The Declining Influence of the NRA May Translate Into Policies Which Save Lives

NRA members stand in long lines as the shop at the NRA Store at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings & exhi
NRA members stand in long lines as the shop at the NRA Store at the National Rifle Association's (NRA) annual meetings & exhibits show in Louisville, Kentucky, May 21, 2016. REUTERS/John Sommers II

The NRA thrives on panic and fear. The organization is like some sort of a giant amoeba in a science fiction movie that grows larger still as the paranoia of the public spreads. With an inverted, twisted logic, the rationale is sold that the only way to prevent gun violence is by having as many people armed as possible. The man sitting in the church pew next to you should be carrying a weapon, as well as moviegoers, and of course what could go wrong if the law allows the carrying of concealed weapons into bars and nightclubs? How would the presence of armed students stifle rigorous intellectual debate on college campuses?

An intriguing article in the Huffington Post written by Robert Greenwald reveals the mighty NRA is now on the defensive. After all, it is an organization meant to represent the interests of gun manufacturers and not its membership many of whom back common sense gun laws. For example, 72% of NRA members support universal background checks, according to a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Center for American Progress and Civic Action. Of course, the NRA vehemently opposes such a policy.

In an almost surreal twist the NRA opposes restoring the voting rights of convicted felons once their punishment is served, but "has fought for decades to make it easier for ex-offenders to restore their gun rights, even though federal law holds that people convicted of felonies are barred from bearing arms."

And the NRA represents a tiny fraction of the gun owning public. The organization claims five million members, which may rival Trump's claim that he is worth $10 billion dollars as hyperbole. Even given this figure, the NRA represents only about six or seven percent of the 73 million or so gun owners in the United States.

Perhaps politicians have reason to stop cowering in fear at the mere mention of the NRA. According to the NRA's tax forms, the organization lost money in 2014. Revenue was down $37 million from the previous year. It seems members dues are declining because membership is dwindling. As stated in the Huffington Post: "In 2014 member dues plummeted by $47 million -- from $175 million to $128 million, according to the NRA's filing."

The NRA spent $47 million on lobbying in 2014, considerably more than the $27 million they spent in 2013 to influence politicians. These figures suggest the NRA is losing clout among lawmakers leading to more spending by the group to hold lawmakers in line.

Finally, the NRA spent $16.9 million in public relations last year compared to $14.5 million in 2013, most likely to soften an image of an organization growing more and more radical and on the fringes of society.

The declining influence of the NRA is good news for anyone who backs a rational approach to reducing the murders and mayhem on American streets. The myth that all that is needed to stop a "bad guy with a gun" is a "good guy with a gun" belongs to a bygone era.

"Using a gun in self-defense is no more likely to reduce the chance of being injured during a crime than various other forms of protective action. At least one study has found that carrying a firearm significantly increases a person's risk of being shot in an assault; research published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that, even after adjusting for confounding factors, individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession."

Guns kill. After all, they are designed for just that lethality. A NRA declining in influence may translate into policies which save lives, such as expanding background checks and keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists. As Greenwald concludes: "None of this means that the NRA is not still a formidable foe. The gun industry is worth billions of dollars and they will continue to spend what is necessary to keep America frightened, angry and armed." True, and perhaps conservative politicians instead of offering up prayers after the next mass shooting or tragic accident will offer concrete policy proposals without worry of the bogeyman of the NRA behind them. The giant amoeba is finally shrinking down to size!