Has the NRA Bought off Washington? Not Really
In the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton the National Rifle Association is again atop of the Democrats and the media’s public enemies list. Under their logic, the reason these mass shootings keep occurring is because the NRA tightly controls Republican politicians, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who prevent Congress from passing “sensible” or “common sense” gun control.
This logic should strike serious observers as suspect. Not only does it assume that the NRA is powerful because of it’s money, rather than it’s membership that provides it with that money, it overlooks one key detail about the NRA. If the NRA cannot even run the NRA, how can it possibly run the Senate?
Even ignoring the NRA’s own internal issues, of which there are many, the NRA’s opponents wildly overstate the NRA’s influence on political candidates.
For example, let us take a look at how the NRA spends money on behalf of politicians versus Planned Parenthood. Why Planned Parenthood? First, both the NRA and Planned Parenthood enjoy wide amounts of praise and scorn. Second, opponents of both accuse the other of being responsible for the deaths of many (Given the nature of what abortion is, this makes much more sense when applied to Planned Parenthood) and accuse it of being responsible for the real or supposed radicalism of the other side. Third, some allies of their respective causes worry that they’ve gone too far into politics beyond their stated mission purpose and not unrelated to that, both have serious internal issues at the moment, albeit Planned Parenthood has the benefit of being subsidized by the taxpayers.
In the interests of intellectual honesty, I hope that Planned Parenthood gets defunded tomorrow and think that almost all gun control arguments are based on emotion rather than reason, but am no special pleader for the NRA.
Here are two stats that show the two organizations and how they have spent money on political candidates.
Number of candidates receiving at least $10,000 during the 2018 cycle
Total contributions during the 2018 cycle
When Mitch McConnell last ran for re-election in 2014, the NRA did not even make his top 100 donors and yet we are told the reason McConnell does not advance gun control legislation is because the he is bought and paid for by the gun lobby. As an interesting aside, the candidate who received the most money from Planned Parenthood in 2018, Claire McCaskill, is now a talking head on MSNBC, a network that has spent the last few days saying the NRA has an iron grip on Republican members of Congress.
The problem for Democrats is that when it comes time to legislate, sloganeering has to be replaced with actual policy. Phrases like “universal background checks,” “assault weapon,” and “weapon of war” require definitions. If Democrats want to force Uncle Jimmy to subject his nephew to a background, they should say so, but if that is what you mean by universal background checks, that will strike more than 8% of the population as a little silly. As a legal term, “assault weapon” is meaningless and politicians and journalists have come to use it as a fill-in for “big and scary looking.” Likewise, “weapon of war,” is meaningless because a knife is still a weapon of war, so is an ICBM.
Maybe the reason why gun control hasn’t passed in the way that Democrats want is because, once you get past the sloganeering, the people don’t support it because the verbiage used by politicians, pundits, journalists, and pollsters is either not honest or is peddled by people who do not know what they are talking about. Polls aside, what is a right anyway? A right is supposed to be something that does not diminish with the passions of the moment “to do something”, whatever that means, for as Benjamin Franklin once told Joseph Galloway, “passion governs and she never governs wisely.”