The Latest Charade

It seems that every election cycle there is an elaborate and almost comical charade that takes place. It goes something like this:

1) The National Rifle Association (NRA) alerts the media of a massive war chest to be spent to elect or defeat candidates based on their position on gun control.

2) Very small amounts of NRA monies are doled out to candidates in extremely safe seats.

3) Late in the election cycle, massive NRA funding is spent to defeat designated “gun grabbers.” Wild and outrageous charges are hurled at these candidates.

4) Immediately after the election is concluded, the NRA claims a great victory, citing the percentage of winning candidates it has supported. This is duly reported in the press and touted in all the pro-gun publications. The elective power of the NRA becomes part of the €œconventional wisdom. €

5) Later, careful analysis of the election results reveals that the majority of NRA-supported candidates would have won without the NRA. More importantly, in races where the NRA concentrates its attacks, their tactics are shown to have had no significant impact on the results. Unfortunately for the purveyors of conventional wisdom, the NRA claims of great victory have already been set in concrete. Future candidates are warned of the fearsome power of the big bad NRA.

Last Tuesday €™s election once again followed the first half of the traditional pattern. During the summer, the NRA announced that it intended to spend $40 million in the elections-including an eye-popping $15 million campaign intended to defeat Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. The NRA backed some €˜A €™-rated supporters in safe seats and launched outrageous attacks on other politicians, with Senator Obama their primary target.

But after Senator Obama €™s landslide victory in the presidential election-and Democrats €™ significant gains in both the House and Senate-the national media finally called attention to the NRA €™s sleight of hand.

NBC €™s Carrie Dann reported: €œAs the vote margins of the presidential race rolled in, the one-time wedge issue of the Second Amendment did not seem to pack the national-stage punch for which the influential gun lobby had aimed. Nationally, gun owners broke for McCain by almost the identical margin that they broke for Bush in 2004. But in the states where the NRA Political Victory Fund’s toughest efforts against Obama were concentrated-gun-rich regions in states like Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Mexico-Obama €™s victory was decisive. The Democratic nominee won those states by eight, 11, and 15 points, respectively. Of the 11 states where the NRA’s anti-Obama ads were reportedly aired, McCain won only one: Texas. Down the ballot, the NRA backed all six of the Republican Senate candidates who lost to Democratic challengers. And in several high-profile House contests, NRA-backed candidates like Ed Tinsley, Bill Sali, Steve Chabot, and Phil English came up short €¦ The influence of the once-dominant gun lobby appears to be up for debate… €

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence pointed out some other salient facts about the election in a new report, noting that €œThe NRA spent over thirty-one times more money against Obama than it spent in its negative efforts in 2000 against Al Gore € and €œThe NRA spent over 90% of its independent expenditures on losing candidates. €

Only time will tell if the purveyors of common wisdom will finally absorb the truth of the effect of the NRA on national elections (or lack thereof). We should remain cognizant, however, that the NRA had $15 million to waste on this election. Pro-gun control forces did not. Now is the time for those who support sensible gun laws to put some of their money where their heart is-there is still important work to be done to reduce the 30,000 lives lost annually to gun violence in our country.

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