January 17, 2013

NRA trains big political guns on states

Lawmakers are bending under pressure as the group rouses its members to oppose firearms limits.


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A National Rifle Association poster decorates a booth at the 35th annual "SHOT show" on Wednesday in Las Vegas. Lawmakers both fear and admire the group’s political power.

The Associated Press

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This frame grab image shows a scene from video released by the National Rifle Association. In a sharp pushback against any new gun regulations, the NRA posted a Web video on Wednesday.

The Associated Press


The White House says a National Rifle Association video that makes reference to President Obama's daughters is "repugnant and cowardly."

Obama spokesman Jay Carney says most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as "pawns in a political fight." Carney was referring to an online video from the pro-gun lobby that calls Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed Secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while voicing skepticism about putting armed guards in all schools.

The NRA released the video ahead of Obama's announcement Wednesday of proposals for curbing the nation's gun violence.

-- The Associated Press

"What they do well is they really get people out," said Illinois state Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Democrat who heads the House committee that was to consider the assault-weapons ban until gun owners, spurred by the local NRA affiliate, overwhelmed legislators with calls and e-mails. "That's democracy. I can't fault them for it. I have to applaud them for it."

Nekritz, who supports the proposed ban, said her office was inundated with calls and emails in the two days before she pulled the bill. "I didn't see anything that was supportive," she said.

The response resulted in part from work done by the NRA's local affiliate, which e-mailed its 20,000 members and contacted other gun owners statewide.

"Our base is passionate, and it's big," said Richard Pearson , executive director of the group. "The NRA is so powerful because millions of people in the United States think the NRA is doing the right thing."

The post-Newtown efforts by gun rights activists follow two decades of success in transforming the policy and political landscape from the ground up. With the debate largely at a stand-off in Washington over the past 20 years, state after state has expanded gun owners' rights, rolling back restrictions and, in many places, allowing people to bring guns onto college campuses, school grounds and the property owned by their employers.

Before 1987, when Florida approved a landmark law saying that anyone who can legally own a weapon shall be issued a license to carry it, 31 states prohibited or sharply restricted residents from carrying guns, according to an NRA report. The Florida law became a model that was widely adopted after state-level lobbying by the NRA.


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