The Role of Today’s NRA

October 11, 2012

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The NRA, the National Rifle Association. It was formed in 1871 out of Union Civil War veterans in New York state, partly because Union small arms accuracy had been so atrocious during the war – it was rumored that for every 1000 shots fired, a Union soldier would hit once. According to their charter, they advocate for “the protection of the Second Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights, and the promotion of firearm ownership rights as well as marksmanship, firearm safety, and the protection of hunting and self-defense in the United States.”

The NRA has a widespread reputation for being a lobbying group as well, with members of Congress ranking it the most powerful lobbying organization in American politics. In 1980 the organization made their first endorsement of a presidential candidate, endorsing Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter. I have zero problem with this, as one of Carter’s cabinet members was a very strong proponent of gun control, and this group seeks to uphold the second amendment – I.E. the organization was endorsing the candidate which had clearly demonstrated in the past to have values most similar with the NRA. In addition, the NRA has publicly stated that they will endorse an incumbent candidate every time in an area where both candidates are similar on their gun control and second amendment philosophies.

Recently in four “battleground” states, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, the NRA has starting airing an advertisement urging voters to defeat Barack Obama. President Obama, the incumbent (and remember how the NRA feels about incumbents) has generally left gun laws alone, and in fact is in favor more on the side of state and municipality rights over federal rights on gun control.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, actually signed into law an assault rifle ban while governor of Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, Mr. Romney has moved away from his tough stance on gun control – see my previous article for many more examples of issues where Mitt Romney has done a 180. In addition, Mr. Romney has previously said he was a full supporter of Massachusetts’ tough laws on gun control and said, “That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA.”

So I’m curious, if President Obama has largely left existing gun laws intact, and in addition he legalized carrying concealed weapons in national parks and in checked luggage on Amtrak trains, why is the NRA endorsing Romney?   Even if they were identical in history, (because with Romney you can’t count what he’s done or said in the past, he’ll just contradict it) wouldn’t the NRA – according to their own policy – support President Obama in this case because he’s the incumbent? Paul Ryan – Romney’s own VP pick – said, “I don’t even think President Obama is proposing more gun laws.”

It’s sad to see that the NRA has moved beyond their historical and charter issues to become a purely political organization. If you’re really paying attention to the facts and you wanted to vote on 2nd amendment and gun control issues alone, Obama would be the choice in this case. President Obama has had plenty of chances to use public sentiment to push anti-gun control law: Gabby Giffords, the mass shooting in Aurora, and the Illinois mosque shooting, sadly just to name a few. He hasn’t, though. That leaves two reasons why they’ve endorsed Mitt Romney, either they’re buying into the right-wing hype with despite a lack of facts and are scared Obama is going to do something, or they’ve decided they’d rather disregard their purpose and just become a purely political organization.

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