James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The NRA Myth

This past week a shooting spree at Parkland, FL school reignited the gun control debate. Those who call for the prohibition of some or all guns have blamed the National Rifle Association's campaign contributions to (mostly Republican) members of Congress for its failure to act.

But the Gun Lobby isn't like other lobbies. It's a citizen's group. It doesn't represent corporate interests.

If a Senator from Montana votes for sugar tariffs, you can guess it's due to the influence of Big Sugar. If a Bronx Representative favors ethanol subsidies, you can guess where some of his campaign fund comes from. Many people disagree with tariffs and subsidies of any kind, but few are so passionate that they'll vote against the incumbent over those issues.

Members of Congress could be influenced by campaign donations, but they're not beholden to them. The only thing that matters to them is reelection. It's votes that count, not money. They get away with these special favors to corporate interests because not enough people care enough to  organize against them.

But people are passionate about guns. Lots of people. More than enough to swing an election. A Republican Senator who isn't consistently pro-gun may have all the money in the world in his campaign fund, but he'll face a primary challenge from a "true conservative" and I would bet on the insurgent.

In this sense, the information the NRA provides its members about a Congressperson's voting record on guns is more important than any financial support it may give to election campaign.

That's not to say members of Congress don't need the NRA's cash. They certainly do, especially in "purple" states evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.  But it's far, far more likely the NRA supports candidates who have always stated support for gun rights. I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a politician who supports gun rights only because of NRA money.

The supposed lack of gun laws, or lack of the right kind of gun laws, is a reflection of the preferences of the voters in a large number of states. NRA money has little to do with it.

This is particularly so because one who is pro-gun is more likely to have guns be their #1 or #2 issue (abortion being the other). Those who are anti-gun, however, may place a higher priority on climate change, immigration, war, or any number of other issues in any given election. For that very reason, the pro-gun side will always be stronger. The NRA could close shop tomorrow and it would make little difference.

1 comment:

  1. "But the Gun Lobby isn't like other lobbies. It's a citizen's group. It doesn't represent corporate interests."

    I find it odd that you would cite the NRA specifically, which receives tens of millions of dollars from its "corporate partners" every year, as the example of a gun group that doesn't represent corporate interests.

    There are lots of real grassroots pro-gun groups, and most of the NRA's funding does come from membership, etc., but if I'm a lawyer with thousands of small customers and also get a large monthly retainer from, say, Monsanto, it's a cinch that that retainer will affect my actions.