearing about gun reform.

But then something unexpected happened. Some of the senators who’d voted “no” faced furious voters back home. Even before Erica Lafferty, the daughter of murdered Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung, confronted New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte at a particularly tense town hall, Ayotte’s disapproval rating in the state had jumped from 35 to 46 percent—half the respondents said her “no” vote made them less likely to support her. In Pennsylvania, which has the second-highest concentration of NRA members in the country, the bill’s Republican co-sponsor, Pat Toomey, saw his approval reach a record high.

One of the country’s best-known gun-rights advocates, Robert Levy, said the NRA’s “stonewalling of the background-check proposal was a mistake, both politically and substantively.” In the Senate, the backlash had an effect. Some Republicans who had opposed the bill, such as Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Jeff Flake of Arizona, signaled they might be open to changing their minds. Majority Leader Harry Reid, once a dependable NRA ally, spoke about taking the rare step of bringing the bill back for another vote. Senator Joe Manchin, the bill’s Democratic co-sponsor, is still actively courting support from his colleagues. “It’s not going away,” he told me.

Certainly, it's been gratifying to see the public reaction and the political fallout since the background-check vote last month. But I'm not sure whether I agree with the main thrust of the article...time will tell. I think if Congress were able to go back and pass a background-check bill, it would indeed create a kind of Wicked-Witch-of-the-West-I'm-melting scenario for the NRA. But that hasn't happened yet, so it's a little early for the victory lap.

What's more, a lot of the killing-off of the NRA scenario is based on the involvement of billionaire Michael Bloomberg. Maybe it's just because I'm not a fan of Bloomberg, even when I agree with him, but I think when the forces of gun sanity win -- and they will -- it will be from a bottom-up movement, not a top-down effort fueled by one of the world's richest (and most arrogant) men. Also, I think at the end of the day, liberals will tread lightly in going after centrist Democrats like Alaska Sen. Mark Begich as they ponder the alternatives (hello, Sen. Sarah Palin? Really?).

And if the NRA is to disappear, it will need to be replaced by something else, something that will represent the rights of millions of American gun owners who would support a legitimate organization advancing gun safety for hunters and home protection yet opposing high-power weaponry for criminals and the mentally ill. In other words, a group that would be the old NRA, before it was taken over by a black-helicopter crowd of right-wing paranoid fringe whack jobs.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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