Last Wednesday the Senate defeated several measures to expand gun control, which did not surprise me at all given the fact that the gun lobby is not only thriving, but has massive amounts of cash. When the NRA suggested that armed teachers could have possibly changed the outcome of Sandy Hook Massacre, it was a tell tale sign of things to come.
Since 1998, the NRA has spent $28.2 million on lobbying in Washington and employed between 16 and 35 lobbyists in any given year. The group has doled out more than $3.3 million in campaign contributions and $44 million on independent efforts to support its favored candidates in the last three federal elections. These are not large numbers.
The group's great clout lies in the sheer number of people it can mobilize. The NRA boasts four million members, whom it spends a large piece of its budget engaging. Communicating with members constituted one fourth of all NRA expenses $57 million in 2010, the most recent year for which tax filings were available. That is a far higher amount than the NRA spends on lobbying or campaign ads, underscoring the grassroots nature of the group. Members also are the biggest source of funds for the NRA, supplying $100 million out of a total of $227 million in revenue in 2010.
According to some current and former aides on Capitol Hill and within the Obama administration the NRA has garnered power by being flexible with its endorsements. Members of both parties routinely beg for its approval (a group that endorsed only Republicans would be written off as a lost cause by Democrats).
More importantly, they said, the group's engaged, dues paying members can be activated on short notice. Several staffers noted how office phone systems would be overwhelmed with calls and complaints. Usually, all the NRA has to do was to remind a lawmaker of its position and the chips fall into place.
A bipartisan compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers, a ban on assault weapons and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines all failed to get the 60 votes needed under an agreement between both parties. Senators also turned back Republican proposals to expand permission to carry concealed weapons and to focus law enforcement efforts on prosecuting gun crimes.
Sitting in the Senate gallery with other survivors of recent mass shootings and their family members, Lori Haas, whose daughter was shot at Virginia Tech, and Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the mass shooting in Arizona, shouted together, “Shame on you.”
President Obama, speaking at the White House after the votes, echoed the cry, calling It, “a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
Opponents of gun control from both parties said that they made their decisions based on logic, and that passions had no place in the making of momentous policy.
“Criminals do not submit to background checks now,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa. “They will not submit to expanded background checks.”
It was a striking defeat for one of President Obama’s highest priorities, on an issue that has consumed much of the country since Adam Lanza opened fire with an assault weapon in the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School in December killing 20 children.
It appears that the majority of the Senate has been bought and paid for by the gun lobby also known as the N.R.A. Despite the massacre of 20 innocent children this past December at Sandy Hook elementary school, and despite the fact that 90% of Americans are in favor of extensive background checks they have decided to go against the wishes of their constituents. Our only recourse as citizens is to hold these Senators accountable when we exercise our right to vote. We must make sure that they realize, recognize, and understand that they are supposed to work for us, and not against us. We must remind them that they are supposed to be agents of change, instead of politicians for sale trying to make some change.