U.S. gun control activists hope this time will be different

Democratic lawmakers hope popular support and the National Rifle Association’s financial and legal woes provide them with an opening to push through legislation to tighten gun ownership rules in America.

Chris Murphy, the Democratic senator who has also been a strong supporter of gun safety laws since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, said on Sunday that the political climate has changed in recent years.

“I think the policy has changed dramatically since 2013, even since 2016 when we last had a background check vote,” Murphy told NBC. Meet the press on Sunday.

“I have received a lot of calls from Republicans in the Senate who no longer want to fight this fight because the authority of the NRA is waning, the impact of the anti-violence against guns movement is increasing. I think we have a chance.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives earlier this year passed two bills that would tighten regulations on gun ownership by closing loopholes that mean many arms sales to states- States are not subject to a background check.

Murphy has been tasked with bolstering GOP support in the upper house of Congress for the proposals of Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate. The move comes in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colo., Which left 10 people dead, and one in the Atlanta area the previous week, which killed eight people, including six women d Asian and American origin. The effort is supported by President Joe Biden.

But Murphy faces an uphill battle: Legislation will go nowhere in the 50-50 Senate without the support of 60 Senators, or at least 10 Republicans, to bypass the filibuster threshold. Several Republican lawmakers have already signaled their staunch opposition.

“Whenever there is a tragic shooting in this country, the left uses it as a reason to grab a gun from a rightful owner,” said Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina.

Ted Cruz, his Texas Senate colleague, made a similar point during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing a day after the Colorado shooting.

“Every time there’s a shoot, we play this ridiculous theater where this committee meets and comes up with a bunch of laws that wouldn’t do anything to stop these killings,” said Cruz.

But some Democrats are finding hope in opinion polls that show the vast majority of American adults support some form of gun control.

A survey conducted for gun control groups Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords in December found that 93% of American adults said the next President and Congress should make an effort to require background checks of all sales of firearms.

“There is a huge disconnect between the public and lawmakers, and especially Republican lawmakers,” said Angela Kuefler of Democrat pollster Global Strategy Group, who conducted the poll.

“[Voters] themselves have no problem believing strongly in the Second Amendment [to the US constitution, which enshrines the right to “keep and bear arms], and also believing that firearms should be more regulated, ”she added.

“They hold these two truths at the same time, and lawmakers don’t seem to.”

Kuefler and others put the blame squarely on the NRA, the country’s largest gun rights group with more than 5 million members and funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into the GOP coffers in the country. over the years. It still garners the loyalty of Republican presidents and lawmakers, making it one of Washington’s most powerful lobbying organizations.

But the NRA has been plagued by financial woes, infighting and legal woes in recent times, which supporters and critics say has diminished its influence and presented an opportunity for gun safety advocates. .

Last summer, the New York Attorney General for follow-up to dissolve the organization, accusing executive director Wayne LaPierre and other senior executives of siphoning millions of dollars from the group for their own benefit. The Washington DC attorney general has filed a parallel lawsuit. In January, the NRA declared bankruptcy and said he would leave New York to reincorporate in Texas.

“They are in existential trouble,” said Robert Spitzer, professor of political science at SUNY Cortland and expert on US gun policy. “They have terrible problems as an organization.”

Data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics shows the NRA spent just over $ 29 million for the 2020 election cycle, with the bulk of its donations going to Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. But those numbers paled from four years earlier, when the NRA spent more than $ 54 million to support Trump and the Republican congressional candidates.

At the same time, pressure groups promoting gun safety laws have increased their spending in recent years. Everytown, which is funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gave Biden and Democratic Congressional candidates $ 21 million in last year’s election.

But Spitzer warned that even with a diminished NRA, the organization’s messages endure with a significant portion of the Republican electorate, especially Trump supporters.

“The people are there, and in a way, they don’t need the NRA to activate them. They’re sort of on autopilot, ”added Spitzer.

“They are part of the Republican coalition and the Republican party [lawmakers], by and large, cling to the coalition that won them the 2016 election. ”

“Even if the money does not circulate, [the NRA] were very, very effective in getting the message out, and it resonates today, ”said Shirley Anne Warshaw, professor of political science at Gettysburg College.

“People, especially those in rural areas, are just scared to death of government overextension, and owning a gun is their only protection,” they think.

The NRA insists it will resist the latest gun control push in Washington.

“The NRA hasn’t lost a beat,” group spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told The Wall Street Journal over the weekend.

“The simple fact is no other organization can shake the ball in Congress and shake the ball in the states when it comes to continuing to improve gun rights, hunting rights and the laws.” self-defense like the NRA. People know it. “

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