NRA a victim of its own success in beating Dems

Gun group executive reduced to rehashing the 1990's for CPAC speech

Published February 19, 2010 3:01PM (EST)

When Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's executive vice president, spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, he needed some good material. So he went back to the Clinton years, showing video of himself facing off against former President Bill Clinton during the 1990's, joking that "Clinton ran back to gun control like a gullible ex-girlfriend" and generally focusing on the good old days. The Obama era was an afterthought.

The NRA and other pro-gun groups did their best to make gun control an issue in the last election, telling their supporters that President Obama had designs on their firearms. But that message wasn't nearly as successful as it's been in the past, largely because it's just not true.

Simply put, the NRA has been too successful for its own good. An organization like that needs a sense of urgency in order to keep activists energized and donations flowing, but the NRA can't create that sense right now because they've so thoroughly cowed Democrats on the issue.

The Democratic Party all but gave up on gun control after Al Gore's loss in 2000, seeing it as a factor in the defeat. Too many voters that the party needs, especially union members, are pro-gun, and backers of the NRA are often single-issue voters in a way that supporters of gun control simply aren't. So now elected Democrats won't even push for relatively popular measures like the assault weapons ban, which was allowed to expire in 2004.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Cpac Gun Control Guns War Room