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Mon Dec 17, 2012, 03:57 PM

Democratic Fear Inflates Myth of N.R.A. Power


Democratic Fear Inflates Myth of N.R.A. Power
Paul Waldman

The National Rifle Association tells elected officials that if they support any kind of restriction on guns, they are doomed to defeat at the polls, and many of them believe it. The truth, however, is that not only does the N.R.A. have virtually no effect on elections, the public is quite open to any number of sensible restrictions on guns.

This year, the N.R.A. spent over $13 million in a failed attempt to defeat President Obama. In the Senate, the group spent over $100,000 in eight races trying to elect their favored candidates. Seven of the eight lost, most by comfortable margins. That pattern is repeated in election after election.

That isn't to say the group doesn't wield influence. The N.R.A.'s ability to sway elections may be a myth, but myths can be powerful. Members of Congress who have nothing to fear cower in the mistaken belief that the issue can only benefit those who want more guns in more hands. Even after one of their own colleagues was shot in the head at a public event, lawmakers did nothing.

Gun advocates note that when surveys ask broad questions on gun control, more Americans say they are against it than for it. But that can't be a result of our national debate. The last time we really debated the issue in the 1990s support for restrictions rose. But after the N.R.A. successfully convinced Democrats that they lost Congress in 1994 and the White House in 2000 because of the gun issue (contentions contradicted by the evidence), Democrats retreated from the issue in fear. So in recent years, the debate has sounded like this: Gun advocates say Democrats are sending jackbooted thugs to take away everyone's guns, and Democrats assure everyone they have no plans to do anything of the sort. So it's not surprising that support for "gun control" has fallen. ...

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Mon Dec 17, 2012, 04:07 PM

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