Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

A Shift In Strategy

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Shift In Strategy

In January, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) program “Frontline” aired a special called “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA.” The show immediately established its anti-gun tone with video and 911 tapes from the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. A voiceover gravely intoned, “Once again, innocent victims gunned down. And then, legislation voted down.” Vice President Joe Biden appeared asking the question that clearly perplexed the “Frontline” producers: “How could [Congress] vote that way?”

The show portrayed NRA and Congress as an unholy alliance against gun control, which it uncritically assumed was a righteous cause. In doing so, it suggested that if gun control was to succeed, new fronts would have to be opened in the battle over the Second Amendment. Perhaps not coincidentally, this mirrors a renewed focus by anti-gunners on state-level activity.

Of course, the gun control movement has always proceeded on the assumption that when firearm-related crime strikes, it provides them the opportunity they seek to advance their political agenda. Moreover, anti-gunners believe, this applies even if their proposals would not have prevented the crime in question. 

That was certainly the case with the proposed federal “response” to Sandy Hook, which was a broad ban on private firearm sales that would have done nothing to prevent that tragedy. The perpetrator of Sandy Hook did not obtain his crime guns in a private sale. He killed his mother and stole them from her. As should be obvious even to the “Frontline” producers, murder and theft are already illegal.

Mark Glaze, the former executive director of Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun mayors’ coalition, acknowledged this “mismatch” in an interview last year. “Is it a messaging problem when a mass shooting happens and nothing that we have to offer would have stopped that mass shooting?” Glaze asked rhetorically. “Sure it’s a challenge ... .” Glaze’s characterization of a “messaging problem,” however, vastly understates the “challenge,” which is more accurately described as convincing Americans to surrender their dearly won freedom on false and exploitative grounds.Americans as a people are not moved by the message or the goals of the gun control lobby,which are grounded in the idea that the people of this country are brutish, unstable and untrustworthy. 

Thus, the answer to Biden’s question is a simple one: The vote failed because the proponents of the measure tried to swindle the American people, who saw through their deception. Congress’ decision, moreover, was ratified by the American electorate in last year’s midterm election. Of the 13 members of Congress who voted against the federal gun control package and were up for re-election in the 2014 midterms, 11 were voted back into office, and the two who lost were defeated by pro-gun challengers from the opposing party

While “Frontline” exaggerated NRA’s supposed stranglehold on Congress, we have the access, credibility and track record to play an influential role on Capitol Hill. Yet “Frontline” was wrong to “blame” us as “the problem” in the stalled effort to pass national gun control. The real answers are again deceptively simple, perhaps too much so for the big thinkers at PBS.

First, Americans as a people are not moved by the message or the goals of the gun control lobby, which are grounded in the idea that the people of this country are brutish, unstable and untrustworthy. Meanwhile, the message of freedom and self-reliance that underlies the Second Amendment resonates strongly with a broad     cross-section of the American public.

Second, people who care about their Second Amendment freedoms are well acquainted with their congressional candidates’ position on the issue and vote accordingly. On the other hand, people who profess to be gun control advocates generally either don’t participate in national politics or base their participation around other priorities. Congress responds to a vocal, energized constituency, including advocates of the Second Amendment.

Thus, while the “Frontline” program did not explicitly say so, it seemed to be conditioning gun control proponents for a shift in strategy. While anti-gunners are by no means giving up on the idea of federal gun control, they are now shifting their money and attention to other battlegrounds, hoping to establish beachheads that will tip the national campaign in their favor. 

Those who’ve studied (or survived) World War II will recall the United States’ island-hopping strategy in the Pacific. Rather than directly assaulting the Japanese mainland, American forces targeted Japanese possessions in the Pacific with relatively weak defenses. Each victory gained territory and helped reinforce the offensive effort. 

Instead, [anti-gunners] are looking to change the map one state at a time. And if you think you’re safe because you live in a pro-gun state, think again.  That, in a nutshell, is how the  anti-gunners are now looking to advance their agenda. For now, they lack the political strength to pass legislation through Congress or to exercise a “nuclear option” like repeal of the Second Amendment or ratification of an anti-gun multinational treaty (like the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty) that would empower the president to pass gun control unilaterally as an exercise of “foreign policy.” Instead, they are looking to change the map one state at a time. And if you think you’re safe because you live in a pro-gun state, think again.  

In the year following Sandy Hook, gun control forces gained ground quickly by passing a number of laws in states that already tended toward strict gun control, including Connecticut, Maryland and New York. For the gun owners of those states, however, these laws mostly just made a bad situation worse, rather than establish a sea change in policy.

More significant for Second Amendment watchers was the passage of bans on standard magazines and most private firearm transfers in historically pro-gun Colorado. Never mind that the success of this measure directly cost three Colorado legislators their jobs, two in historic recall elections. Gun control advocates considered this victory a way forward. 

Die-hard anti-gunners, moreover, were willing to pay the price. Even after sinking $350,000 into the failed effort to retain the recalled senators, Bloomberg remained smug. “In Colorado, we got a law passed,” he told Rolling Stone. “The NRA went after two or three state senators in a part of Colorado where I don’t think there’s [sic] roads. … And, yes, they lost recall elections. I’m sorry for that. We tried to help ’em. But the bottom line is, the law is on the books, and being enforced.”  

Unfortunately, Bloomberg can afford such bluster. His war chest is as inexhaustible as his ego. A few hundred thousand here, the end of a few political careers there, what does it matter to him? At the end of the day, he’s still rich, and he’s still in the fight. 

Nevertheless, the number of elected officials willing to sacrifice their jobs for Bloomberg’s ego is not unlimited, so he deployed another arrow from his quiver last year with the passage of yet another private transfer ban, this time in Washington state through ballot initiative. Elsewhere in this magazine, I describe the political dynamics of initiatives in more detail, but the important point here is that this tactic bypasses politically accountable legislators. Instead, it becomes, to a large extent, a ground and propaganda war, where the ability to pour funds into the effort often leads to a decisive advantage. Wherever the effect of spending is greatest, Bloomberg is most likely to have the edge. 

Strong allies can also provide a decisive factor in conflict. Here, too, Bloomberg has shown strength in the states. As the 13th-richest person on the planet, he has access to his fellow billionaires, many of whom find it fashionable to strive for politically correct “social responsibility.” Several of them from the technology sector joined the Washington state effort, raising over $10 million dollars to see the initiative pass by 59 percent of the vote (a lackluster investment, considering supporters of private transfer bans regularly claim public support exceeding 90 percent). 

Groundwork is being laid for similar initiative efforts in at least 12 other states. In Arizona, Bloomberg is already looking to indoctrinate the press corps through a joint venture with the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism to help media figures “improve” their reporting on “gun violence.” In Nevada, they are hard at work recruiting supporters to finance their effort.

Make no mistake, no gun owner is isolated from this state-level attack. Even if it never reaches your state, ideas that take root in populous locales (which are often anti-gun) can eventually sway the national political discourse, even as they remain highly controversial in many places. As America’s premier defender of the Second Amendment, NRA-ILA needs your help more than ever. The rights you save by supporting efforts outside your state’s borders might eventually be your own.

Illustration by T.S. Jessell

IN THIS ARTICLE
Chris W. Cox
Chris W. Cox

BY Chris W. Cox

NRA-ILA Executive Director

Follow This Contributor

Chris W. Cox has served as the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of NRA, since 2002. As NRA’s principal political strategist, Cox oversees eight NRA-ILA divisions: Federal Affairs; State & Local Affairs; Public Affairs; Grassroots; Finance; Research & Information; Conservation, Wildlife & Natural Resources; and Office of Legislative Counsel. Cox also serves as chairman of NRA’s Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), the Association’s political action committee; president of the NRA Freedom Action Foundation (NRA-FAF), which focuses on non-partisan voter registration and citizen education; and chairman of NRA Country, an effort to bring country music artists together with NRA members in support of our Second Amendment freedoms and hunting heritage.

TRENDING NOW
NASCAR Takes a Hard Left

News  

Friday, August 30, 2019

NASCAR Takes a Hard Left

After decades of NASCAR drivers literally turning left for hours every race day (road course races excluded, of course), the governing body appears to be taking a figurative left turn, politically. K-Var, a retailer in outdoor and ...

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Declares NRA a “Domestic Terrorist Organization”

News  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Declares NRA a “Domestic Terrorist Organization”

On September 3, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution, “declaring that the National Rifle Association is a domestic terrorist organization and urging other cities, states, and the federal government to do the same.”The resolution was ...

News  

Friday, September 13, 2019

NRA Statement on Texas Governor's Safety Action Report

The National Rifle Association released the following statement on Friday regarding Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's Texas Safety Action Report:   

“Pro-gun” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Turns on Second Amendment Supporters, Sides With Anti-Gun Lobby

News  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

“Pro-gun” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Turns on Second Amendment Supporters, Sides With Anti-Gun Lobby

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick uses his political website to claim he is “leading the fight for life and liberty in Texas, including … standing up for the Second Amendment.” He also proudly notes his prior NRA endorsement. But ...

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Florida Alert! Are You Ready For Gun Registration?

A Constitutional Amendment calling for an "assault weapons" ban is being proposed for the ballot in 2020.  The definition of "assault weapon," in the amendment, includes ALL semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.  If the amendment goes on the ballot ...

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Governor

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

California: Anti-Gun Bills Sent to Governor

Earlier this week, the California Legislature cast final votes on AB 12, AB 61, AB 879, AB 1254, AB 1297, and AB 1669, which will now move to Governor Newsom's desk for his consideration.  

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Groovy: Former NY Times Editor Wants to Return to 1960 Gun Laws

News  

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Groovy: Former NY Times Editor Wants to Return to 1960 Gun Laws

Proving once again that ignorance is no bar to publication in the U.S. legacy press, former executive editor of the New York Times Howell Raines has offered his inane take on the current gun control ...

News  

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The 1994 Clinton Crime Bill's Firearm Provisions

President Clinton signed the 1994 federal Crime Bill into law on Sept. 13, 1994, including the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which made it a federal crime for a private individual ...

Marching Toward Gun Confiscation: Prohibition Advocates Released Unhinged Gun Control Plan

News  

Monday, August 26, 2019

Marching Toward Gun Confiscation: Prohibition Advocates Released Unhinged Gun Control Plan

This week, March for Our Lives – the gun control group that arose in the wake of the criminal mass attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. – released a lengthy plan ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.