E.J. Dionne isn’t a fan of the Second Amendment. The long-time liberal columnist has penned plenty of op-ed columns in favor of gun control through the years. As such, it’s safe to say that what he wants is for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-rights groups to go the way of the dodo so he and his friends can ram through whatever regulations they want.
However, his latest column about the collapsing “gun lobby” smacks of little more than wishful thinking.
Sometimes, dramatic shifts in American politics go unnoticed. They are buried under other news or dismissed because they represent such a sharp break from long-standing assumptions and expectations.
So please open your mind to this: Taken together, the events of 2016 and the results of the 2018 election will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s power.
Supporters of reasonable gun regulation have been so cowed by National Rifle Association propaganda over the last quarter century that we are reluctant even to imagine such a thing. No matter how many innocents are slaughtered, no matter how many Americans organize, demonstrate and protest, we assume the NRA and its allies will eventually overpower us.
And let’s concede up front that the vast overrepresentation of rural states in the U.S. Senate tilts the system, undemocratically, toward those who claim that government is powerless to take meaningful steps against mass killings. The fact that Wyoming and Idaho have as many Senate votes as New York and California underscores the challenges that remain.
You mean, the same challenges that have existed since the dawn of this country?
If you can recall middle school civics class, you know that the reason we have two chambers of Congress organized the way we do is that smaller states were worried about being dominated by larger, more populated states. This is a real issue and the Senate was constructed that way to balance against the House, where states like California and New York hold significant power based on sheer numbers.
Anyway, back to talking about gun control.
Nonetheless, we are in a new and better world on guns, organizationally and electorally. This conclusion is compelled not by wishful thinking but by the evidence. Investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election have the NRA in its sights. As Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported in The Washington Post, the guilty plea entered into last week by Maria Butina, a Russian agent who courted NRA leaders, “has intensified questions about what the gun rights group knew of the Russian effort to shape U.S. policy, and whether it faces ongoing legal scrutiny.”
One of the things we need to know more about: Why “NRA spending on the 2016 elections surged in every category.” The bulk of this money went to supporting Donald Trump. As the Post journalists wrote, the key question — which is being posed openly by Democrats but is no doubt of interest to prosecutors — is “whether the group’s spending spike was tied to its Russian connections.” The article also noted that in 2018, the NRA’s political spending “plummeted.” While the organization has denied wrongdoing in 2016, it is clearly in disarray and some suburban Republican candidates this year were fearful of cashing its checks.
What evidence? The Mueller investigation has looked at all kinds of things since it was empaneled and guess what? It hasn’t found anything.
Dionne can claim there’s no wishful thinking involved here, yet where’s the evidence? Yes, Marina Butina was arrested and has pled guilty to being a Russian agent, and she may well have been trying to influence the NRA, but that doesn’t make the NRA somehow the bad guys. Even if she were successful in her influence, it doesn’t mean the NRA was willingly working with a foreign agent, and we’re still not sure how successful she was in her efforts.
Dionne continues to go down the rabbit hole of connecting everything he can to the impending demise of the NRA, but there’s a real problem with that.
It isn’t happening.
Is the NRA under fire and having a rough time? Yes. That’s what happens when a governor with tremendous power over the financial industry begins to pressure them to cut off his opponent. That’s not going to stand in the long term, and Dionne would do well to remember that.
He won’t, though. He’s too happy to dance on the grave of the NRA to even bother seeing if it exists.