The reason for the gap between perception and reality is that, for many years, the NRA has had no real opposition. This has given the debate a strange quality: For gun-control advocates, the recent challenge has been less about persuading politicians on policy grounds and more about trying to convince them that the conventional wisdom about gun politics is wrong. And then came Newtown.
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We are so resigned to seeing mass shootings come and go without any attempt to fix gun laws, but after Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook, something really did change. At long last and against all expectations, a viable movement for gun regulation is emerging. It is a development that not only bodes ill for the gun lobby and its Republican patrons, but will also complicate matters for elements of the Democratic Party who have been content to accede to the status quo. The narrow defeat of the background-check bill, it turns out, was not the end of hopes for gun reform, but the beginning.
The de facto headquarters for post-Newtown gun-control activism is New York City Hall, where the effort overlaps relatively seamlessly with the business of running a metropolis of eight million people. Bloomberg and his lieutenants were disappointed by the background-check vote, but not discouraged. After all, they now knew which senators to target in There were disagreements over whether to pursue incremental reforms or more ambitious proposals like handgun registration.
And the movement has always been woefully outmatched financially. But in the midterms, Democrats suffered a crushing defeat, and Bill Clinton declared that it was the gun issue, more than any other, that was to blame. But it was persuasive to a party panicked about the loss of Southern whites and Reagan Democrats.
After , Democrats committed themselves to a big-tent philosophy, and one of the largest spaces in the tent was reserved for those who sided with the gun lobby. The last major push for regulations came after the Columbine massacre in But instead of increasing the pressure on politicians, gun-control advocates believed they could prevail through reason alone.
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While the NRA issued members voting instructions, their adversaries produced well-researched reports on gun violence. That was disastrous for us. And demographic trends have concentrated its most ardent members in ever-narrower regional pockets. That serious opponent has finally emerged.
What Bloomberg has embarked upon now is nothing less than the construction of a mirror image to the NRA. There is plenty of latent public support for gun control, his logic goes, but politicians only see a risk in voting for it. He wants to reverse that calculation. In the past year, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which now has mayors, has expanded from 15 paid staff to more than 50, with lobbyists in Washington and field organizers around the country who will likely be deployed to states with legislative fights looming.
National Rifle Association
The organization is also developing its own candidate rating system. Above all, Bloomberg is planning to hit the airwaves on a scale Washington has not fully grasped. But Wolfson emphasized that only their votes on the bill counted. I asked Wolfson if he was worried that going after Pryor—whom they regard as especially vulnerable—would simply lead to his replacement with a pro-NRA Republican. The Brady Campaign is adopting a similarly hard-line stance.
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Last year, it appointed a new director, Dan Gross, whose brother suffered brain damage in the Empire State Building shooting. In May, I visited him at his Washington office, where Brady visitors need special clearance to board the elevator. Some Democrats are also worried about harsh ads that Bloomberg and Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by Gabby Giffords, have been running against Ayotte and Flake.
But the groups believe that in order to get self-interested politicians thinking differently, first they have to get them scared. One complication is that no vulnerable Republicans who opposed the legislation are up for reelection in , leaving Bloomberg with fewer short-term targets. Even if it failed, members would have to take a stance, opening up dozens more races for Bloomberg to invest in. The group has also not ruled out spending on state-level candidates. In my conversations with advocates, many remarked on the unity that has emerged after Newtown.
The movement soon coalesced around expanding background checks, although taking on assault weapons or ammunition clips would have been a more direct response to recent mass shootings. But police chiefs say background checks would have the biggest impact on gun violence. An estimated 40 percent of sales are made without them. He received it in the mail a few days later, without a note. But the background-check measure, he told me, was such a reasonable reform, it should have been a no-brainer. At some point, though, I think the mood is changing. In , Jessica Ghawi was interning on a sports-radio show when she was dispatched to interview a minor league hockey player with the San Antonio Rampage.
She showed up in heels and a dress, not realizing the interview was to be conducted on ice. Seconds after stepping onto the rink, she fell flat on her back. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em.
Nugent's comments were made at the same time that NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer was pushing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law -- which has been implicated in the death of Trayvon Martin and many other unarmed Floridians -- through that state's legislature. If Harlon Carter, Ted Nugent, and other NRA peddlers of vigilantism wanted a poster boy for their ideas about justice and the "rule of law," they have certainly found one in George Zimmerman. This is the seventh in a series of articles I have written profiling the rogues gallery that makes up the leadership of the National Rifle Association NRA.
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