Was NRA "beaten at their own game" as op-ed claims?

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

For the first time in decades, there’s been a gun control law passed. While it’s bad news for gun rights advocates, it’s not exactly great news for gun control supporters. After all, they didn’t get much of anything in the deal.

But they’re still thrilled. After all, they beat the NRA! That’s got to count for something, right?

Over at The Hill, it seems one writer is so thrilled, he’s writing about how the gun control crowd beat the NRA at its own game.

In the wake of the May school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the first stage of grief for many Americans was shock laced with a strong dose of cynicism.

Ever since 41 Republican and five Democratic senators voted down a bipartisan gun safety bill after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook School, we’ve grown accustomed to Congress responding to massacres at churches, music festivals, nightclubs and workplaces with little more than “thoughts and prayers.” Why would anything be different after the nightmare in Uvalde?

But against all odds, this time was different. Less than a month after the shooting in Uvalde, 15 Republican senators defied opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and joined all 50 Democrats to pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first piece of major gun safety legislation to make it to a president’s desk in 26 years. While the bill leaves plenty of work to be done, it will help keep guns out of the wrong hands and provide critical support to states and communities working to prevent gun violence. President Biden celebrated the act becoming law today in a ceremony at the White House.

All of this swift action begs a question: Why is Congress finally doing now what it should have done long ago? The answer can be traced back to the Senate’s failure to take action after the shooting at Sandy Hook School, which taught the gun safety movement four critical lessons.

Of the four data points the author notes, the last is to “chip away at the NRA’s brand.”

The problem with all of this is that it ignores a few key points that the author would rather you ignore as well.

First, despite all the money being funneled into these groups–and while the author uses the term “grassroots,” the billions coming from Michael Bloomberg makes that term less applicable–the best they could get is a closure to the boyfriend loophole, the least controversial ask they could have managed.

That’s it.

If they were going to beat the NRA and chip away at its brand, why is that deal the best they can manage? Sen. John Cornyn already told them they’re not getting more than what little they already got, so did they really beat the NRA? Really?

The truth of the matter is that the power of the NRA has always rested in its membership. For all the presentations of the NRA as some nebulous juggernaut, it’s always been about mobilizing people.

Yes, a gun control law passed. It’s as mild a gun control law as one could imagine. It’s not a template for creating doom and gloom among the NRA faithful.

But then again, when your side has a history of failing as miserably as the gun control side does, it makes sense that you’d take any little victory you can and make it a bigger deal than it is.