Since we talked about NRA and political capital here and here.Â It’s an interesting exercise to think about what the Brady Campaign’s sources of political capital are.Â I think they look a lot different than NRA.
- Media relationships.Â Without a doubt, Brady would be nothing without this.Â Their access to media, their ability to shape their public message, and to ultimately shape the public debate is unbelievably strong.Â I can think of few other issue advocacy groups that play the media game better than The Brady Campaign.
- Existing laws. The existing gun laws are actually a significant source of their political power.Â Outright bans or severe and heavy restrictions in several of America’s largest major metropolitan areas have so severely depressed gun ownership in these areas that no one has any familiarity with guns, or their responsible use.Â Few middle class people own guns themselves, or have even fired one.Â This makes them very fertile soil for Brady to plant their seeds of disinformation with help from a friendly media.
- Political reputation.Â The Brady Campaign was responsible for the third major change in federal gun control laws, and had a strong influence on the laws of a few states.Â The third major change in those laws even bears the name “The Brady Act.”Â Even though they were called Handgun Control Inc. when the Brady Act passed, they were smart enough to change their name.Â They have a reputation for passing gun control, which no other gun control organization out there can claim.
- Donors.Â Brady doesn’t have a concept of membership in the same manner than NRA does, in large part because it has its roots in issue advocacy, whereas NRA has its roots in promoting the shooting sports.Â The Brady Campaign has a much smaller grass roots presence, but maintaining healthy media relationships isn’t as resource intense as lobbying and political activity, which they also do, but with very powerful help from the media establishment.
- Issue expertise.Â We know they are full of shit on guns, but the media doesn’t.Â They are the go-to group when it comes to gun control topics.
It’s pretty clear that the core of the Brady Campaign’s political power is their media relationships, while NRA’s core is their membership.Â The great thing about Brady’s sources of political capital is they aren’t easily exhausted.Â They can maintain a high degree of media activity without much cost, which can serve to publicly embarrass politicians that oppose gun control, and publicly support those who do.Â Because of their ability to shape elite cultural opinion through the media, they can basically make gun ownership a net social liability; where at a polite dinner party you’re about as likely to want to talk about a gun collection as a porn collection.