Undue NRA influence

Tom Hyde - Staff Writer

The National Rifle Association is the most powerful lobbying firm in the country, according to Forbes Magazine.
Between 1991 and 2000, the NRA spent nearly $15 million in advertising for political campaigns, with over 90 percent of the finances reaching Republicans, more than half of whom identify as staunch conservatives.
Another $3.7 million in Soft Money contributions to political parties was spilled during the 1999-2000 election cycle. This money, however, is possibly being spent on a failing cause: protecting the rights of gun owners to bear arms in modern America.
A list compiled by the NRA that details the financial breakdown to specific campaigns reveals that in the last election cycles, five out of seven of the Senate candidates receiving the most financial support from the group failed to win election. Similarly, seven out of ten House candidates receiving the most money from the NRA also came out losers after votes were cast.
Although there is still a prevalent NRA influence in Washington, there are some indications that the money and advertisements are not enough to change the philosophical political tide in the country.
As a case study, the Pennsylvania gubernatorial face-off between Ed Rendell and his democratic colleagues over the nomination for Governor essentially led to a showdown between the NRA and the liberal Democratic establishment.
Rendell, the former mayor of Philadelphia made gun control a central part of his campaign, capturing the liberal southeastern suburbs in huge numbers, sealing the nomination.
According to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, Rendell has pulled ahead of his Republican opponent by double digits.
Of particular importance to the NRA is the fact that Pennsylvania is the nation’s most loyal and influential NRA stronghold. With more NRA members per capita than any other state, the keystone state may be representative of fading interest in the far right’s agenda.
Whether or not the Constitutional implications of gun control favor the gun lobby’s arguments to maintain and expand gun rights is subjective at best.
This position excludes mainstream Americans from engaging in debate over the issue, since inferences to the Constitution are difficult and complex for the average voter to understand.
Historically, after acts of violence, there have been serious backlashes against the gun lobby, including the assassination of President Kennedy and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
With the pivotal election of 2002 following so closely to the nation’s most disastrous terrorist attack, voters are less inclined to support those candidates who vociferously oppose gun control. For this reason, no immediate gains will be made in the near future for the gun lobby, specifically the NRA.
The ineffective tactics of the NRA are reflective of the need for better macro-management of the conservative agenda in general. Voters need to be appealed to on a personal level, not a technical argument over whether or not the Constitution includes the right of the individual to bear arms in what is called “a well regulated militia.”
Furthermore, the smear tactics of the NRA against the gun control advocates are only polarizing moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats, key groups that could decide the fate of the industry.
Wayne LaPierre called gun control efforts “pathetic and opportunistic” only three weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.
If the gun lobby wants to use its clout to meaningfully improve the rights of gun owners, it should be advocating safety from terrorism through means of personal protection as a philosophical catalyst to succeed.
Although there are contentious races throughout the country in this election, one thing that most political analysts can agree on is the deteriorating position of the gun lobby in the United States.