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November 10, 2008

The Latest Charade

It seems that every election cycle there is an elaborate and almost comical charade that takes place. It goes something like this:

1) The National Rifle Association (NRA) alerts the media of a massive war chest to be spent to elect or defeat candidates based on their position on gun control.

2) Very small amounts of NRA monies are doled out to candidates in extremely safe seats.

3) Late in the election cycle, massive NRA funding is spent to defeat designated "gun grabbers." Wild and outrageous charges are hurled at these candidates.

4) Immediately after the election is concluded, the NRA claims a great victory, citing the percentage of winning candidates it has supported. This is duly reported in the press and touted in all the pro-gun publications. The elective power of the NRA becomes part of the “conventional wisdom.”

5) Later, careful analysis of the election results reveals that the majority of NRA-supported candidates would have won without the NRA. More importantly, in races where the NRA concentrates its attacks, their tactics are shown to have had no significant impact on the results. Unfortunately for the purveyors of conventional wisdom, the NRA claims of great victory have already been set in concrete. Future candidates are warned of the fearsome power of the big bad NRA.

Last Tuesday’s election once again followed the first half of the traditional pattern. During the summer, the NRA announced that it intended to spend $40 million in the elections—including an eye-popping $15 million campaign intended to defeat Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. The NRA backed some ‘A’-rated supporters in safe seats and launched outrageous attacks on other politicians, with Senator Obama their primary target.

But after Senator Obama’s landslide victory in the presidential election—and Democrats’ significant gains in both the House and Senate—the national media finally called attention to the NRA’s sleight of hand.

NBC’s Carrie Dann reported: “As the vote margins of the presidential race rolled in, the one-time wedge issue of the Second Amendment did not seem to pack the national-stage punch for which the influential gun lobby had aimed. Nationally, gun owners broke for McCain by almost the identical margin that they broke for Bush in 2004. But in the states where the NRA Political Victory Fund's toughest efforts against Obama were concentrated—gun-rich regions in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico—Obama’s victory was decisive. The Democratic nominee won those states by eight, 11, and 15 points, respectively. Of the 11 states where the NRA's anti-Obama ads were reportedly aired, McCain won only one: Texas. Down the ballot, the NRA backed all six of the Republican Senate candidates who lost to Democratic challengers. And in several high-profile House contests, NRA-backed candidates like Ed Tinsley, Bill Sali, Steve Chabot, and Phil English came up short … The influence of the once-dominant gun lobby appears to be up for debate...”

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence pointed out some other salient facts about the election in a new report, noting that “The NRA spent over thirty-one times more money against Obama than it spent in its negative efforts in 2000 against Al Gore” and “The NRA spent over 90% of its independent expenditures on losing candidates.”

Only time will tell if the purveyors of common wisdom will finally absorb the truth of the effect of the NRA on national elections (or lack thereof). We should remain cognizant, however, that the NRA had $15 million to waste on this election. Pro-gun control forces did not. Now is the time for those who support sensible gun laws to put some of their money where their heart is—there is still important work to be done to reduce the 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in our country.


  1. Is it not time to revoke the charter of the NRA. Congress chartered them to promote marksmenship. Not to to play political games.

  2. The main activity in generating NRA membership - hunting - is dying off. In West Virginia, the NRA was successful in getting hunting added to the high school curriculum in an effort to revive this dying "art." All over the nation, similar efforts are going on, but somehow I doubt that gutting a newly-killed animal in the field is going to have the same appeal to today's kids as will destroying thousands of virtual critters on their Xboxes parked next to the refrigerator.

  3. As a gun owner, I got tired of the "sky is falling" chicken little act of the NRA. Responsible gun ownership is "a right" and reasonable restrictions (i.e. restrictions on felons and the mentally ill and machine guns) should be common sense. The NRA only exists today to scam money off people it can convince the 2nd amendment is coming to an end. What the NRA needs is real leadership that doesn't play to fear, it should play to owners rights and teach responsible ownership to where the horror stories of teenagers with assault weapons killing or planning to kill are ended. Instead of "beating the drum" that guns don't kill people, yes they do, irresponsible gun owners kill people and that's the story that causes the problem.

  4. What reasonable restrictions on "gun rights" only affect those that aren't eligible to have firearms?

    The 2nd amendment is very clear that the people have the right to keep and bear arms. Making people pay hundreds of dollars for a "reasonable" licenses disenfranchises the poor from being able to bear firearms.

    Not one 'reasonable restriction' has been shown to limit the criminal's access to firearms. Check out Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles. Heck, even an island nation like Great Britain can't stop criminals from getting guns.

  5. Wow, nice to find this commonsensical site. Glad to see that there are gun owners who realize there are real issues with gun violence that need to be dealt with, unlike the NRA, which is nothing more than a shill for the gun manufacturers. My dad, an avid hunter, was an NRA member many years ago, and I believe he would be appalled at what the organization has turned into.

  6. You can't pick and choose the amendments that suit you. Your "sensible gun laws" will never trump the people's right to bear arms that has existed since the beginning of people.

  7. Its been decades since hunting was the NRA's main activity for generating membership. I remember my father dropping his membership in the mid 60's because of the NRA's constant quest for more and more money. Since that time their main source of memberships has been fear mongering: They are coming to take your guns! (I heard that from my father in the 60's as well.)
    The NRA's main function now is as an advertising and promotional vehicle for the Gun industry. With interest in hunting waning, (It has nothing to do with Xboxes and lazy kids it has more to do with short sighted states, like Iowa where there is virtually no public hunting land, other than roadside ditches, and greedy land owners who lease their land to wealthy "hunters.") gun sales would drop off so the NRA, in concert with the Gun industry, pushes Conceal and Carry laws, fights laws regulating Assault style weapons and generally promotes anything that gun makers pay them to. Just take a look at the NRA magazine, American Hunter, its one big advertisement for the Gun industry. New ammo that requires a new gun to fire, black plastic stamped metal crap. laser sights, handguns galore. Junk!
    Of the 15 or so guns I own only one was made after 1960, the rest are pre-war, and each and every one is still in great working order and are used during hunting season, by me and my kids. By the way, they and their freinds are pretty good on the Xbox, but equally good at hunting pheasant and grouse.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Bob S. What state(s) are you referring to that charges "hundreds of dollars" for a handgun license? That type of fee was certainly not suggested anywhere in this blog.

    As for Britain, their tough gun laws have kept guns away from criminals. Here are stats from 2005 (with per capita rates per 100,000 population in parentheses):

    Total # of Homicides: England & Wales 859 (1.61), USA 16,740 (5.65)

    Total # of Gun Homicides: England & Wales 73 (0.14), USA 12,352 (4.17)

    Total # of Gun Deaths: England & Wales 185 (0.35), USA 30,694 (10.35)

    For the most recent year recorded, Britain only had 9,308 total firearm offenses OVERALL. The U.S. has more than 12,000 gun HOMICIDES alone in a given year, and more than 600,000 total firearm-related offenses annually. - CSGV

  9. Mike,

    Texas, for one, has a $140 fee for just the license itself. The fingerprints required run another $10, 2 passport style photos cost about $7 at the local drug store. Application fee when submitting for license is another $5. Plus the cost of the class required by law prior to getting your CHL runs from $35 to $150 .

    Just the government additional costs is $150.

    Nice selective use of statistics, but there is more crime out there then just firearm murders.

    Let's look at 2006 total crime rates
    Great Britain - 85.5517 per 1,000 people
    United States -80.0645 per 1,000 people

    Other statistic back up this

    As a result of different crime trends in the two countries --

    # the U.S. robbery rate as measured in the victim survey was nearly double England's in 1981, but in 1995 the English robbery rate was 1.4 times America's

    Murder: Police-recorded
    # the English assault rate as measured in the victim survey was slightly higher than America's in 1981, but in 1995 the English assault rate was more than double America's

    # the U.S. burglary rate as measured in the victim survey was more than double England's in 1981, but in 1995 the English burglary rate was nearly double America's

    # the English motor vehicle theft rate as measured in the victim survey was 1.5 times America's in 1981, but in 1995 the English rate for vehicle theft was more than double America's

    # the U.S. murder rate as measured in police statistics was 8.7 times England's in 1981 but 5.7 times in 1996

    # the U.S. rape rate as measured in police statistics was 17 times England's in 1981 but 3 times in 1996

    Burglary: Survey crime
    # the U.S. robbery rate as measured in police statistics was 6 times England's in 1981 but 1.4 times in 1996

    # the U.S. assault rate as measured in police statistics was 1.5 times England's in 1981, but in 1996 the English assault rate was slightly higher than America's

    # the U.S. burglary rate as measured in police statistics was slightly higher than England's in 1981, but in 1996 the English burglary rate was more than double America's

    # the English motor vehicle theft rate as measured in police statistics went from 1.4 times America's in 1981 to nearly 2 times in 1996

    Also the comparison is flawed:

    Gun control zealots love to make highly selective international comparisons of gun ownership and murder rates. But Joyce Lee Malcolm points out some of the pitfalls in that approach. For example, the murder rate in New York City has been more than five times that of London for two centuries -- and during most of that time neither city had any gun control laws.

    In 1911, New York state instituted one of the most severe gun control laws in the United States, while serious gun control laws did not begin in England until nearly a decade later. But New York City still continued to have far higher murder rates than London.

    Or does total crime being reduce in America but increasing in England not matter as long as firearms are controlled?

  10. Thanks for your follow-up comment, Bob S. Our argument has never been that guns cause crime, but instead that guns make crime more lethal. You stated earlier that "Great Britain can't stop criminals from getting guns." The data shows just the opposite - that Britain has effectively denied criminals access to guns and as a result has far lower rates of gun death, gun homicide and overall homicide than the United States.

    Let's review the data for 2005 again (with per capita rates per 100,000 population in parentheses):

    Total # of Homicides: England & Wales 859 (1.61), USA 16,740 (5.65)

    Total # of Gun Homicides: England & Wales 73 (0.14), USA 12,352 (4.17)

    Total # of Gun Deaths: England & Wales 185 (0.35), USA 30,694 (10.35)

    So while Britain might have a slightly higher overall crime rate (or a higher rate for certain property crimes), the fact remains that British citizens are far more likely than Americans to walk away from crime scenes with their lives intact, and that is reflected in a U.S. murder rate that is more than 3X that of Britain's.

    Britain is not alone. Virtually every other industrialized democracy in the world has tougher gun laws and lower homicide rates than the U.S.

    As for New York City, the city had a murder rate of only 6.6 per 100,000 population in 2005, in comparison with the national U.S. rate of 5.65 per 100,000. Additionally, more than 80% of guns used in crime in New York City are trafficked in from outside states, where traffickers and criminals exploit weaker gun laws. Finally, New York as a state had the fifth lowest gun death per capita rate among the 50 states in 2005. - CSGV