Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2106--Who's Afraid of the NRA?

Who's afraid of the NRA? Pretty much every Republican member of Congress--House and Senate--and a smattering of craven Democrats.

And what are they afraid of? Simple--they fear that if they vote for even modest restrictions on assault weapons the NRA will "primary" them--run and fund someone against them who hews slavishly to the NRA line.

Why is the NRA threat so powerful that almost all Republicans in lock step will resist any piece of legislation that the leadership of the NRA perceives to be against its own self interest? Not the legislator's, not the nation's, not even the vast majority of NRA members.

This is less clear since between 70 and 80 percent of NRA members actually support stronger background checks and restrictions on assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition. Ideal weapon systems to commit mass murder as in Orlando 10 days ago.

One would think that if an incumbent voted for some modest limitations, such as the ones voted down by the Senate this week, it would please the vast majority of his or her constituents.

Thus, I remain puzzled. It seems like an easy choice--vote to restrict, even forbid the sale of weapons to anyone on the no-fly and terrorist watch lists and easily get reelected.

But, among others, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, robotically following the NRA-GOP talking points, when urging senators to vote against four modest pieces of legislation that would restrict the sale of weapons to potential terrorists, said that to approve any bill would be tantamount to voting to deal with symptoms and not the cause. The cause in this case fighting ISIS since the Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando shooters all said they committed mass murder in support of the Islamic State.

This would be like McConnell saying we shouldn't treat the symptoms of cancer but should focus solely on its cure. Ignoring the obvious--do both, as we do, at the same time.

The NRA funds various PAC groups and the campaigns of individual members of Congress as a way to assure its agenda continues to have congressional protection--the unrestricted sale of all forms of weapon systems. Even to criminals and possible terrorists. Their perverse logic--if even these common sense restrictions were enacted into law they will be followed immediately by Democrats and President Obama moving to eliminate the Second Amendment.

Of course this is preposterous. But there you have it.

I have one suggestion--former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg has spent tens of millions of dollars to support gun control legislation. Thus far this has been ineffective. Why not a change of strategy--offer to fund on a two-for-one basis any money deployed by the NRA leadership to stop all forms of anti-gun legislation and to fund primary opponents of members of Congress who are targeted (pardon the metaphor) during primary season?

The NRA itself plus organizations and individuals that fund efforts to defeat gun control legislation and candidates who vote in favor of these restrictions spend about $37 million a year. Bloomberg, whose net worth is $44.6 billion, could easily come up with $75 million annually until sensible legislation is approved and signed into law.

Hillary Clinton was right--"Enough."

Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive Vice President

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