How the NRA's iron grip on Congress is slipping

How the NRA's iron grip on Congress is slipping
Wayne LaPierre, Jr. is executive vice president of the National Rifle Association. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

The National Rifle Association has been making tons of headlines over the past few months, but not just for its usual cold-hearted, craven support of inaction in the face of epidemic gun violence. Instead, it’s the allegedly corrupt—and possibly illegal—internal workings of the Second Amendment fetishists that have taken up news headlines. Every few days, news of a new resignation makes the rounds as a power struggle between NRA head Wayne LaPierre and others works itself out. But before news of a civil war between the NRA and its long-standing PR firm partner Ackerman McQueen surfaced, the gun group was already reportedly facing big financial woes.


Before all that, the NRA had begun showing some foundational cracks. Daily Kos’ Meteor Blades wrote about the gun lobby’s waning strength in the 2018 elections. Now, The New York Times has a very nice interactive visual aid that shows you how the NRA’s infamous “A to F” grading system for Congress has been showing more and more Fs in recent years. The reason is because fewer and fewer Democratic candidates and officials feel the need to give lip service to the insane policy demands of the NRA, “the number of Democrats in the House with “A” ratings has fallen from 63 after the 2008 elections to three after the 2018 midterms." Probably the most heartening paragraph from the Times is this one:

In the current Congress, slightly more than half of all members have F's. Each of the past four congressional elections has brought in more F-rated legislators than the last.

This makes current and future gun law legislation more possible than it has been in more than a decade.

It’s important to note that the drop in NRA support is a combination of newly elected Democratic officials running in opposition to the gun lobby, and incumbent Democratic officials moving their positions leftward. And as the Times points out, these moves aren’t hurting politicians with their constituents. In fact, “of the 83 members of Congress downgraded by any amount between 2008 and 2018, only 11 lost re-election. By contrast, 14 of the 31 members who were upgraded lost.”

For the past decade, the NRA has pushed harder and harder on the more conservative lawmakers in its pocket while pulling away from Democratic candidates in purplestates, who aren’t cowing to the gun nut lobby. The NRA continues to push further right by trying to get Republicans to downplay mass shooters’ right-wing motivations, while blaming left-leaning ideologies for the same violence. The organization is also doubling down on its historically racist platforms in the hopes of getting some of that “economically anxious” Trump support. As less and less people actually support the NRA’s positions, the group moves further away from the rhetorical tactic of telling people to not politicize gun laws, and relies more on screaming jingoism and false patriotism.

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