When President Obama rolled out his new gun control plan at the White House, he included some small but noticeable concessions for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other advocates of responsible gun ownership.
First, there is the fact that the Administration did not opt for an easy fix, simply pursuing an all-out ban on assault weapons and leaving it at that. With the inclusion of measures aimed at improving background checks, halting illegal gun trafficking, and ensuring gun-owners’ mental health and stability, there is a decent chance that a balanced, common-sense approach will win out over reactionary solutions that might make us feel good, but not make us any safer.
Of course, the NRA’s response to the president’s proposal was as subtle as a shotgun blast.
“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” the NRA said in its response, noting that it believes “only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
That declaration closely followed the release of an advertisement cynically citing the fact that the president’s own daughters are protected by Secret Service agents with automatic weapons when they go to school. The ad, which asks “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” makes a compelling, albeit insensitive point in favor of the NRA’s proposal to place armed guards in every school throughout America.
While some members of Congress, gun control advocates and media pundits find the NRA’s words and actions since the Sandy Hook tragedy to be repugnant, it’s important to remember that the NRA isn’t seeking to win these critics – or anyone else – over to its side. The NRA, quite naturally, is playing to a base that is as strong as ever and likely to get stronger as fundraising and outreach efforts against the more restrictive elements of the President’s plan swell the organization’s coffers and energize its supporters.
Furthermore, the NRA understands that you never lead a negotiation by making concessions. It can’t be denied that the NRA’s stubborn adherence to its mission is a good part of the reason behind the president’s measured approach. It may even be what is keeping public outrage from spilling over into the halls of Congress on a larger scale than we’ve seen.
Seen in this context, the NRA isn’t merely insensitive to the victims of gun violence. It is an organization speaking to the needs of members, the vast majority of whom are responsible citizens who can be trusted to handle firearms safely.
Gene Grabowski is an Executive Vice President at LEVICK and a contributing author to LEVICK Daily.