As promised, the National Rifle Association is marshaling its resources to push back against the president’s gun control pitch, which the DCCC plans to push during the 2014 midterm elections. The group has released a new ad highlighting some of the findings and recommendations contained in an internal report buried by President Obama’s Department of Justice:
The Associated Press reports on the memo:
The National Rifle Association is using a Justice Department memo it obtained to argue in ads that the Obama administration believes its gun control plans won’t work unless the government seizes firearms and requires national gun registration — ideas the White House has not proposed and does not support. The NRA’s assertion and its obtaining of the memo in the first place underscore the no-holds-barred battle under way as Washington’s fight over gun restrictions heats up. The memo, under the name of one of the Justice Department’s leading crime researchers, critiques the effectiveness of gun control proposals, including some of President Barack Obama’s. A Justice Department official called the memo an unfinished review of gun violence research and said it does not represent administration policy. The memo says requiring background checks for more gun purchases could help, but also could lead to more illicit weapons sales. It says banning assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines produced in the future but exempting those already owned by the public, as Obama has proposed, would have limited impact because people now own so many of those items. It also says that even total elimination of assault weapons would have little overall effect on gun killings because assault weapons account for a limited proportion of those crimes. The nine-page document says the success of universal background checks would depend in part on “requiring gun registration,” and says gun buybacks would not be effective “unless massive and coupled with a ban.”
This spot needlessly blurs the line between certain eye-opening elements of the DOJ memo and actual proposals from the White House. The NRA is well within its rights to shine a spotlight on the report itself, which concludes that a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons” would have virtually no impact on gun violence unless it were coupled with sweeping mandatory buy-back measures. Indeed, it’s telling that the administration wasn’t eager to share its own inconvenient findings with the public at large. The NRA oversteps its bounds, however, by heavily implying that widespread firearm confiscation is one of “Obama’s proposals.” The gun rights group would have been on much firmer ground by asking a series of questions, pointing to actual legislative plans conceived by Democrats around the country, and letting viewers connect the dots themselves. For example: Why on earth should Congress adopt constitutionally-suspect half measures that the government’s own experts admit will accomplish nothing in the way of cutting down on gun crime? Even if the president claims he isn’t in favor of draconian confiscation plans advanced by other members of his party, could his Justice Department’s analysis be used to justify more intrusive laws in the future? These are fair and troubling questions that could underscore key passages in the nine-page report without giving media fact-checkers an excuse to dismiss the whole ad as a false smear, which it’s not. On the other hand, the president and his allies never seem to bat an eye (implicitly or explicitly) imputing dastardly motives onto their opponents, so it’s a bit rich to listen to their cries of protest over the NRA’s limited embellishment here.
Finally, an optics-related quibble: Is the pro-Second Amendment community’s message most effectively delivered by a well-coiffed, middle-aged white guy with a southern accent? Look, I hope to be a well-coiffed, middle-aged white guy in the relatively near future, so I have absolutely nothing against NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox. But a number of gun control advocates have been tripped up talking about women, guns and self defense in recent weeks. Why not have a woman “host” this commercial?