Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NRA: Shooting blanks

On its way out the door, the Bush administration is gutting public safeguards like fish. Most recently, Bush and company killed the Park Service's common sense rule that requires all firearms transported in national parks to be stowed and unloaded. The Reagan era rule was enacted in part to prevent poaching. However, the NRA appears to have reached into the White House and used its supposed political power to ram through a rule change that would allow loaded and concealed weapons.

For years the NRA has thrown its weight around in Washington D.C. killing just about every needed gun control measure over the past few decades. It did this in part by scaring legislators and administrative officials alike with its perceived political power. Yet, does the NRA have that much political weight?

During the public comment period on the Park Service proposed rule, it was believed the NRA would flood the Park Service with millions of letters calling for the change. This didn't happen. In fact, the NRA was only able to muster about 40,000 letters. By comparison, conservation and law enforcement groups which opposed the changes, produced more than twice as many comments.

Furthermore, the NRA saw its power on Capitol hill take a significant hit this past November. Of the 18 NRA endorsed Senate races, NRA candidates won roughly half those contests. More troubling for the NRA, their endorsements in tight races in states like Colorado, North Carolina and Alaska went 0-6. Ouch!

However, what probably most reveals the NRA's waning influence is that it choose not to endorse candidates in 16 other Senate races. This despite the fact that in many of these contests such as that in Massachusetts, the Democratic incumbent was given an F on their gun voting record. This should have been a no brainer for the NRA, yet it chose to punt on this race.

Does the NRA deserve its political deference? Hardly. In fact, its quite clear the organization is running low on political ammo.

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