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Thu Mar 1, 2012, 08:11 PM

The Myth Of NRA Dominance Parts III & IV: Two Elections the NRA Lost and the Declining Role of Guns

The Myth Of NRA Dominance Part III: Two Elections The NRA Did Not Win
By Guest Blogger on Feb 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm

The following is the third of a multi-part series by Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor at The American Prospect, on the National Rifle Association’s exaggerated role in American politics.

In the first two installments in this series, we analyzed two widespread misconceptions about the power of the National Rifle Association, that its money and its endorsements have a substantial effect on the outcome of congressional elections. Today, we’ll look at the foundations of these myths: the mistaken reading of history that allows the NRA to continue to make legislators live in fear of taking on the gun lobby.

What Really Happened in 1994

All myths have a genesis story, and this one begins in the early 1990s. The first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency saw an unusual number of controversial legislative battles – the gays-in-the-military debate resulting in the creation of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the 1993 budget with its upper-income tax increases, the unsuccessful attempt at health care reform, NAFTA, and the passage of an omnibus crime bill, which included a ban on the sale of assault weapons. When Republicans took control of both houses of Congress in the 1994 elections, the NRA immediately claimed credit for the GOP landslide, and many Democrats agreed. Bill Clinton himself validated the NRA’s argument in January 1995 when he told a reporter, “The fight for the assault-weapons ban cost 20 members their seats in Congress. The NRA is the reason Republicans control the House.”

Indeed, not a single incumbent Republican lost in 1994. But how much credit can the NRA claim for the GOP’s success? Studies by political scientists addressing this question produce the following conclusion: some, but nowhere near the Republicans’ margin of victory that year.

One study directly examined the effect of the NRA in that election. This research, by Christopher Kenny, Michael McBurnett, and David Bordua, examined NRA endorsements and election results in 1994 and 1996, and did find an impact of those endorsements – but determined that that impact was limited and highly conditional. Their results showed that an NRA endorsement helped Republican challengers to a small degree in 1994, but had almost no impact for Democrats who were endorsed, Republican incumbents who were endorsed, or any kind of candidate in 1996. These results, as well as the magnitude of the effect they found – about a 2-point boost for Republican challengers, but nothing for anyone else – were almost exactly what I found in my analysis of the 2004-2010 congressional elections.

More: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/02/22/430560/the-myth-of-nra-dominance-part-iii-two-elections-the-nra-did-not-win/


The Myth Of NRA Dominance Part IV: The Declining Role Of Guns In American Society
By Guest Blogger on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

The following is the fourth of a multi-part series by Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor at The American Prospect, on the National Rifle Association’s exaggerated role in American politics.


In the first three installments in this series (read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I discussed the myth of the NRA’s power: how its money, endorsements, and vaunted organizing ability don’t provide anything like the electoral victories so many believe. In this final installment, I address the contemporary status of guns in America. For all the cultural weight and mythology about firearms, the truth is that gun ownership has undergone a long and steady decline. Demographic shifts suggest that in the future, that decline will only continue and perhaps accelerate. And as contentious as the gun issue often appears, there is widespread agreement that gun ownership can and should be limited in various ways. Though a majority of Americans believe in a broad right to own guns, they also support universal background checks, permit requirements, and measures to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.

If you’ve been following the issue of guns over the last few years, you know that these have been good times for gun advocates. In a landmark 2008 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court settled a longstanding question by declaring that the 2nd Amendment confers an individual right to own guns. Under Barack Obama’s administration, the only pieces of legislation on guns have expanded gun rights; for instance, gun owners are now allowed to bring firearms into national parks as a result of legislation Obama signed in 2009. The assault weapons ban passed under Bill Clinton expired in 2004, and despite early indications the Obama administration might try to renew it, they have made no moves to do so. Yet a few weeks ago, top National Rifle Association official Wayne LaPierre told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference not to believe their eyes. “All that first term, lip service to gun owners is just part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term,” LaPierre said, echoing comments he has made many times before. “All of what we know is good and right about America, all of it could be lost if Barack Obama is re-elected,” he added. “It’s all or nothing.”

LaPierre’s apocalyptic warnings may be absurd, but they serve a specific organizational purpose: to convince the NRA’s constituency that the issue is of the highest urgency, and only the NRA can stop the end of freedom. Some of the premises on which the NRA’s argument about the nature of America’s gun culture rests, however, are based on widely-held misconceptions. The NRA’s picture of America – a gun-loving nation where public opinion is firmly on their side and only a small cadre of elite liberals seeks to restrict unlimited gun rights – is entirely misleading.

There is no question that Americans own more guns, and use them more often to kill each other, than citizens of any other advanced Western democracy. As of 2007, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms reported that there were approximately 294 million guns in the United States, nearly one for every man, woman, and child in the country: 106 million handguns, 105 million rifles, and 83 million shotguns (these figures are discussed here). Though crime rates in general have been on a steady decline since the mid-1990s, according to the CDC more than 10,000 Americans are still murdered every year with firearms; add in suicides and accidental deaths, and the number exceeds 30,000.

More: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/03/01/435437/the-myth-of-nra-dominance-part-iv-the-declining-role-of-guns-in-american-society/?mobile=nc


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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply The Myth Of NRA Dominance Parts III & IV: Two Elections the NRA Lost and the Declining Role of Guns (Original post)
ellisonz Mar 2012 OP
krispos42 Mar 2012 #1
ellisonz Mar 2012 #2
oneshooter Mar 2012 #5
ellisonz Mar 2012 #6
Clames Mar 2012 #7
rl6214 Mar 2012 #3
DanTex Mar 2012 #9
LAGC Mar 2012 #11
rl6214 Mar 2012 #15
pipoman Mar 2012 #19
shadowrider Mar 2012 #4
DanTex Mar 2012 #8
LAGC Mar 2012 #10
DanTex Mar 2012 #12
LAGC Mar 2012 #13
DanTex Mar 2012 #14
ellisonz Mar 2012 #17
Pacafishmate Mar 2012 #21
Dr_Scholl Mar 2012 #16
ellisonz Mar 2012 #18
gejohnston Mar 2012 #20

Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 12:52 PM

1. Doubtless after reading this...

...none of the forum regulars will every say again "it's the NRA's fault", right?


The NRA is in the same spot as many other organizations: once they have power and money and influence, they are loathe to lose it, and will deny it as vigorously as possible.

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Response to krispos42 (Reply #1)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 12:56 PM

2. Yeah, I've just decided to credit Republicans...

...and the gun lobby in general. It's more accurate.

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #2)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 07:36 PM

5. And of course you are all about accuracy.

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Response to oneshooter (Reply #5)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 08:33 PM

6. And of course you're known for your...

...eloquence, political skills, and good temper.

Sun Jan 1, 2012, 10:54 AM
oneshooter
6. Mostly hispanics here. It is a "tradition" where they came from and

we don't want them to loose their traditions just because it's against the law here!
We must remain tolerant, and understanding of our neighbors ways.

That is the Democratic way.

Oneshooter
Armed and Livin in Texas

Where in the hell is that thingy?

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1018&pid=22188

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Response to ellisonz (Reply #6)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 09:03 PM

7. Here's a pot...

 

calling the kettle black

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 01:36 PM

3. Ah, still whining about the big bad NRA while claiming that they are irrelevant.

 

Which one is it, big and bad or irrellevant?

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Response to rl6214 (Reply #3)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 11:59 AM

9. It's a little more complicated than that.

Most gun control laws under discussion, for example requiring background checks on all gun sales, or banning high-capacity magazines, are supported by well over half of Americans. But there is a mistaken perception that gun control is a losing issue politically, which makes many Democrats reluctant to take on the GOP in this area. The conventional wisdom is that that it's not worth spending political capital and riling up the gun fanatics in the GOP base. Combine that with the fact that Republicans in congress are almost all right-wing crazies who will oppose even the mildest forms of gun control, and you get where we are now.

My opinion has always been that the Democrats need to show more spine, not just on gun control, but across the board. I'll give credit to the GOP for standing united on the far-right-wing of many issues, even when it puts them out of sync with public opinion (e.g. privatizing medicare, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.). But I think Dems would do better to stand stronger for progressive principles than to keep coming to the "center", which by now has moved way to the right of where it used to be.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #9)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 12:12 PM

11. The problem is, pro-gun folks are far more passionate about their position than anti-gunners are.

This is evident by the sheer size of the NRA versus the pitiful size of the Brady Bunch.

When Democrats press gun control as an issue, it only fires up the conservative base by default.

It hurts far more than it helps, especially as trends over the past 20 years show:









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Response to DanTex (Reply #9)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 01:25 PM

15. They must be in sync with somebodies public opinion to keep getting elected

 

"I'll give credit to the GOP for standing united on the far-right-wing of many issues, even when it puts them out of sync with public opinion "

Maybe it's single issue voters that are getting them elected but somebody is putting them into the house and senate. Just because it is out of sync with your ideas dosen't mean all of their ideas are out of sync with everyone else.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #9)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 07:01 AM

19. To suggest that a conservative position on

the 2nd is 'progressive principals' or liberal principals is simply the result of gun control fanatics (in tiny numbers) continuing their quest to convince Democrats that liberal interpretation of civil liberties isn't part of Democratic values. Good thing most Dems completely disagree with this stupid notion or it wouldn't be long before neither party would stand up for civil liberties of the 99%.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Fri Mar 2, 2012, 02:15 PM

4. There used to be another poster here who gave me a daily chuckle

You've successfully replaced him.

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Response to ellisonz (Original post)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 11:45 AM

8. I think it's worth highlighting this chart...

...which breaks down the decline in gun ownership over the last few decades by age:

Part of the decline is demographic. As you can see, younger people these days are less likely to be gun owners than the young people of a few decades ago. On top of that, as the article mentions, the US is becoming more urban and more ethnically diverse, both of which have the effect of reducing gun ownership -- the demographic where gun ownership is highest is older white men from rural areas.

Regarding NRA dominance, I've pointed out before, polls repeatedly show that many specific gun control laws are supported by comfortable majorities of the population, including registering handguns and banning high-capacity magazines. And then there are some laws, like requiring background checks on all gun sales at gun shows, where the support reaches around 90%. So the idea that gun control is unpopular is a myth. And these articles also show that the ability of the gun lobby to influence elections is also way overstated. Hopefully Democrats will wake up to the reality that gun control is not in fact unpopular, and show a little more spine on the issue.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 12:05 PM

10. What you fail to realize is that even though fewer younger folks are owning guns...

...they are becoming more tolerant of guns in general:



Notice how much the support for gun control has declined amongst the 18-29 demographic over the past 20 years.

The prospects for stricter gun control are bleak indeed.

Most young folks realize that, even though they don't own guns themselves, they know that more gun control isn't the answer.

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Response to LAGC (Reply #10)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 12:26 PM

12. You should read the article in the OP. It's quite good, and covered this issue.

On the generic gun control question, public opinion has indeed been moving to the right. But, as the article points out, most specific gun laws are supported by comfortable majorities of the population.

The drop in gun ownership notwithstanding, gun advocates have been encouraged by the fact that polling has recently shown a decline in the number of Americans expressing a general interest in restrictions on guns. For instance, in early 2011 when the Pew Research Center asked respondents whether it was more important “to protect the right of Americans to own guns, or to control gun ownership,” 48 percent said the former, and 47 percent said the latter. This was a significant change from earlier years; in 1999, the same question found 65 percent saying it was more important to control gun ownership and 30 percent said it was more important to protect Americans’ right to own guns. Other polls have found similar results when they asked similar questions; for instance, between 1999 and 2011 the ABC News/Washington Post poll found the percentage of respondents saying they favored “stricter gun control laws in this country” fell from 67 percent to 52 percent.

These results might appear to validate the NRA’s belief that Americans are broadly opposed to measures to restrict gun sales and ownership, or at the very least that the country is closely divided on the question. However, over the same period there has not been a decline in support for most of the specific measures that are often proposed to restrict gun sales. Unfortunately, most of these questions are not asked continuously, as the general questions about “gun control” are. Pollsters tend to ask about specific measures when they are being debated, then stop asking once the proposal is no longer in the news. But there are many results suggesting that support for the most commonly proposed measures is unchanged. For instance, the CBS/New York Times poll in January 2011 found 63 percent of respondents favoring a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons, almost unchanged from the 67 percent that favored such a ban in March 2000 (and even a majority of gun owners favored an assault weapons ban). A detailed CNN poll on guns in 2008 found two-thirds of Americans believing the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to own guns, but also found 86 percent supporting waiting periods, 79 percent supporting registration of guns with local government, and 51 percent even supporting limits on the number of guns a person can own – an idea that is rarely suggested anywhere and could be described as almost radical.


Yes, you read that correctly, 86% of Americans support waiting periods, and 79% support registration, 51% support limiting the number of guns you can own.

Put another way, the percentage of Americans who oppose waiting periods (14%) is lower than the percentage that has a positive opinion of Paris Hilton (15%) and the percentage who had a positive opinion of BP during the oil spill (16%), and only slightly higher than the percentage of people who think it would be good for the US to go communist (11%). Meanwhile, the percentage that oppose registration (21%) is lower than Nixon's approval rate during Watergate (24%).

So much for the idea that gun control is unpopular...

Of course, you may be right that the outlook for gun control is bleak, but as I pointed out, I'm not sure if it's so much different on other issues. How is the outlook for unions? Or for raising taxes on the top 1%? How about any kind of meaningful clean energy policy that might significantly reduce CO2 emissions? Right now, the Republicans are very skilled at blocking legislation that the majority of Americans support and pushing a narrow right-wing agenda, and the Dems haven't figured out how to stand up to them effectively. Let's hope that changes.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #12)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 12:40 PM

13. Pardon me if I trust Gallup's polling more than I do corporate CNN's.

Bottom-line is: if you could barely get support for half-assed gun control measures like the AWB 18 years ago, you're not going to be getting any traction on any substantive gun control measures for the foreseeable near future, when younger folks aren't even interested in what you are selling.

I think we'll see more action on taxing the 1% and combating climate change long before gun control ever becomes politically feasible again.

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Response to LAGC (Reply #13)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 01:16 PM

14. Of course, because CNN is obviously conspiring against gun owners!

I don't know what it is about pro-gunners that they feel this need to dismiss all evidence that doesn't go their way. I'm not sure why y'all can't just admit that, while popular opinion has drifted to the right on generic gun control questions, most specific laws under consideration enjoy the support of comfortable majorities. I support many things that aren't popular in polls, but I don't find myself wanting to pretend that most Americans agree with me on them.

Also, I hope you're right about action on climate change, but there's not much evidence that this is more politically feasible than gun control. First of all, the lobbies opposed to climate change are more powerful because there is more money at stake. Second, an effective climate policy will have to include cooperation from the entire world, which has a few problems. One of them is that China and India have to play along. The second is that right-wing demagogues will be able to play the "anti-American" card.

And finally there are the Gallup polls showing a similar drift to the right in public opinion as with the generic gun control poll:


Still, I do hope you're right about climate change, economic policy, etc., and I agree with you that it's not impossible. Things can change in unexpected ways, political trends can reverse themselves, etc. But gun control is no different. Over the last few decades the politics in this country have moved to the right on most issues. That doesn't mean they can't swing back.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #14)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 01:30 AM

17. It's all about messaging.

People are polling more skeptical about global warming because they really didn't understand in the first place and now that they aren't able to comprehend the effect we are seeing are becoming more skeptical. It's the same thing with gun control, it's the "well you can't put toothpaste back in the tube" argument. The reality is though that just like we can address climate change we can also address gun violence. It's a skepticism about possibility.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #12)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 08:38 PM

21. What percentage of Americans favor gun control is completely irrelevant.

 

It could be 99% and it would still be wrong. Ever heard of tyranny of the majority? I'm sure you could get 51% of people to say that not believing in Jesus should be a crime.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #8)

Sat Mar 3, 2012, 02:47 PM

16. I don't trust the General Social Survey.

 

Why? Because it's administered by the University of Chicago. Why don't I trust the University of Chicago with any gun statistics? Because it's funded by the Joyce Foundation.

I wouldn't trust the NRA in giving me pro gun stats either, and i'm pro gun. I do trust Gallup, however.

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Response to Dr_Scholl (Reply #16)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 01:31 AM

18. That is illogical paranoia and misplaced belief...

...in the accuracy of polling on political issues as opposed to election issues. How the question is asked is vital and really needs to be asked within a series of questions, and even then there is still very much a possibility of imprecise polling.

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Response to DanTex (Reply #8)

Tue Mar 6, 2012, 10:44 AM

20. One problem with the graph

those born after 1980 are minors.
Assuming the graph is correct, it makes US gun ownership about the same as or lower than Canada and parts of Europe (but still slightly higher than 1950s). If there is a drop in gun ownership, it would be among those who bought a pistol in the 1970s and 1980s as a reaction to increasing crime. In short, the fluctuation is people who bought pistols because of rising crime, put it in the sock drawer (where it sat for years) until they sold them because of dropping crime rates and concern for grandkid's safety. That kind of describes my father-in-law, who was not country and not gun culture (he was conservative on most things, but voted Dem because singe payer health care was his single issue). He decided to buy a .32 and got a CCW because he had a business where he handled a lot of cash. When he sold the business and retired, he sold the gun and did not renew his Florida CCW. It has nothing to do with those in the shooting sports or collectors. (or Guns & Ammo subscriptions, which is why I think it made a poor proxy).
One way to test the theory is do a study on the average age of handguns on the secondary market.

In my experience, rural people of color have as many guns as rural whites.

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