As I was reading the newest cover piece from The New Republic titled “This Is How the NRA Ends,” I found myself filled with guarded optimism. In it, Alec Macgillis details several compelling reasons why the NRA’s influence in Washington may be waning. Recent polls show that some Senators have lost support after their “no” votes on common sense background check legislation last month. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is ramping up his efforts with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, targeting Senators who voted “no” with an arsenal of cash. Grassroots organizations like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have popped up and are making some real noise in their push for change. This is all great and paints a rosy picture for gun control advocates, but it only tells part of the story.
If we’re going to point out all of the forces working against the NRA, we must also point out the biggest force working for it — a record 5 million paying members. Despite all of the op-eds since Newtown from former members telling us why they decided to end their membership, the NRA claims they’ve actually grown by around 500,000 members over the past 6 months. Money talks, and membership dues help ensure the NRA has continued funding to get their message out. When you’re talking about an organization with leaders as delirious as Wayne LaPierre, that’s a scary proposition to entertain.
The NRA knowingly lied about the background checks amendment, willfully deceiving millions into believing it was something insidious at its core. This, of course, was completely fabricated garbage, but it was enough to once again control the vote on something as common sense as background checks. Not banning assault weapons, not banning high-capacity magazines — background checks. Ensuring that any random yahoo with a criminal record can’t walk into a gun show and walk out with a semi-auto in 3 minutes flat, no questions asked. That’s what the Senate voted against — thanks to the deception perpetrated by the likes of the NRA.
Make no mistake about it, the NRA is not going down without a fight. You don’t forcibly control any and all discussion on an issue for decades and then all of a sudden decide to drop it, even as you have more money than ever before coming in to support your efforts. The stranglehold isn’t broken without a clear message being sent directly to the people who enable the NRA’s deceit. We can talk about polls in 2013 all we want — what matters is how we vote in 2014 and beyond.
Many Americans have an unfortunate tendency to grow outraged following an act of gun violence, demanding stricter gun control for a week or two, and then letting it fade to the back burner until the next tragedy befalls us. They’ll fire off an email to their representatives, post a passionate plea or two on Facebook and then proceed to talk about American Idol and post pictures of their dinner, thinking their work on the gun issue is finished. This is the behavior that enables the NRA to continually maintain the upper hand. Until their deceptive actions — and the votes of our elected officials — finally leave an indelible impression in our minds that lasts until we hit the voting booths, the NRA’s strength will not be weakened. It’s up to us to show our neighbors, our friends and our family exactly why this matters, and exactly who is working against them in Washington. Once we start voting these people out, only then will the NRA mercifully go down in flames.
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