It’s easy to think that in the wake of Wayne LaPierre’s angry press conference and theNational Rifle Association’s tin-eared web video on President Obama’s daughters that the NRA is losing — and losing badly — in the fight over the proper place for guns in American society.
Easy and likely incorrect.
There’s little doubt that the inside-the-Beltway crowd and those who have been longtime advocates of more gun control laws are outraged by the brash style that the NRA has adopted following the shootings in Newtown, Conn.
But, there’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that the NRA is regarded entirely differentlyin the country at large. Polling conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal this week showed 41 percent of people had a favorable opinion of the NRA, while 34 percent viewed it unfavorably, a margin largely unchanged from a similar survey conducted in January 2011.
And a look at the longer-term trend line on views of the NRA by Gallup suggests a striking consistency in the overall impression Americans have of the gun rights group.
Here’s the Gallup chart:
(Worth noting: The last Gallup survey, which showed the NRA’s favorable rating at 54 percent, was taken after the LaPierre press conference.)
With all of that as backdrop, there are at least two major reasons to think the NRA will emerge from the national debate on guns as a winner.
1. The NRA is already in the midst of a membership boom, as the actions taken by Obama — and, in particular, his executive orders — convince people that the threat of the government seizing guns or limiting gun ownership is real and, because it is, a counter-weight to that government is needed. (To be clear: Obama has never said anything that would suggest confiscation of guns is a possibility.)
According to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanadam, the group has added 250,000 new members since gun control re-emerged in the national debate and added 400,000 more followers to its Facebook page (from 1.6 million to 2 million). Arulanadam wouldn’t disclose any information about the pace of donations to the NRA over that same time period, but it’s hard to imagine that hasn’t heavily increased as well.
The longer the fight on gun rights carries on, the more members — and money — the NRA will add. It’s not unreasonable to think the NRA will add more members (and raise more money) in 2013 than in any year in recent memory.
2. The likelihood is that whatever passes through Congress will be small, not big. While the NRA is fighting on all fronts at the moment — including opposing the executive orders signed by Obama — the organization almost certainly recognizes that some sort of measure(s) restricting gun rights is likely to be made law.
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