Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight

Gun-Control Groups Can’t Put Muscle Behind Public Anti-Gun Sentiment

Houston Gun Show Photo credit: M&R Glasgow / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Houston Gun Show Photo credit: M&R Glasgow / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Houston Gun Show Photo credit: M&R Glasgow / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If the battle over gun control were a war, then the defenders of the 2nd Amendment would show up with a huge, modern army, c

omplete with tanks, assault weapons, and flamethrowers — while their opponents would be armed with pitchforks, indignation and the knowledge that the public is behind them.

It’s not a fair fight and hasn’t been for years.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the biggest gun on this battlefield, raised an average of about $1 million every single day of the year, according to the most recent tax filings available*.

By comparison, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, possibly the best-known gun control group, raised a little more than $10,000 per day in the same year.

Everytown for Gun Safety — the group into which billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg pours some of his wealth — is by far the gun control group with the most money. However, its $36 million raised in 2013 still amounts to only 10% of what the NRA took in.

Most importantly, the gun control crowd is seriously outmanned when it comes to knocking on doors at election time.

According to its own estimates, the NRA has 150,000 volunteers. The Brady Center has 1,000, and Bloomberg’s group has zero.

In other words, the NRA and its allies can put an army of followers at the disposal of its allies. These foot soldiers can speak to voters face to face,  hand out fliers, make phone calls, and register voters — while most of their opponents post clever memes on Facebook and point out on Twitter that an average of one mass shooting occurs each day in the United States.

And yet, some of the gun-control measures that have been proposed enjoy as much bipartisan support as any issue we are likely to see in these partisan times.

A recent poll shows that 85% of Americans (including 79% of Republicans) want to close the so-called gun show loophole, which exempts from background checks all persons attempting to make private gun sales. If it weren’t for the NRA, voting to end that loophole would be a no-brainer for any politician.

Other gun-control proposals also enjoy majority support. For example, 79% of Americans – and 81% of Republicans – favor laws limiting gun sales to the mentally ill. Most Republicans (55%) also support a federal database that tracks gun sales. In total, 70% of Americans are in favor of this. Lastly, 57% (including 48% of Republicans) support an assault weapons ban.

But all these impressive figures are beside the point, because dedication trumps advocacy when politics turns personal.

While it is difficult to measure dedication to a particular issue, the membership numbers of the competing organizations tell the tale. There are simply more 2nd Amendment supporters than gun control supporters who are willing to commit their personal resources to this fight.

Since elections are decided by money and a good ground operation, it is not surprising that Republican lawmakers time and time again go against public sentiment and vote with the NRA.

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Senator Mitch McConnell holds a rifle in his cold, living hand. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

That was never more obvious than last week, when the Senate voted down an amendment that would have prevented known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns – the day after the San Bernardino shooting. Only one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk from Illinois, voted in favor of the measure.

It is unlikely that this legislative balance of power will change until the proponents of 2nd Amendment restrictions start matching the muscle and money that the NRA is putting up.

Thoughts and Prayers

Following the most recent shooting, the Republican presidential candidates were skewered for offering only their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims instead of taking action to halt mass shootings. But the same can be said for the Facebook warriors who voice their indignation online with clever posts and tweets but limit their involvement to that.

Lawmakers whose first rule is electoral survival will only be persuaded to support gun control measures when they feel more afraid of doing nothing than of incurring the wrath of the NRA. And that will only happen if gun control advocates start matching the fervor of the gun lobby, as well as the money it is spending to preserve the status quo.

* It must be noted that the NRA gets about half of its $350 million from membership dues, and that it spends money on things other than preventing lawmakers from following the wishes of the majority of Americans. Still, it has a lot more money available than its opponents.

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14 responses to “Bringing a Knife to a Gunfight”

  1. Pertinax says:

    Who, What, Why .. just like Fox .. not news – opinion.

  2. Kevin says:

    “Senate voted down an amendment that would have prevented known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns – the day after the San Bernardino shooting. ”

    First off, there is a very big difference between “known” and “suspected” terrorists. In the US, people are supposed to be given due process of law. Is this article suggesting that people who the US government considers to be a “suspect” should have their 2nd amendment rights removed? If so, what other Constitutionally protected rights should be lost due to “suspicion” from the government? Freedom of speech?

    I hope everyone can see how incredibly dangerous this is. We already live in a country that passed the “National Defense Authorization Act” (on New Year’s eve about 4 years ago) that allows the US government to literally murder (or indefinitely detain) US citizens on the President’s say-so. We also live in a country that, under our previous administration (Dubya), attacked Iraq due to “faulty intelligence” and under our current President Obama, sought Congressional approval for the use of military force against Syria because it posed an “imminent threat”. It has been over 2 years, and despite the request being rejected, the “imminent threat” still hasn’t materialized. My point is that we see stuff like this on a regular basis and yet people still trust in government enough to push for gun control.

    Also, is this article pushing for “limiting gun sales to the mentally ill” ? I would suggest your readers (and the author of this article – Klaus Marre) do some research into “Political abuse of psychiatry in Russia”.

    Think what I’m saying is just “kooky conspiracy theory” and that “it could never happen here”? Well take a look at governments throughout history. Would you characterize them as “benevolent” or “tyrannical”? Let’s not forget that the Constitution was written to limit the powers of the Federal government because the people had to deal with the tyranny of King George. We already have reporters (e.g. James Rosen) going to jail. There are serious people suggesting that those who are skeptical of anthropogenic global warming be sent to jail. We currently have more prevalent spying in the US than the East German Stasi could ever have dreamed of. Do you see a pattern here?
    Those who fail to learn the lessons of history…

  3. kitty says:

    there are no real news outlets any more they are all opinion on blood of the day.
    The definition of mass shooting has been changed under he current administration it used to be 4 or more killed or wounded. (you can figure out why)
    If it is a majority that wants change to gun laws why do the Pols who back them get voted out?
    Its the constitution silly, hang on to it tight, defend it, learn it

  4. Westcoastdeplorable says:

    “In the meantime, an average of one mass shooting occurs in the US every day.” Hmmm, let’s see, average of one every day, why that’s 365 mass shootings a year? As I recall we had a mass shooting (or at least that’s what we were told) at Sandy Hook back in 2012, so far this year I can recall 4 such events, but 365? Sorry but I’d like to see some research that backs up your assertion.

  5. Kevin says:

    Another question that I don’t think has been asked is “why did the media give so much attention to this particular story”. There are shootings every day all around the country (look at Chicago on any random weekend) yet the media chose to highlight this one. It’s not like it was at some high-profile event (e.g. the Boston Marathon) or caused some kind of spectacular destruction (e.g. the towers falling on 9/11) that would make anyone think “this is a terror event”.

    Even as the news unfolded, the media and politicians said they were unsure if this was related to terror. So again, why did this get so much coverage while it was unfolding? The fact that they called it terrorism after they caught the suspects (patsies?) does not change the fact that they didn’t know this at the time and there was no special reason (e.g. high profile event or spectacular destruction) that would make them think otherwise.

    I would like to hear people’s responses to this.

  6. Gil G says:

    There’s approximately one shooting per day in the U.S. so the NRA must be doing something right.

  7. Kevin says:

    An example of the incompetence of whoever controls the no-fly list. An 18 month old baby is on the list?!? I think “common sense” says to not trust the government’s “suspicions”, nor to trust their competence.

  8. Kevin says:

    Klaus Marre – I would be very interested to hear your response as to whether or not you advocate that “suspected terrorists” (and I emphasize the word “suspected”) lose their Constitutional freedoms.

    From the article:
    ‘That was never more obvious than last week, when the Senate voted down an amendment that would have prevented known or suspected terrorists from purchasing guns – the day after the San Bernardino shooting.’

  9. Axel Mattson says:

    All laws take away our freedoms. I’m not willing to lose a single freedom even if it promises to increase my safety. Freedom isn’t always warm and fuzzy, freedom has consequences and I accept that bad things can happen. But let the bad things happen and then hold those people responsible who did the bad things. Any more loss of freedom is not acceptable in my book and more bad things happen with laws than happen without them. We’ve all gotten traffic tickets for doing things that didn’t endanger a single person. Why punish the 99.9% in hopes of stopping the 0.01%? Back on my home planet we let freedom reign and we punish the bad guys, not the good guys. When there’s a car accident, we don’t outlaw cars, we punish the irresponsible.

    • Kevin says:

      Agreed. A case can be made that the US lost every single war it has ever fought in as the people continue to lose their freedom.

  10. Kevin says:

    For those who think that denying gun sales to suspected (not convicted) terrorists is a “good idea”, keep in mind the US government’s track record on stuff like this. For example, the US Government murdered Anwar al-Awlaki – who was a US citizen – without giving him due process. Maybe you think “okay but the US government said he was a suspected terrorist”.

    Two weeks later, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki – also a US citizen (he was born in Denver) – was killed by a CIA-led drone strike in Yemen. When Abdulrahman’s death was first reported in the Western press, his age was given as 21 by local Yemeni officials. Afterward, however, the Awlaki family put out a copy of Abdulrahman’s birth certificate.

    He was a typical teenager — he watched “The Simpsons,” listened to Snoop Dogg, read “Harry Potter” and had a Facebook page with many friends. He had a mop of curly hair, glasses like me and a wide, goofy smile.

  11. Mark In Boston says:

    “It’s not a fair fight and hasn’t been for years.”

    What’s unfair about it? No one is preventing gun-control advocates from organizing, raising money, lobbying, knocking on doors, buying advertising, etc. etc. They’re just lazy, about which I conclude their rhetoric is empty. When a division-leading sport team plays a team in the statistical basement, no one claims the game is unfair. Lopsided yes, unfair, hardly.

    Gun control pundits claim stricter gun laws will reduce gun crime. Maybe, but an exposé by ABC News 20/20 claims the opposite is true.

    2nd Amendment defenders claim guns don’t kill people, people kill people and that the hardest hit on strict gun laws will be the honest, responsible gun owners. This is true, even if it keeps a few guns out of the hands of criminals.

    There is an (implied) stigma around the NRA and firearm enthusiasts that they are insensitive to gun crimes and their victims. I have family members who are gun owners, friends who are gun owners and nothing could be further from the truth. But the “liberals” who want stricter gun laws don’t want to accept that gun owners and gun haters are equally disturbed by gun crime. To be “fair,” both sides of this issue let their politics get in the way.

    I recently watched to a video by NRA darling Colion Noir about guns and Chicago. He concludes that kids die needlessly every day in Chicago and other inner cities and no-one cares. I live in the inner city and know some inner city kids and Colion is right: white people from the burbs don’t really care about the regular daily murders of poor black kids. It’s only when they see on TV something happening in Newtown Connecticut, or San Bernadino California that they begin to care. But as Klaus points out, even when they care, they don’t do much…. but they know where to find the best sushi.

    In the twenty five years I’ve lived in and near a high-crime Boston neighborhood, the most noticeable drop in crime was in the early 1990s when the economy started to seriously improve and programs like CityYear were started. Stricter gun laws had nothing to do with a drop in violent crime.

    As the NRA spokesman said in his San Bernadino video, when we are at the point in society that religious zealots can walk into a public place, open fire and kill scores of people, we’re way beyond legislating our way out of the problem. Both sides of this issue need to extend an olive branch and be prepared to work long and hard at a solution to violence, in general. And IMO that includes our tacit endorsement of the State crime of wars of aggression.

    This article is about the politics of gun control. I can get that anywhere in MSM. I come to WWW for something I can’t get anywhere else. I’m a little disappointed.

  12. Hugh Mayle says:

    My belief is that many of the mass shootings/terrorist attacks are either staged events or controlled events. My guess is that banning the “shadow” elements of the government within the CIA, DHS and FBI would have more of an effect on eliminating mass shootings than gun-control.