ARS Poll Finds NRA “Overrun by Lobbyists”


Gabby Giffords outfit conducted a poll of gun owners that shows people think NRA has been overrun by lobbyists. I, for one, want them to be overrun by lobbyists. That’s what I pay them for.

I’ve come to the conclusion that polls are very effective at telling you what people like to tell pollsters. For any other purpose, they are bullshit. I took a closer look at the poll here. What’s interesting is the same poll shows a plurality of those surveyed thought NRA represented their interests as gun owners. Also note Question 5:

Since the 1930s, silencers have been regulated the same way as machine guns and short barreled rifles: to purchase a silencer, the buyer must have a clean criminal record and register the silencer with law enforcement. Do you support the current law regarding silencers, or would you support changing the law to deregulate the sale of silencers?

See what they are doing? It’s all about how you ask the question. Not only is this an incomplete picture of the process, but they build up current policy, and then ask the person being polled whether they’d like to tear down what they previously established was good and wholesome. Let me ask the question another way, loading it in the other direction, while still being entirely factual and truthful:

Since the 1930s, silencers, which can reduce the noise of a gunshot to a safer level, have been regulated the same way as machine guns and short barreled rifles. Would you support changing the law to regulate silencers the same way rifles, handguns, and shotguns are regulated, requiring only an instant background check and ATF purchase form?

Do you think think they’d still get 73% opposed to deregulating silencers if the question were asked this way? Or would they perhaps see the numbers flip in the opposite direction?

They asked about constitutional carry in a better way than a lot of polls I’ve seen, but it’s still loaded in the same way:

Currently, most states require a permit to carry a concealed handgun in a public place. To get a permit, a person must complete a basic gun safety course, have a clean criminal record, and pay a processing fee. Some have proposed letting people carry a concealed gun without a permit. Do you think the requirement to have a permit to carry a concealed handgun in a public place should be continued, or do you think it should be removed?

First, they elevate the permit process in the mind of the person they are polling. It’s being sold as a very good thing (a sharp contrast from the demonization of the process years ago. This is a win for us. In order to fight constitutional carry, they have to implicitly agree that shall-issue is good. This is the same thing they have done and keep trying to do to us on background checks). After the permitting process is being sold as a good thing, they then asked the person if they’d like to tear it down. You’ll never see them ask this question like this:

Currently, most states require a person wishing to carry a concealed handgun in public to apply for a license to do so. Do you support allowing anyone who can legally possess a handgun to carry one in a public place without first having to obtain a license?

You’ll never see it asked that way, because it doesn’t load the question. There’s no attempt to build up the status quo and then ask whether you’d like to tear it down. In the case of the silencer question, I loaded to get the answer I’d like. In this case, I take the reader’s knowledge for what it is. I build nothing up. I state it only as it is. Do you think they’d still get 88% in favor of the status quo if it were asked my way? Hell, it dropped 8 points just asking more directly in Question 8, even after they already loaded the results with Question 7!

I also note in the poll that 35% are Democrats versus 39% Republican, with 26% being independent or other. Since we’re loving ourselves some polls here, Pew’s surveys (and I’d note with surveying rather than polling, that it’s harder to load “Do you own a gun?” and ‘What is your party affiliation?’ so take that for what you think it’s worth) show that 49% of self-identified gun owners are Republican, 22% are Democrat, and 37% are Independent. How did PPP and ARS end up with Democrats so much more represented in their poll and Independents and Republicans so much less represented, versus what Pew found in their survey with a sample roughly twice the size of this one?

18 thoughts on “ARS Poll Finds NRA “Overrun by Lobbyists””

  1. “I, for one, want them to be overrun by lobbyists.

    Yes, as long as those lobbyists are lobbying for gun rights. If they’re telling legislators, “Here’s how you can work the gun rights angle to get elected, so you can legislate the rest of what conservatives really care about…” I could well do without them.

    Someone once observed that most NRA lobbyists are not gun rights ideologues, but people looking forward to the day when they will be working for the real big boys, like Exxon or Big Pharma. Such lobbyists are not going to offend legislators by playing hardball.

    I doubt anyone can gauge the truth in that, but it is a plausible theory. Lobbyists saying “make my employer look good, and my employer will make you look good” is not beyond imagination.

    I have watched too many smaller organizations shift their focus from their “issue,” to unabashed fund raising, not to believe it is possible for an organization to work at show over substance.

    1. Most of the lobbyists I’ve met from NRA are shooters themselves, which is one of my gauges of “Do you really give a shit?” Not that we all haven’t met gun owners who don’t give a crap, but those types also fit a certain profile. Also, there isn’t a whole lot of turnover once you get to a certain level in NRA. Baker left to start his own lobby shop, made a bunch of money, then came back. But most of the high level people are the same as they were 10 years ago. Given NRA doesn’t pay as much as the private sector, there has to be a reason they stick around, and I don’t think it’s to lobby for other conservative causes.

      I’m not going to say there aren’t people in NRA one wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire, but on balance I think their people do give a shit.

      1. That’s good to know, and I’ll take your word based on your lore being more recent than my own.

        My own is based on, at one time having friends who were NRA employees (though not in the lobbying arm) who were of course shooters, and firearms experts, but who had attitudes that leaned very, shall we say, “pro-police.” If push came to shove, I was convinced they would support almost any level of gun control the police might argue was necessary.

        I remember one of them making apologies and excuses for John Dingell when Dingell voted for the Clinton AWB (does that date my lore?); and when both of those friends lost their jobs with the NRA in a factional turnover, the other went straight to the BATF seeking employment, a real shocker to me at the time, but (to me) an indicator of the shallowness of his ideological commitment.

        I don’t intend that story to be an indictment of the NRA but rather as commentary on human nature; I’ve known too many extremely serious shooters over the years, whose positions on firearms legislation would eventually shock and disappoint me; and it’s those many disappointments that explain my cynicism regarding simple affiliations like being a “good/serious shooter.”

  2. I joined the NRA because I want it to lobby for me.

    That’s its entire real point (as much as I appreciate its educational efforts, etc.).

      1. “It certainly wasn’t for the “Fringe Benefits” (magazines?”

        Actually, there was a time when “The American Rifleman” was a gun magazine that was worth the price of membership, alone. You may know that if you’ve ever seen anyone’s collection of c. 1960s (or earlier) magazines.

        My NRA friends (mentioned above) told me that by c. 1985, there was an NRA inside joke, that at the conclusion of every staff meeting, it would be asked “Does anyone have any suggestions?”, and someone invariably would say “Yeah — how about we publish a gun magazine?”

    1. And any extra money I give to the NRA goes to the ILA whose sole mission is lobbying.

  3. “The NRA is overrun by lobbyists.” GREAT! That’s the whole point! They lobby for gun rights!

    Notice on the silencer question they mention that you need a “clean background check” under current law then ask if the person supports deregulating silencers. The implicit question is that deregulation would not require a clean background check. Which we know is false under the proposals.

    1. How would the numbers go if they framed that question as:

      Since the 1930s, silencers, which can reduce the noise of a gunshot to a safer level, have been regulated the same way as machine guns and short barreled rifles. Would you support changing the law to regulate silencers the same way as other personal protection equipment designed to save an operator’s hearing?

      1. That would undoubtedly do better, but the proposed Hearing Protection Act just moves them to Title 1, rather than completely deregulating them.

  4. “How did PPP end up with Democrats wildly more represented, and Independents and Republicans so under represented, than what Pew found in a sample roughly twice the size?”
    Because Public Policy Polling will skew the poll to get the result that Americans for Responsible Solutions paid for.

  5. Funny, I send the NRA money because of the 30+ full time lobbyists it employes. I’m not really concerned with the training and education mission of the association. I want the political clout.

  6. “I’m not really concerned with the training and education mission of the association.”

    As someone once said, “that’s what makes markets.” Not that it should require diagramming, but different people value different things differently.

    This has been a recent subject on these pages, but in the 50+ years I have been an NRA member, the NRA has always had a legislative presence, and always had a sporting/training presence, but over the years its public image switched from being mainly “sporting” to being mainly “legislative/lobbying.” It’s “character” has changed quite a bit, but I’ll stop at that simple observation.

  7. Yes, yes, yes….. I have seen my younger generation come on board on gun rights during the last decade and join the NRA to help support those rights. Keep on lobbying, telling it the way it is and holding those we elect accountable.

  8. Bloomberg has released a new book on clean energy and is making the rounds on the media talk shows to promote it.

    This has me hopeful that he’s decided to pay less attention to the gun control issue in order to focus on something where he can score some bigger victories.

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