When Hillary decided that gun violence would become a signature issue of her presidential campaign, she was warned by all the ‘experts,’ including husband Bill, that she was making a big mistake. You don’t mess with the NRA; that’s been the mantra since Al Gore lost his White House bid because allegedly the NRA prevented him from carrying his home state. And Obama also learned that messing with the NRA could cost him dear; he couldn’t even get a puny, little gun bill through Congress after the horrendous massacre at Sandy Hook.
When it comes to putting up the green to persuade our elected representatives how to vote, the NRA doesn’t really hold a candle to what flows into campaign coffers from big-league players like the banks, the insurance companies, the lawyers; i.e., the folks whose decisions really make a difference in all our lives. For that matter, the NRA doesn’t even come close to the lobbying efforts of environmentalists. I mean, who’s going to argue with a tree? Finally, it really doesn’t take much of a political backbone if you’re from Oklahoma, Missouri, or some other gun-rich state, to stand up and pledge allegiance to the 2nd Amendment, and funny, but just about all the dough that the NRA passes out around Capitol Hill goes to Members of Congress with safe seats in red states.
But where the NRA has always sat on top of the heap is when it comes to promoting or challenging gun laws at the local and state levels since it has always been assumed that their vast membership can provide the necessary ‘feet on the ground’ every time a local political event takes place. After all, what other gun organization claims a membership of 4 million? Or is it 5 million? I’ve heard both numbers over the years, but either way, these folks can and do generate lots of emails and telephone calls to elected officials if and when the gang in Fairfax wants to make some noise about guns.
When it comes to creating political noise about guns, until recently the pro-gun folks more or less had the field to themselves. Organizations like the Brady Campaign, Violence Policy Center, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and others have done important work to heighten public awareness about gun violence, as well as conducting research and engaging in lobbying on the Hill, but these groups and others did not focus on building the kind of grass-roots, action-oriented member activity for which the NRA constantly pats itself on the back.
I don’t think that Hillary would have been willing to put gun issues on the top of her campaign agenda were it not for the fact that organizations pushing for more sensible gun regulations are now equal, if not ahead of the NRA when it comes to the number of feet on the ground. First and foremost in this regard is the Everytown-Moms Demand Action combine spearheaded by Shannon Watts, who understood that the issue of gun violence could be raised at the point where everyone sooner or later appears, namely, the entrance to the supermarket, the shopping mall, we all go out and buy stuff we do or don’t need. And the key to Shannon’s success was the awareness that decisions about things like family safety are usually vested in the family Mom; hence the name of her organization, hence finding women who will get up and lead, hence a remarkable record of growth and achievement in less than four years!
Every once in a while there’s a setback, a campus-carry bill is vetoed in Georgia but becomes law in the Lone Star State. The latter won’t be the first time that the hard work of Moms and other groups will go for naught. But if Hillary moves back into the White House in 2017, it will be in no small measure due to what groups like Moms Demand and others have done to elevate the discussion about guns. And that’s a good thing.