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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is the NRA’s Reign as Political Bully Coming to an End?

NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the political world’s most eloquent champions of meaningful gun control, said something interesting — and important — on Meet the Press last Sunday:

This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true…The NRA’s power is vastly overrated.

No doubt Bloomberg is correct with respect to urban congressional districts. But not everyone would agree that it applies as a blanket generalization across the nation. What hasn’t changed, according to Nicholas Confessore, Michael Cooper and Michael Luo, writing in the New York Times, is the NRA’s formidable assets: “A $300 million budget, millions of members around the country and virtually unmatched ferocity in advancing its political and legislative interests.” As The NYT article points out, quoted by Tracy, “Over the years the NRA has perfected its strategy for responding to mass shootings: Lie low at first, then slow-roll any legislative push for a response.”
But that was before the Sandy Hook shootings. In the past the NRA has been able to shrug off massacres, and the politicians have been able to get away with making statements backed by no action, as the incidents faded to the back pages of newspapers. At The New Republic, Marc Tracy quotes veteran Republican strategist Todd Harris: “The public is not interested in hearing reasons right now for why assault weapons shouldn’t be banned. They may be receptive to those arguments in a month or two, as they have been in the past.”
But the massacre of 20 young children in an elementary school is so brutal and horrifying that members of congress who now vote against modest and reasonable reforms in firearms policy are going to have to answer to a growing chorus of middle class parents who are now paying close attention.
Some no-brainer reforms that should be ripe for enactment would include a ban on public sale of high-capacity ammo clips, assault weapons and armor-piercing cop-killer bullets, along with a stronger national data base to identify criminals and people with a history of violent behavior at point-of-sale. The NRA will try to stall and delay action, hoping public attention will evaporate, so political moderates can run for cover. But it may be too late for that tactic to work this time, especially if the parents of the slain children of Newtown organize themselves into a political force that can’t be ignored. The NRA’s ‘slippery slope’ arguments against these reforms are not likely to get much traction in the current political climate.
As Mayor Bloomberg says, quoted by Amanda Sakuma at msnbc.com, the president must take “immediate action” and show leadership on the issue. “If he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns,” Bloomberg said of Obama. “That is roughly the number of Americans killed in the whole Vietnam War.”
if Mayor Bloomberg is right that the NRA is losing influence in America’s electoral politics, it would be welcome development for public safety in America. And by getting out in front on the issue as a compelling spokesman for a sane firearms policy at the right time, while other candidates dither, Bloomberg may be strengthening his cred as a potent force in national politics.

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