This week, Executive Director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) Chris Cox wrote a book report-esque blog about the gun violence prevention movement’s evolution. In his blog, he discussed how various gun violence prevention groups have shifted and streamlined their foci — a concept the NRA should understand, as they have become progressively more extremist over several decades.
Perhaps the most laughable line in Cox’s blog is the concluding sentence: “… after nearly a half-century of failure, it might be time for (gun violence prevention activists) to admit that the marketing isn’t the problem, it’s that the American people don’t want what they’re selling.”
In fact, the opposite is true. The American people and their legislators are increasingly fed up with the NRA’s extremist agenda. They’ve been rejecting the NRA’s core principles. And the NRA has been losing as a result.
The NRA used to have political influence, and they benefited from a “passion gap” between their members and those who advocated for stronger gun laws. Now, that power and influence has declined sharply. In the Virginia elections last month, the NRA spent millions to defeat Democrats, and they were crushed in races across the state — many of them upsets. Some of the NRA’s strongest allies in the Virginia House of Delegates were unseated. The NRA was blindsided.
Even more worrisome to NRA leadership was that Virginians were showing up to vote against NRA-backed candidates. Virginians spoke out against the gun lobby and the NRA’s very public alliance with Donald Trump. Exit polls showed that gun violence prevention was the second most important issue to voters. The passion gap that the NRA needs has evaporated.
The Alabama Senate race dealt another blow to NRA leadership. The NRA initially supported Senator Luther Strange and lost. Then the NRA put money behind an accused child molestor, and they were defeated once again.
These electoral defeats are becoming more and more common for the NRA. The NRA is not the organization it once was. As they have “rebranded” and become more radical, they have begun to lose power and influence among the American people and elected officials. Their brand is now toxic. Their views are not in line with the views of the majority of Americans. And by branding themselves “the strongest ally” of a historically reviled and unpopular president, they are making their brand even more poisonous.
Before their current losing streak began, the NRA had big plans for 2017 — their very own Supreme Court justice, a complete rollback of Obama-era regulations, and concealed carry reciprocity in the first 100 days of the Trump administration. In Trump’s America, they hoped their “guns everywhere” vision might finally become a reality.
There was a brief high for NRA leadership. The appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was a win for the NRA. They used the president’s executive orders and some sneaky parliamentary maneuvers to roll back a few regulations.
In April, Trump became the first president since Ronald Reagan to address the NRA’s annual meeting. In his speech, Trump promised that the “eight-year assault” on gun rights was over. He bragged about his two accomplishments: nominating Gorsuch and ending the ban on lead bullets on federal lands. As 2017 comes to a close, these remain the only real accomplishments on the NRA’s agenda.
The NRA did not predict how inept the Trump administration and Republican leadership would be at passing legislation. And they did not realize how fed up the American people were. The deadliest mass shooting in American history followed by a horrendous shooting at a small church in Texas intensified the anger of the American people. They were done with the NRA and their callous agenda. And all of sudden, the NRA was fighting battles it hadn’t expected — and losing in their home state and deep red Alabama. Ouch.
Before the Las Vegas massacre, the average American had never heard of “bump stocks,” and as details about the shooting began to emerge, more and more Americans wanted a ban on these accessories. Even NRA-backed lawmakers were beginning to talk about a bump-stock ban.
A month later, when the media reported that the Texas shooter should have been prohibited from owning a gun, the nation cried out for change. Senators on both sides of the aisle introduced the Fix NICS Act to improve the nation’s background check system. The NRA begrudgingly endorsed the popular legislation but used it as a vehicle to pass their number one legislative agenda item — nationwide concealed carry reciprocity. The NRA got Republicans to attach a reckless and dangerous agenda item to a popular bipartisan bill to increase the chances of passing concealed carry reciprocity. This was a desperate and slippery maneuver by the NRA that would not have been necessary in the past. The move showed the NRA’s powerlessness. And if legislators are able to pass Fix NICS as a standalone bill, it will be yet another blow to the NRA.
The NRA has had a terrible year. For Cox to claim that “…the American people don’t want what (gun violence prevention groups) are selling” is absurd. The majority of Americans support universal background checks, waiting periods, regulations of assault weapons and high capacity magazines, preventing sales of firearms to people who have been convicted of violent misdemeanors, and other important gun violence prevention laws.
In reality, the American people don’t want what the *NRA* is selling. Their embarrassing losing streak is proof. Like Trump, the NRA wants us to believe that they are still on top, still at the helm, still popular among policymakers and constituents. But they are in trouble. And to paraphrase Cox, the American people see right through their charade. Sad!