Jan 14th 2013

Why the NRA is Becoming the “Great Oz”

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on amazon.com.
For years the NRA has struck terror into the hearts of many Members of Congress. The organization’s officers and lobbyists purported to represent the interests and wishes of millions of American gun owners.
 
Members of Congress believed that negative NRA ratings – and a flood of NRA money – could sink their political careers faster than you could say “AR-15.”
 
But the American people, and Members of Congress, are gradually awaking to the fact that – just as with the Wizard of Oz – there isn’t much behind the NRA’s magic curtain but the big booming voice of a special interest bully whose power derives more from perception than reality.
 
It is of course true that in politics the perception of power translates into the reality of power. The problem is that once it becomes clear that you’re all hat and no cattle, the myth of power rapidly collapses into a pile of dust.  That is exactly what is happening to the NRA.  Here’s why.
 
Reason #1. First and foremost, in 2012 the NRA had exactly zero effect on the outcome of the General Election – or to be more precise, it had about .83% effect. 
 
One of the big stories of the 2012 election was the failure of some of the big name right wing PACs to win many races.  The Sunlight Foundation calculated the relative effectiveness of a number of right wing PACs and found that most of their money did not buy success. 
 
The National Republican Congressional Committee had only a 31.8% percent success rate.
 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce only had a 6.9% success rate.
 
Karl Rove’s non-profit, Crossroads GPS, did a little better, spending $70 million with a 14.43% success rate.  But his American Crossroads Super Pac had only a 1.29% success rate after spending over $104 million.
 
The NRA’s Legislative Institute had only a 10.74% success rate.
 
But the NRA main PAC wasn’t just your run of the mill failure of the 2012 election year.  It won the prize for the very worst performance of the entire gang. In fact of the  $11.1 million it spent, only .83% went to winning candidates.
 
And to make matters worse, it didn’t just have a dismal batting average; many progressive PACs spent just as much, and were much more effective.
 
The League of Conservation Voters raised and spent almost $11 million, but instead of a .83% success rate, they had an 83% success rate.
 
Planned Parenthood’s two PACs raised and spent over $11 – and had a 98% success rate. 
 
Part of the reason for the NRA’s horrible success rate is the fact that rather than back candidates that support the Second Amendment – a goal endorsed by many of its individual members – it has become for all practical purposes a wing of the Republican Party.
 
But that isn’t the only disjuncture between the interests of NRA members and those of its officers and lobbyists.
 
Reason #2.   Turns out that the officers and lobbyists of the NRA actually represent weapons manufacturers, not rank and file gun owners.  That's why they refuse to support common sense restrictions on military style assault weapons, magazines that hold a hundred bullets, or background checks for anyone who buys a gun, even though most Americans – and many gun owners  - support these measures.
 
CBS News poll showed that 57% now support stronger laws, an 18-point increase since last April (39%). A USA Today/Gallup poll showed a similar trend, with 58% supporting stronger laws, 15 points above the level of support in October 2011 (43%).
 
In a CNN/ORC poll, the most pronounced shift was on support for a ban on assault guns like the AK-47, with 62% of Americans supporting such a ban, a 5-point increase from last August.
 
In fact, according to the CNN/ORC poll, 95% of all Americans think that everyone who buys a gun should have to undergo a background check. A December Washington Post poll shows this strong support for universal back ground checks extends to gun owners as well.  Many people believe background checks are already required for all gun purchases, but the fact is that 40% of all gun sales are “private transactions” – at gun shows or from private gun sellers where no background check is currently required.  That's like having two lines in airport security -- one that checks for bombs and weapons and one that doesn't.  Which one do you think would be chosen by those who seek to do us harm? 
 
And to make matters worse, databases of many states are not maintained.  Bottom line: it easy for dangerous criminals and the mentally ill to buy deadly weapons.
 
According to the Huffington Post, a recent bipartisan poll conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that:
 
"Large majorities of Americans agree with the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to own guns, and Americans strongly oppose efforts to ban handguns," said Bob Carpenter, vice president of American Viewpoint, the Republican polling firm that joined with Democratic firm Momentum Analysis to conduct the survey. "But Americans and gun owners feel with equal fervor that government must act to get every single record in the background-check system that belongs there and to ensure that every gun sale includes a background check. Most Americans view these goals, protecting gun rights for the law-abiding and keeping guns from criminals, as compatible."
 
That is directly contrary to the positions of the NRA’s high command.
 
The goal of the officers and lobbyists of the NRA is not to protect the rights of gun owners; it is to maximize the profits of weapons manufacturers and arms dealers.
 
They love to frighten law-abiding gun owners with the prospect that common sense measures to reduce gun violence put America on the “slippery slope” to end the right to bear arms and to the confiscation of your hunting rifle.  Their attempts to develop paranoia about confiscation – and about government tyranny – are good for business; it’s that simple.
 
After the Sandy Hook tragedy, the NRA’s fear-mongering caused a massive spike in the sales of semi-automatic assault weapons. 
 
And the reason the NRA is so keen on preventing a new assault weapon ban is that its customer base is shrinking from about 50% of the population forty years ago, to about a third.  And that base of current gun owners already owns a whopping 270 million guns.  In fact, with 5% of the world’s population, America already has about 50% of the world’s guns.  One way to continue to raise the profit margins of gun manufacturers is to sell increasingly powerful, expensive guns like the “Bushmaster” that was used to kill the children at Sandy Hook elementary school.
 
The problem for the NRA’s officers and lobbyists, is that events like the Sandy Hook massacre make it crystal clear that there is no relationship between the NRA’s defense of semi-automatic weapons that can fire off dozens of rounds in a few seconds, and the weapons everyday gun owners need for hunting or for their personal safety.
 
No one uses a “Bushmaster” to shoot ducks.  And there are not many Americans who keep a loaded semi-automatic assault weapon under their pillow for self-defense.
 
And there is another reason why all the talk about “slippery slopes” increasingly rings hollow.
 
Reason #3.   The Supreme Court’s decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller made it crystal clear that the Second Amendment does in fact protect the right to own guns for hunting and self defense.  It also made clear that this right does not preclude the government from imposing common sense regulations on the sale and performance of weapons that can be marketed to the general public – nor does it prevent the passage of laws that prevent dangerous individuals from buying a gun.
 
The Supreme Court decision makes the “slippery slope” argument – the fear that the government is on the verge of confiscating their guns – into complete hogwash.
 
As more and more Americans recognize that their right to own guns is not jeopardized by common sense measures to curb gun violence, it will be harder and harder for the NRA leadership to continue to frighten gun owners with the phony specter of confiscation.
 
Reason #4. The NRA is led by officers and lobbyists that have lost touch with the reality of the American electorate.  NRA Executive VP, Wayne LaPierre’s press conference immediately after Sandy Hook was completely tone deaf.  It didn’t demonstrate an ounce of empathy for the six-year old children who were murdered – or for the grief felt by their families.  Instead it focused entirely on promoting the sale of more and more guns.
 
That might be good for short-term gun sales, but it continues to unmask the massive gulf between everyday Americans -- including the millions of everyday American gun owners on the one hand, and those on Wall Street that make hundreds of millions of dollars selling weapons like the “Bushmaster” on the other.  The “Bushmaster” – or AR-15 – has no purpose other than killing the largest number of human beings in the shortest possible period of time.
 
And it turns out we haven’t had to wait long to see the image of the NRA’s invincibility dissolve before our eyes. 
 
For years the NRA has had a net positive rating with the public.  No longer.  A recent poll from Public Policy Polling found that in the period following the Sandy Hook massacre, support for the gun advocacy organization fell from 48 percent to 42 percent, while negative views increased from 41 percent to 45 percent.
 
For decades, the conventional wisdom in Washington has held that if the NRA opposed a gun bill, it was doomed.  But there is a new reality in America.  The faces of the children and women who died at Sandy Hook – and the faces of all of those who are dying in cities across America every day – have transformed the debate.
 
Increasingly, the struggle to reduce gun violence is being seen for what it is.  Instead of a fight between gun owners and the “government” – it is becoming a battle between the rights of innocent victims of violence and the profits of weapons manufacturers.
 
And with every passing day, more and more politicians are beginning to realize that the NRA is nothing more than “the Great Oz.”
 
          Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book:  Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com. He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.
 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
Jun 8th 2021
EXTRACT: " While many conservative Republicans opposed Trump and saw that he posed a danger to their party and democracy itself, they were hesitant to buck the mass movement they had created, fearing that it would turn against them. Some of these same conservatives assumed that with Trump's defeat, the horror of January 6th, and the former president's banishment from social media, the time had come to restore sanity to their party. But the GOP leadership’s continued cowering in the face of what they now call "Trump's base" has caused them to circle the wagons and purge their ranks of those who call for sanity. "
May 26th 2021
Editor's Note: This article is about the Federal Reserve, inflation in the 1970's, and possible similarities to today.
May 25th 2021
EXTRACT: "Netanyahu claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people. He certainly is not. Many Jews around the world, including me, despise Netanyahu’s racist politics. As an American, I am also deeply troubled by the US government’s knee-jerk support of Israel. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view. A growing number of Democratic Congressmen, Jews and non-Jews alike, have called on the United States to stop supporting Israel’s lawlessness. The truth is that the US government’s uncritical support for Israel has come to depend more on evangelical Christians, such as former US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, than on American Jews, who are deeply divided by Netanyahu’s actions. And the evangelicals’ real interest in Zionism is not Jews’ security, but Armageddon, the end of the world, which they believe will come only when all Jews are in Israel."
May 18th 2021
EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
May 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "While reading Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) monumental report “A Threshold Crossed,” I felt a range of emotions. It also left me with one big question. I was deeply impressed by the report’s rigorous scholarship. At the same time, it brought to the surface feelings of anger and profound sadness. It’s an extraordinarily complete study detailing not only the many ways Israel has violated a broad range of Palestinian human rights, but the ideology of racial superiority and entitlement that Israel has used to justify its repression." ..... "My advice to both Israel’s defenders and weak-kneed liberals is​, “Read the damn report.” "
May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "On the face of it, the latest escalation of violence is following the template of all inter-ethnic wars. Muslims observing Ramadan shouted nationalist slogans and clashed with Israeli right-wing groups chanting “Death to the Arabs.” The Israelis haughtily marched with their national flag on Jerusalem Day, marking Israel’s capture in 1967 of East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the site of the biblical Second Temple, and of Al-Aqsa, completed in the year 705. Battles in and around the Al-Aqsa compound erupted, with worshipers inside throwing stones at the Israeli police, who responded by firing rubber-tipped bullets and other projectiles, wounding hundreds."
May 13th 2021
"Regardless of how the current and future violent conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem will end, there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace unless East Jerusalem becomes the capital of a Palestinian state while the city remains united."
May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."