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Brady Campaign: Please Don’t Believe the NRA Democrats, Pretty Please!

It looks like Paulie is begging Democrats to ignore history, the advice of their past (successful) leaders, and scholarly research. In his post yesterday, he skirts around the truth in a plea begging Democrats not to go running into the arms of the NRA.

This myth that promoting and passing strict gun laws can be political suicide has its roots in the 1994 elections, when Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress. Bill Clinton was president and earlier in his term he supported and signed the laws restricting the sale of assault weapons and the Brady bill requiring that federally licensed dealers conduct background checks. In his 2004 autobiography he wrote, “The NRA …could rightly claim to have made Gingrich the House speaker.”

But as Clinton also pointed out, there were a lot of other reasons for the game-changing defeats. The party in control almost always loses seats in off-year elections. It was to be no different in 1994.

Let’s look at the mid-term elections prior to 1994 to see if we can see just how true that is:

1982 1986 1990 1994
26 seats 5 seats 8 seats 54 seats

At no point in my lifetime was there anything close to the election of 1994. You can’t compare losing 5 or 8 seats to losing 54 seats. You can’t even begin to compare 26 seats – the previous record of my lifetime. So, yes, Paul is telling the truth. But, he’s hiding the fact that you’re talking about a handful of people losing their seats to more than 10% of the House changing hands. To paraphrase Joe Biden, that’s a big freakin’ deal. Paul can try to downplay it all he wants, but he can’t escape those pesky contextual facts.

Even beyond the numbers game, there is a little bit of truth in what Paul argues – NRA’s support can’t make or break every race in every election. If leaders piss off grassroots members of 20 other interest groups, it’s going to be tough for the members of one single group to outnumber the members of so many others. Not to mention, now that Democrats have done all they can to piss off not only Republicans, but a majority of independents, well, there’s only so much we can do as one single group.

However, the power of the NRA is at the individual district level. An Independence Institute study found that for every 10,000 NRA members, an endorsement will add about 3% to a candidate’s total. I think our own congressional race is a great example.

When the two current candidates ran against each other in 2006, the difference was a mere 1,518 votes across the entire district. Most of the district is made up of Bucks County, so I’m looking at their license to carry information to give estimates on just how many votes gun owners can provide. In 2006, nearly 4,500 people of voting age got a carry license in Bucks County. Add in the “current” licenses of people at the time, and you’re talking about 17,194 potential votes in the district. There’s no way to figure it up for the portion of Philadelphia included in the congressional district, but that portion of the city has a large number of firefighters and police officers who are frequently pro-gun. (Believe me, we’ve had lots of cops calling to find out who is endorsed by NRA this year.) Let’s safely say 20,000 potential voters.

Every single one of those votes matters, and NRA has had an active voter registration drive going the last few years. If we can pull a couple of thousand more votes out of those numbers, then the endorsement & promotion will make a difference.

As mighty as the NRA is perceived to be by overly cautious politicians and their advisors, thanks to the courage of leaders, scores of victims, and supporters of sensible gun laws, the gun lobby doesn’t make much of a difference on who wins and loses elections.

The Brady Campaign can’t point to a study of the impact of their endorsements in elections. They don’t have voters walking up to candidates with a voter guide in hand saying that the group’s support guided their votes. They can’t actually point to any races where their support did make a difference. In a year like this, NRA’s endorsement is likely to help boost the numbers by just enough to put some challengers over the top and possibly protect some incumbents.

Again, Paul is correct in that NRA doesn’t exactly get to handpick all of Congress. But, what they can measurably do is impact enough races that politicians clamor to us in order to pick up our votes in hopes that their race is one to benefit. So, once again, context matters.

7 Responses to “Brady Campaign: Please Don’t Believe the NRA Democrats, Pretty Please!”

  1. Miguel says:

    It is getting increasingly difficult to see where the Bradys end and GOA begins.

  2. GM Roper says:

    It’s hard enough to believe the NRA when they donate to Democrats, a real WT* moment.

    But it is NEVER easy to believe anything from the Brady campaign.

  3. James says:

    No Offense, but in the long run, none of this matters.

    When gun laws are reduced, the gun control people predict big increases in violence. Then the violence doesn’t increase, and probably decreases a little.

    When gun laws are increased, the gun control people predict less violence and crime. Crime doesn’t change, or maybe even increases a little.

    Given that dynamic over time, its natural for gun laws to loosen – and politicians who run on gun control to lose. I realize the NRA is organized and important, but if gun control actually worked, they would lose. Gun control loses in the voting booth because it loses in the real world. Everything else is just symptoms.

  4. Steve Skubinna says:

    the gun lobby doesn’t make much of a difference on who wins and loses elections.

    As opposed to the Brady Bunch, which is a dynamo, a juggernaut, a tsunami… Fine. Gross stupidity, it isn’t just a river in Egypt anymore, right?

    • Bitter says:

      And, of course, they just endorsed a candidate for PA gov who will likely lose by double digits (or close to it anyway). It’s 2 weeks out, and the guy is running commercials letting people know that he really is on the ballot. That’s a winner to throw their support behind. :)

  5. Danny Boy says:

    “It’s hard enough to believe the NRA when they donate to Democrats, a real WT* moment.” – GM Roper

    The NRA is a one issue organization; it is NOT an arm of the GOP. There are still plenty of Rinos out there who would support another so-called assault weapon ban in a heartbeat. Usually pro-gun folks (myself included) identify with the GOP and/or Tea Party movement and/or Libertarians, but now and then a democrat is actually the better candidate on the gun issue. Good on the NRA, I say, for focusing on the issue that the membership pays them to focus on. They can’t make everyone happy all the time, but if they consistently stick to their principles they will make most members happy most of the time.

  6. Troy says:

    @James;

    “Gun control loses in the voting booth because it loses in the real world.”

    Then please explain England? Or Chicago? or DC?

    You would be correct if the majority of voters would rationally analyze policy effects, and politicians were more interest in effective policies than appeasing their base. But neither of those is the case.

    The influence of the NRA on an election matters because policies are based more on emotion and momentum than their real world effects. Reason favors gun rights, but the momentum has been in flux for some time.

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