As a state senator in Illinois,Â he supportedÂ a one-gun-a-month limit on gun purchases, supported laws making it illegal to use a gun for self-defense, and opposed laws that allow law-abiding citizens to get permits to carry guns on their persons. As a U.S. senator, he supported bans on high-capacity magazines and he supported the assault weapons ban. And at the same time, with a straight face, he claimed to support the Second Amendment.
This is, of course, all true. But there are nine very important issues with Obama left out there, and those issues are named Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Kagan, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Ginsburg. Five are in favor of the Second Amendment, and four would likely erase it from the Constitution given the chance. That chance comes down to one of those five, two of which are in their 70s, not retiring or dying in the next four years. To me this is the most important issue we face. Everything else literally pales by comparison.
Let’s turn to some of Wayne LaPierre’s rhetoric at CPAC 2012, laced with words like conspiracy, but I think, unfortunately, without making a solid case as to exactly why Obama is such a threat to the Second Amendment if he gets a second term. I’m glad that Wayne did go on to mention the Court, if only to smear Kagan and Sotomayor, but I don’t think Wayne really got to the true magnitude of the threat. The entire speech is unfortunately unsophisticated and simplistic.
One of my great criticisms of Wayne’s rhetoric is that he’s poor at tailoring it to specific audiences. This speech for CPAC, which is full of highly engaged young conservatives, is something you’d deliver to a room full of blue collar senior citizens at a gun club. The CPAC audience can receive, and is probably eager for, a more sophisticated political message – something I know Wayne is capable of delivering because his roots go back to being a policy wonk.
I’m reminded of a humorous story Bitter tells, when Wayne came to visit her college — the first time that NRA had ever spoken at a women’s college. Her particular school had a very high percentage of international students which, along with many of the domestic students, made International Relations the top major at the school. In addition, more than a quarter of the student body studied abroad for at least a semester during their time in college. Wayne’s speech focused pretty heavily on “faceless, nameless, unelected UN bureaucrats.” That’s a good message for gun owners, but many of the members of the audience called those same bureaucrats Dad or worked for them during their last internship.
The problem with NRA’s messaging lately has been that they are continuing to speak to the membership they had a decade or two decades ago with the same platitudes that have always worked for them, while probably simultaneously wondering why the average age of their membership is so high. NRA needs to reach different audiences, and that means tailoring NRA’s messaging to the specific audience the message is being delivered to. I believe that for NRA to enjoy continued success, it needs to be able to speak to the suburbanite in a business suit as readily as it speaks to the retired farmer. The NRA of the 21st century is going to necessarily look and operate very differently than the NRA of the 20th century. Maybe if I have some time later, I’ll lay out what I think the 21st century NRA should probably look like.