With voting underway and the election less than two days away, I have been caught up in even more politically charged conversations than normal.
Inevitably, the conversation about gun rights vs. gun control comes up. As soon as the topic comes up, you can set a timer because in less than minute the gun control advocate is going to start attacking the NRA. They'll go on and on about how the big, bad, NRA is evil and use their money to push an agenda that only a minority of Americans want. I'm used to blowhards and ignorance in any political discussion yet I'm always amazed at the special place the NRA has gotten as a target for vitriol.
Here's the problem I have with the anger directed at the NRA: It is bullshit.
To the gun control lobby and, through their public relations efforts, a specific swath of the general public, the NRA has become the boogeyman, the monster under your bed, and Freddy Krueger all rolled into one super villain. I suppose there is a certain comfort that comes from making one small group is the cause of your discontent and that everything is their fault. I just prefer to use logic. Let's go to the numbers (deputy likes dots style):
o NRA Membership: 4.3 million
o NRA Political Spending (2012): $20.255 million
o NRA Annual Budget (2012): $205 million
Is it the members?
With 4.3 million members, the NRA is certainly a large organization yet it pales in comparison to AARP with 40 million members or the AFL-CIO with 11 million members. I guess it's not the membership that gives the NRA its political power.
Is it the money? Where does all that political spending go?
I can already hear it. Look at all that money they are spending to influence elections. They are buying the will of politicians, blah, blah, friggin' blah. Before the gun control advocates get too worked up, lets do a little digging into the numbers and see what we're really talking about. How much is $20.255 in todays political environment? Not much at all.
$1.017 million has been direct contributions to PACs, parties, and individual candidates. How much goes to candidates? Well, the single largest recipient has been Mitt Romney - with a whopping $15,850. I'm sure that made a major dent in the estimated $1 billion being spent on the presidential election alone this year. Out of the 20,093 PAC's and organizations contributing in 2012, the NRA is 292nd in spending - I guess it's not the political contributions that give the NRA its political power.
$1.490 million goes to direct lobbying efforts. In today's political economy the NRA's less than one and a half million dollars is the 163rd most. For fun, Google spent almost 10 times as much in lobbying efforts. I guess it's not lobbying that gives the NRA its political power.
$17.746 million is outside spending on express advocacy campaigns. The NRA is 16th in outside spending. Of course, that number is misleading as the top six PACs on the list have all spent well more than double what the NRA has to date this year. Crap, I guess it's not the outside spending on express advocacy campaigns that gives the NRA its political power.
If it's not money and it's not membership, what is it?
This is where the reality gets really uncomfortable for gun control advocates. The political power of the NRA comes from the root of all power in a democracy - the will of the people. Let's look at the polling data on just who has a firearm in the home:
What we see in this most basic of polling data is that 47 percent of American households have a firearm on property. Factor in people who support gun rights and don't own a firearm for whatever reason and you already have a virtual majority of the people. As we see in the second two polls firearm ownership also transcends both gender and party lines showing that gun owners cannot be pigeon-holed into a specific category.
I hear that little voice of the gun control advocates again already, "but, but, but what your virtual majority is just on an assumption - people want gun control so they feel safer". It's amazing how quickly you can believe that your small circle of friends can represent the will of the people as a whole. Personally, I'll stick to the hard polling data. And what does that data say?
Ouch. Just ouch.
Reality can be a slap in the face
I know plenty of people will be out there who are so entrenched in their thought process that they simply cannot comprehend all of this information. For their benefit, let me put it as bluntly as I can:
The NRA is not powerful because of money, membership, or lobbying. Stop pretending a single organization is the reason the gun control agenda has no traction. The reality is that the majority of Americans support gun rights, oppose stricter gun controls, and are willing to vote to protect their rights.
As always, the power in a democracy is in the will of the people.