Gun Control Debate: Why It's Being Won By the NRA


Second Amendment advocates that are against tougher gun regulations are holding a "day of resistance" today in the form of a series of nation-wide rallies led by "Tea Party activists and pro-gun campaigners," in response to executive orders issued by President Obama in January.

Although the latest poll indicates support for additional measures to be taken that will tighten gun laws, the anti-gun control crowd seems to be more vocal about their concerns — most likely because gun and ammo manufacturers and retailers pour money into lobbying and advocacy, while there isn’t a lot of profit to be made on the other side of the spectrum. In fact, the only real tactic gun-control advocates have is exploiting the horrors of tragedies like the ones that occurred in Newtown, and at the expense of reporting on issues that are more likely to actually affect violent crime, like poverty and parenting.

In American politics, it’s the loudest voices that are heard. Gun control advocates will have to better organize in order to compete with the NRA and their lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. The NRA has nearly a century-long record of influencing as well as lobbying for or against proposed firearm legislation on behalf of its members. Observers and lawmakers see the NRA as one of the top three influential lobbying groups in Washington.

The NRA is successful because it relies on a plethora of independent gun magazines and thousands of gun shops and gun clubs across the country to help spread its message well beyond its membership. It’s proven to be a successful tactic for small lobbying groups with enthusiastic members to exploit such viral communications networks. The American Homebrewers Association, for example, has fewer than 15,000 members. With the help of shops, clubs and amateur podcasters though, beer-friendly legislation in five different states has been passed in the last two years. This kind of exploitation is obviously more difficult to achieve for any group of enthusiastic individuals that are intent on gun control, because their cause is less marketable.

Since the gun control debate re-emerged in the national discourse, NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanadam said the group has added 250,000 new members (it reached 4.5 million this year) and 400,000 more Facebook followers. While Arulanadam wouldn’t disclose information relating to the pace of donations to the NRA over the same period, it’s hard to imagine that has not also heavily increased. It’s not unreasonable to think that the NRA will add more members, and raise more money, in 2013 than any other year in recent memory.

While I think it’s fair for gun advocates to gripe about the mostly hysterical coverage that follows school, workplace, and other mass shootings, I think it’s unfair to place that blame on a pro-gun control bias, considering the lack of organization and funding on the pro-gun control’s side. The real culprits of hyping the coverage of gun-related tragedies are corporate, ratings-hungry, and tabloid-oriented media that preach slogans of "if it bleeds, it leads" and "if they’re dead, we’re live." If you’ve ever took any kind of introductory journalism class, you’re probably familiar with "D.I.D" an acronymic formula used to help writers construct leads. It means "death, injuries, and damages," and it’s what every news story must lead with, in that order.

Actually, given the amount of coverage that is devoted to school shootings perpetrated by kids as young as 11 years old, it’s surprising how little reporting has focused on the efforts of the NRA and the gun industry to market guns to youth. Perhaps shifting attention from regulating gun laws to putting more pressure on the NRA and the gun industry to revise their marketing strategies would be a better approach. Mainstream journalists also often ignore another key factor contributing to the violent crime rate: poverty.

Surely, gun control laws have a correlation with gun-related deaths, but the top four leading causes of death in this country are all health related. I don’t hear nearly as much being reported on the health issues of America as on the gun issues. I think it’s fair to say that even if you believe in strict gun control regulations, taking away guns doesn’t solve the problem with guns. The problem with guns are the people holding them, and the truth is that anyone intent on killing is going to kill — the means of how this is done don’t matter nearly as much as the ends.

In addition, there are no substantial facts that prove that limited magazines, one of the gun regulations proposed, would have much of an effect on reducing violent crime. Seung-Hui Cho, the man who carried out the Virginia Tech shooting — one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history — used two of the smallest caliber handguns manufactured and a handful of ten round magazines. Plus, making something illegal doesn’t mean people won’t have access to it. Criminals that have guns in a society where law-abiding citizens do not is concerning. Bans and other regulatory devices simply don’t stop someone from getting what they want. In fact, it’s easier for me to buy heroin than a gun, and I’m more likely to die from the former.

History shows us that previous attempts to ban certain types of weapons proved problematic. Loopholes in the 1994 federal assault weapons ban rendered it virtually useless. Even in states with diligently written bans, manufacturers have managed to find ways to work around the restrictions. The inadequacies of the assault weapons ban in effect from 1994 to 2004 are perfectly evidenced in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Neither the ban or the other thirty-something other laws that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold broke stopped them from murdering 13 people, injuring 23 others and then taking their own lives.

So then what do we do?

Blame the criminal, not the weapon; enforce the over 10,000 weapons laws already on the books, and lock up violent criminals.