DON'T BLAME THE NRA

   Every time a mass murder happens in this country there is an almost knee-jerk reaction in some quarters that the NRA is to blame.  While it is that there are too many automatic weapons in the hands of those who only use them to kill other people, the bottom line is that guns in the hands of those without the intent to harm others are of little danger.  What makes guns lethal in these events is the coming together of guns and hatred.  
   The tragedies of Columbine, Oklahoma City, 9/11 and now Virginia Tech do not share guns as the instrument of murder.  What they do share is the killers' hatred for and a willingness to kill those who disagree with them.  Beating up on the NRA and giving a pass to America's violence cottage industry that exists solely to foment hatred and glorify violence against others is an inappropriate and incomplete response to the Virginia Tech tragedy.

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Interest Group Politics: How the NRA Does It

Over the course of the 2006 midterm campaigns, one of the most oft-heard and spot on complaints made about some of the leading progressive interest groups like NARAL Pro-Choice and Sierra Club was that they were willing to back Republican candidates, like Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, who had shown support for their causes, despite the fact that continued Republican control over either chamber of Congress would have set back their movements for at least another two years. On the other side of the aisle, however, groups traditionally allied with the Republican Party have shown no such propensity to oppose the GOP, at least on the federal level. To get a good gauge of the difference between these two approaches take a gander at an article Jeffrey Birnbaum pens for The Washington Post tomorrow on the NRA.

In lobbying, a threat is good for business, whether it's genuine or not.

This might help to explain the dire warnings being issued by the National Rifle Association as the Democrats prepare to take control of Congress this week.

"The new leadership could be one of the most unfriendly to the National Rifle Association," declared Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the NRA. "If there's an effort to pursue gun control, we will mount an active defense."

The famously combative lobby, with 4 million members, is displeased with the voting histories of House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats in the House and is putting them on notice that it won't tolerate passage of anti-gun measures.

The only problem: No one expects gun legislation this year.

True, a few Democrats would love to take a potshot at the NRA. But its $20 million in political firepower has long discouraged any such effort. It helped to snuff out the presidential hopes of Democrat Al Gore in 2000 and to elect dozens, mostly Republicans, to Congress.

Besides, one of the NRA's biggest backers is a Democrat, Rep. John D. Dingell (Mich.), who was instrumental in blocking the last major attempt at gun control in 1999 and will reclaim the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.

No matter. The NRA is on high alert, and its latest weapon is a pamphlet designed to send its members into fits of paranoid rage and to inspire them to open their wallets.

While it disappoints me to read about the scope of the NRA's power in Washington, there is room to learn from its actions. The fact that the gun lobby is going out of its way to oppose the incoming Democratic Congress even as some leading Democrats support their positions and gun control legislation isn't likely to make it to the floor any time soon is not unintentional. Instead, the leadership of the movement -- and the NRA in particular -- has hitched itself to the GOP and knows that it can be more successful by closely aligning with one party than by shifting its allegiances every cycle. Although conventional wisdom might dictate that such a stance would hurt those opposed to gun regulations in the long-term, the fact that the Democrats are not planning to go up against the lobby indicates that this line of thinking is incorrect.

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Take Your Gun to Work Day: The NRA versus Chamber of Commerce

Now this is fascinating (hat tip to the awesome Florida News blog).

Big business declared victory over the gun lobby Wednesday in an escalating fight over whether employees should be allowed to take guns to work.

For the second time, the National Rifle Association failed to advance a proposal that would penalize businesses that prevent employees from keeping guns in their cars at work. Lawmakers in a House committee sidestepped a final vote after an hour and a half of debate that mostly focused on the troubles the law could create.

"Anyway you cut it, property owners and the Florida chamber won," said Mark Wilson, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "And the NRA lost."

Apparently the wingers were squeezed:

Lakeland Republican Rep. Dennis Ross could speak from both sides.

"I'm sorry that we have to come to this crossroad where I have to make a decision between what I think are two very fundamental rights," said Ross, who said he belongs to the NRA, numerous hunting organizations and even holds a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

But he couldn't support the NRA's bill.

"While I believe that my Second Amendment rights are very important to me, as a business owner my private property rights are (paramount)," said Ross, a lawyer.

And now there's political organizing going on against each other.

So the fight continues, with lobbyists on both sides accusing each other of negotiating in bad faith.

At the Florida chamber, Wilson vowed to fire up a grass roots business lobby to make sure the NRA proposal doesn't return. That could mean everything from television ads to asking members of local business chambers to send e-mails in opposition.

"Now it's time to just go kill this bill the way it should have been done today," said Wilson, who doesn't expect the NRA to give up. "The NRA in Florida, as far as I know, never lost a bill before. ... We're in uncharted territory. They're unpredictable."

The Republican coalition is quite solid until it gets picked apart.  Really weird wedge issues like this - should you get to take your gun to work - are where the future of political fights could happen.

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