Political movements rise and fall. It’s part of political life in a democracy with a free market of ideas.
Of course, there’s nothing that the purveyors of central intellectual planning would like more than for the National Rifle Association to fade into obscurity. In this CNN article, the writer quite tangibly palpitates at the idea.
Could the National Rifle Association ever face a similar fate? Most Americans probably don’t think so. When a gunman murdered nine people at a community college in Oregon earlier this month, the President seemed to express what many Americans were thinking when he said, “Somehow this has become routine. … We have become numb to this.”
There’s a pervasive belief that any attempt to tighten gun laws would be futile because too many politicians are afraid to defy the NRA. But there are at least four examples from American history — including two snatched from recent headlines — where ordinary people and unforeseen events defeated a seemingly invincible lobbying group, and hardly anyone saw it coming.
Could the NRA vanish from political prominence? Of course.
But the article is wrong on three points:
Apples And Axles: The author – John Blake – picked four groups as examples of “popular” opposition overturning “powerful lobbying groups”: The “Anti Saloon League”, the “Tobacco Lobby”, the “Cuba Lobby” and AIPAC.
They’re all lousy comparisons:
- The “Cuba Lobby” became less relevant with the end of the Cold War. Not to say they’re not right.
- The big defeats of the Cuba Lobby and AIPAC that Blake cites were the establishment of relations with Cuba, and the jamdown of the Iran
treatyexecutive agreement. Both were single-issue decisions by an ideological executive – in the case of the Iran “agreement”, very possibly a violation of the law.
- The “defeat” of the tobacco lobby was a result of decades of public health propaganda (which happened to be largely correct, outside the canard of “second hand smoke”) that didn’t need to be politicized to be effective (although it often was anyway), and cost billions and billions of dollars.
- The Anti Saloon League was opposed by an equally-large mass of countervailing opinion; this opinion took 15 years to get organized (Prohibition was nearly 100 years in the making); The ASL was, in fact, more analogous the gun control mement, and its opposition was more similar to the Second Amendment Rights movement between 1985 and 2000.
Which brings us to the second point:
NRA is the Vox Populi: I’ve non-joke joked for nearly three decades now; the left has been jabbering about class warfare for a couple centuries. And they finally got one; the battle over guns. But they’re the patricians, and the Second Amendment movement are the uppity peasants.
As Jeffrey Snyder pointed out in his seminal essay A Nation of Cowards, that’s the reason the left has spent the last fifty years so knotted up about guns; not because they care about anyone’s lives, or “gun violence”; but because it’s the vox populi giving them a big bad veto, saying “the nannystate has its limits”.
In the early nineties, at the start of the Clinton Administration’s gun control efforts, the NRA reached a then-record membership of 4 million – people who paid a minumum of $35 a year for their memberships, frequenlty more. At the time, the various gun grabber groups reached a peak strength of around 150,000 – at a time when “membership” meant, in most cases, saying “I’m a member!”. The “Million Mom March” may have peaked out around 10,000 members, at a time when all a Mom had to do was…march. Or indicate an interest in marching.
And focusing on the NRA is misleading in and of itself – because…:
The NRA Is Just A Part Of The Movement: The NRA deploys some serious muscle at the federal level. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Second Amendment human rights movement is a mosaic of dozens, maybe hundreds, of smaller groups that do most of the heavy lifting in the states, where most gun legislation takes place. In Minnesota, the bulk of the actual work is done by GOCRA and MNGOPAC, with several other groups helping out in the various trenches as well. The NRA has always been a utility player in Minnesota; they had almost nothing to do with Shall-Issue; they helped with the lobbying in 2012 through this past session, but they are part of a cast of groups, not the big gorilla.
Here’s the real measure of support; when GOCRA says “turn out to the capitol” to show legislators where the real political brawn is, hundreds of people from all over Minnesota turn out in a sea of maroon shirts; the Bloombergs might be able to get a couple of dozen wan-looking Highland Park “progressives” accompanying their half-dozen paid, mercenary lobbyists. It has more in common with the people who rejected Prohibition than the people who enacted it.
And this process has only accelerated as the distribution of information has become more decentralized. In 1993, the Gun Owners Action League (the predecessor of GOCRA) had to print and mails its newsletters at great expense, to a database maintained on heaven only knows what. Today, grassroots gun rights groups can, and do, form around facebook pages and online discussion forums, and with a little work and diligence and messaging can actually go on to persuade the unpersuaded.
The same dynamic holds for the anti-gun side – but at the end of the day, all they seem to draw is liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, and people who look like they got lost on their way to a live presentation of “This American Life”.
Backwards: So in its lust to silence the peasants, CNN has gotten things more or less inverted: the NRA is not only utterly unlike the four “unbeatable lobbying groups” that they cite, but they aren’t even the real issue.
The real issue is this: the part of America east of the Hudson and west of the Sierra Madre thinks the Second Amendment is at least a weird throwback, and at most a threat to their version of civilization. Real Americans treasure the Second Amendment as all other civil liberties, and will fight for it as they have for the past forty years – without regard to the group that carries the flag.