Gun Control Activists Pin Their Hopes On NRA's Demise

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart File)

A new analysis by a pair of gun control advocates doesn’t offer much hope for fans of gun bans, though sociologists Eulalie Laschever and David S. Meyer do their best to put a positive spin on their research in a piece published at the Washington Post. The pair say they’ve “tracked gun politics in the United States from 1945 to 2015,” and based on their research they say they “do not expect Congress to pass new national legislation” anytime soon.

Despite that, the headline of the WaPo piece screams that “now might be different.” Why? The academics claim that the NRA’s legal woes could spell the death of the Second Amendment movement.

A stream of high-profile shootings over the past decade has kept gun safety groups relevant and viable. With the support of committed billionaire Mike Bloomberg, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action depend somewhat less on the mood of the moment. In the 2018 midterms, Giffords and Everytown outspent the NRA in elections for the first time.

More dramatically, the NRA faces its own institutional crisis. Leadership is battling internal dissent over management practices and public ridicule of Executive Director Wayne LaPierre’s lavish lifestyle. Contributions have faltered. Facing unprecedented financial stress, the NRA fired more than 200 staffers and declared bankruptcy. New York Attorney General Letitia James has filed suit to dissolve the group.

The gun safety coalition is stronger than in the past, and the NRA is weaker. That could make a difference.

That’s what they’re hoping for, anyway. But are they right? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

There’s no doubt that the NRA has been weakened, both by the New York AG’s attack on the group and internal problems within the organization, and it’s entirely possible that a bankruptcy judge in Texas could decide as early as next week that the group can’t move to the Lone Star State to reincorporate and stave off the attempt by Letitia James to dissolve the organization. The judge could also appoint a trustee to oversee the day-to-day operations of the NRA, which would further erode NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre’s standing, both within the organization and the broader Second Amendment community.

However, the 2A community is far larger than the NRA, and the tens of millions of Second Amendment activists aren’t going to disappear or change their mind simply because of the NRA’s issues. The Washington Post says that the NRA is in “free fall” at the moment, and yet, when we look around the country, we see that multiple states that have approved Constitutional Carry this year, almost a dozen states that have adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary protections, and a Supreme Court that’s going to wade in on the right to carry and New York’s draconian “may issue” carry licensing laws.

In D.C., West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who’s not exactly a “tool of the gun lobby,” says he’s opposed to the pair of gun control bills approved by the House, and with the filibuster still firmly in place there aren’t 60 votes in the Senate to advance anti-gun legislation to Joe Biden’s desk.

Even with a weakened NRA gun owners are making gains in some states and are holding back the anti-gun Democrats in control of Congress, though states like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and California are still advancing gun control bills. Other organizations like the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, and Gun Owners of America are still on the ground and in courthouses across the country filing suit against overreaching gun control laws, and SAF founder and executive vice president Alan Gottlieb told me on Thursday night that the organization is gaining about 1,000 new members each and every week.

Additionally, you have newer groups like the National African American Gun Association and Asian American Pacific Islander Gun Owners that are bringing in quite a few new gun owners into the fold, and while the political activism of these groups has taken a backseat to efforts to train and educate people on firearms safety and handling (at least for the moment), these groups also have the potential to become potent voices in defense of our right to keep and bear arms.

The power of the “gun lobby” is found in the number of gun owners and Second Amendment activists, and there’s no sign that our numbers are diminishing. Gun control activists desperately want to believe that “this time it will be different,” but the evidence indicates, no matter what the future might hold for the NRA, the anti-gun forces in the country are still going to be dealing with tens of millions of highly motivated gun owners who are politically active in defense of our civil rights.