Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Just Who Is the NRA?

The National Rifle Association is one of America's most influential lobbying voices, but most of us don't understand just how small the NRA is, even among gun owners.

It represents about six percent of gun owners in the U.S. and, according to a story in the Washington Post (here), "Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization's orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren't affiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members."

The story is not new, but it is telling.

The NRA claims (unsubstantiated and maybe an exaggeration) about five million members among the estimated 78 million to 86 million owners of guns in the U.S. There are an estimated 245 million people in the U.S. older than 18. More than 90 percent of gun owners are not members of the NRA. You can also figure that not all NRA members agree with the organization's immobile stance on gun ownership.

An estimated 43 percent of Americans (heavy on the Republican side) have a favorable view of the NRA and it can be safely said that many people who are not members of the organization support its goals. The Pew Research gun survey above tells you a lot about who supports what among owners, non owners and NRA members.

That survey--and others--fail to mention why the NRA has such power, however. It is about money, which buys power because it buys congressmen like Bob Goodlatte and Morgan Griffith of our region. In fact, the House, which includes Goodlatte and Griffith, has just voted--once again--to allow people on the no-fly list, generally suspected terrorists--to buy guns. That extreme belief in the availability of guns is what puts so many of us off. There is no possibility of compromise with the NRA and that is one strong reason we are where we are on gun legislation.

The Post story concludes that "Taken as a whole, these numbers indicate that there's a large and largely silent majority of gun owners who find themselves at odds with the NRA on key gun policy issues. And even within the NRA, plenty of members disagree with the organization's stated policy positions. ... This silent majority has been locked out of the gun control debate, on the one hand by gun control advocates who paint gun owners in broad brushstrokes, and on the other by the more extreme elements within the NRA. It's unlikely that much will change with respect to firearms policy until these people have a bigger voice."

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