It has long been held that the NRA (National Rifle Association) is an amalgamated contingent of like-minded individuals whose guiding principle is the defense of all weapons, all rights to those weapons, and the absolute refusal to consider sensible controls that might limit either. Frankly, the specter of a wizened, rock-jawed Charlton Heston rising from the grave to, once again, intone about his “cold, dead hands” is enough to strike fear in the hearts of any fool audacious enough to suggest otherwise.
Turns out that’s an outdated paradigm. Despite the face NRA President, Wayne LaPierre, attempts to put forward (ok, Wayne, we will call you “crazy”), despite heretofore conventional wisdom about who and what NRA members are, Republican pollster and strategist, Frank Luntz, says LaPierre has got it wrong and is, in fact, turning a deaf ear to the real feelings, not only of America at large, but of the NRA majority membership.
I wrote about this a few weeks ago in two separate pieces; one titled, Just How Powerful Is The NRA In The Post-Sandy Hook World? and another, Surprising NRA Gun Owners Poll – Most Favor Sensible Restrictions, which presents a point most salient to this conversation: that most Americans – AND an even larger majority of NRA members – are supportive of sensible gun controls, a fact their leadership clearly does not want to either acknowledge or honor.
This assessment was extrapolated from study done by Luntz in May of this year for the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (who are also behind the celebrity-studded PSA I profiled in Beyonce, Jon Hamm, Chris Rock And Others Urge You To ‘Demand A Plan’ To End Gun Violence), an organization of city leaders who were compelled to ascertain just how much – or how little – support could realistically be found around the country, and specifically with the NRA membership, for more and better enforced gun control. As the title suggests, the findings were a surprise. Turns about the majority in both camps DO support both, and in numbers Mr. LaPierre must find stunning:
- 85 percent of gun owners agree with the statement, “Support for Second Amendment rights goes hand in hand with keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.” Among members of the NRA, even more agreed — a full 87 percent.
- 82 percent of gun owners support requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun.
- 80 percent of gun owners support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees to ensure they are not felons.
- 76 percent support prohibiting people on terror watch lists from purchasing guns.
- 80 percent also agree that concealed-carry permits should be granted only to applicants who have completed gun safety training.
- 78 percent think concealed-carry permits should be granted only to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanors, such as assault.
A Huffington Post piece on the Luntz poll also made the point that the results went against conventional wisdom, listing a few of the other findings revealed the following data points as well:
- 74 percent of NRA members believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have completed gun safety training.
- 68 percent of NRA members believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who do not have prior arrests for domestic violence.
- 63 percent of NRA members believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants 21 years of age or older.
- 75 percent of NRA members believe that concealed carry permits should be granted only to those applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanors.
[Click here to read the full Addicting Info article.]
Yet despite these numbers, the President and CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, continues down a path of “more guns,” armed guards in every school; no willingness to close loop-holes, limits sales of assault and semi-automatic weapons, or push for greater limits on just who can own them. Frank Luntz spoke to this issue on CBS This Morning:
“The public wants guns out of the schools, not in the schools; they are not asking for a security official or someone else. I don’t think the NRA is listening. I don’t think they understand most Americans would protect the Second Amendment rights and yet agree with the idea that not every human being should own a gun, not every gun should be available at anytime, anywhere, for anyone. At gun shows, you should not be able to buy something there without any kind of check whatsoever. […]
“What Americans are looking for from gun control legislation is a common sense approach that says that those who are law-abiding should continue to have the right to own a weapon, but don’t believe the right should be extended to everyone at every time for every time of weapon.”
As the debate continues and spills into the new year, it remains to be seen if LaPierre will continue to lobby for the most rigid and right leaning of his organization (including the powerful lobbyists shilling for deep-pocketed gun manufacturers) or if he will pay appropriate heed not only to the majority within his own organization, but the greater American public. The mood and tone of the country suggests he’s very much out-of-step on this issue; when even a poll done by a Republican strategists makes that clear, it seems time to consider some new thinking. Whether LaPierre is capable of that is unlikely; whether the majority membership will, therefore, allow him to continue to speak for them is another issue all together.
See video of Frank Luntz interview on This Morning: