The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative (NRA-ILA) issued an election postmortem claiming that the public has been misled by the media "about the effectiveness of NRA campaign spending." The release is the latest attempt by the NRA to sustain what has been a false media narrative about the NRA's ability to influence elections.
Despite the NRA's protestations, the outcome on Election Day could hardly have been worse for the gun organization. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of seven races where the NRA spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation concluded that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by NRA Political Victory Fund went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.*
These results do not comport with the widely-accepted media narrative that the NRA is an electoral powerhouse. Despite research by American Prospect contributing editor (and former Media Matters staffer) Paul Waldman proving that the impact of both NRA campaign contributions and endorsements is overblown, the fable of NRA influence has persevered. Slate's Brian Palmer encapsulated this narrative in July when he wrote that the NRA "can reliably deliver votes" and "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
Although mythology surrounding the NRA's power has persisted for years in the media, that façade appears to be crumbling in the wake of the 2012 elections. An article by The Hill titled "Report: NRA shoots blanks this election," highlighted the NRA's ineffective spending and noted that the Sunlight Foundation's report "challenge[s] the popular political wisdom that the NRA is among Washington's most influential lobbying forces and that candidates who buck their agenda do so at their own peril." The Washington Post offered similar analysis in an article titled "National Rifle Association shut out on Election Day" that cited the Sunlight Foundation's conclusions.
As an attempt to continue projecting itself as an organization that can determine the outcomes of elections, the NRA is now touting the success of three state ballot initiatives preventing states from banning hunting as evidence that money given to the NRA was well spent.
But the hunting ballot initiatives -- which were not even opposed by NRA nemesis the Humane Society -- are not what the 2012 elections were about for the NRA. In 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced an "All In" campaign to remove President Obama from the White House that compared a potential Obama second term to a 2004 tsunami that killed over 250,000 people in South Asia.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, where the National Rifle Association spent $18 million dollars to little effect, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promised to defeat Democrats who do not support his organization's agenda in the 2014 elections. According to LaPierre, a columnist for the organization's publications, Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will "go out on that plank" with President Obama and "the American public and the NRA will saw it right off."
From the November 9 edition of The Daily News on NRA News:
LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom.
But the NRA had an abysmal track record for the 2012 elections. Besides failing to achieve its primary goal to defeat President Obama, the NRA backed the losing candidate in six out of seven Senate races where it spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of incumbent House members who lost re-election bids were endorsed by the NRA.
For years, the media has advanced a false narrative that the National Rifle Association is an electoral powerhouse with a real ability to impact the outcomes of elections. The 2012 elections clearly demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is at odds with reality. While most incumbents in the House of Representatives kept their seats on November 6, over two-thirds of incumbents who lost were backed by the NRA.
Slate's Brian Palmer summed up the media's conventional wisdom on the NRA over the summer, when he wrote that the group "can reliably deliver votes," and this "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
This false media narrative of NRA's supposed influence on elections has persisted, even as an analysis by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) concluded that both NRA endorsements and campaign contributions have a negligible impact on elections. In a study of House races over four election cycles, Waldman determined that Republican incumbents did not receive a statistically significant advantage if endorsed by the NRA. The average campaign contribution of $2,500 to NRA-endorsed House candidates was also found to have insignificant impact on elections.
Of the 26 incumbent House members who lost on Election Day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA. Defeated incumbents included four Democrats and 14 Republicans. Four of the eight defeated incumbents not endorsed by the NRA were Democrats who lost to other Democrats in California's top-two primary system.
Overall, the NRA fared poorly in the 2012 election. According to open government group the Sunlight Foundation, the NRA Political Victory Fund, the NRA's political action committee, received a less than one percent return on $10,536,106 spent on independent expenditures during the election cycle. The NRA spent 0.44 percent of its money supporting winning candidates and 0.39 percent opposing losing candidates.* The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization's lobbying arm, garnered a 10.25 percent return on $7,448,017 spent on the election. In seven Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, six of the NRA-backed candidates lost.
The following NRA endorsed incumbents were defeated on Election Day. Two incumbents included in this analysis are currently trailing vote tallies, but those races have not been officially called:
Ted Nugent is continuing to attack Americans for re-electing President Obama, using his latest Washington Times column to state, "If you voted for Mr. Obama, you are thunderously dumb and incredibly naïve."
The National Rifle Association board member also comments that he has "a rotting fence post smarter than these mouth breathers" and declares, "Twenty years ago, the results would have been different. America wasn't nearly as stupid back then as we are today."
Shortly after Obama's election victory, Nugent took to Twitter to state that Americans "voted for economic & spiritual suicide" because Obama will "destroy America." He also referred to Obama's supporters as "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters."
Nugent is one of many conservative commentators who have reacted to the election's result by revealing his contempt for American voters.
The National Rifle Association said they were "all in" on the 2012 election. They lost. Now it's the media's responsibility to stop portraying them as an invincible electoral juggernaut.
The media has warned for years that strengthening gun violence prevention laws is impossible because of the political power of the gun lobby. This claim was always flawed; studies show that the NRA and its allies do not wield outsized power, and common sense gun policies are favored by large majorities of Americans and even, in some cases, NRA members.
But yesterday's election results provide incontrovertible evidence that the media's portrayal of the politics surrounding the gun issue has been inaccurate.
The NRA's mantra throughout the election season was that they were "all in" to defeat President Obama. In his cover story for the election issue of the NRA magazine America's First Freedom, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged readers to "send President Obama his walking papers," writing, "This is it. We're down to the wire. It's now or never, victory or defeat. The time for talking is over. On Election Day, Nov. 6 -- only a month from now -- Americans will vote either to defend or surrender freedom in the most consequential national decision in U.S. history."
The NRA backed up LaPierre's words with more than $11 million in often misleading television, radio, and digital ads, direct mail, and other election spending attacking Obama and supporting Mitt Romney, with much of the spending earmarked for swing states.
On Election Day, President Obama was re-elected, winning at least 303 electoral votes and a majority of the popular vote.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is responding to President Obama's re-election by saying that Americans "voted for economic & spiritual suicide" because Obama will "destroy America." He also referred to Obama's supporters as "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters."
Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse highlighted fears from gun owners about President Obama's call to reinstate the assault weapons ban and suggested that those fears could sway the presidential election. In so doing, Fox is ignoring the fact that an assault weapons ban is favored by most Americans and that research suggests that the gun lobby has relatively little influence on election outcomes.
During the November 1 edition of Happening Now, La Jeunesse claimed that President Obama "stunned gun owners with his plans for a second term" when he indicated support for restrictions on assault weapons during the October 16 presidential debate. He further indicated that "gun owners could cause a problem" for Obama in some swing states, warning that "gun owners do vote."
But by harping on the importance of gun owners in presidential elections, La Jeunesse helped advance a false National Rifle Association narrative that exaggerates the influence of the gun lobby. An analysis conducted by The American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (a former Media Matters staffer) found that NRA intervention has almost no influence on election outcomes. Waldman's report further showed that claims that the NRA had a significant impact on the 2000 presidential election -- a claim often repeated by the NRA and the media -- is baseless.
In focusing on the opinions of the handful of gun owners he interviewed, La Jeunesse also ignored the fact that large majorities of Americans say that they would support a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Ted Nugent claimed that Democratic politicians in Detroit "train[ed] and reward[ed] people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive" causing the majority of residents to become "pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle" during an October 30 interview with The Washington Times. Nugent, a board member of the National Rifle Association and columnist for the Times, is also a high-profile endorser of Mitt Romney.
According to Nugent, President Obama is "doing everything he can to take the whole country down" the same path as Detroit:
It is so very true that my birth city of Detroit was the cleanest, most neighborly, positive-energy, work-ethic epicenter of planet earth when I was born there in 1948, right on through to the 1960s. Enter the liberal death wish of Mayor Coleman Young and a tsunami of negative, anti-productivity policies by liberal Democrats that put a voodoo curse on our beloved Motor City. When you train and reward people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive, there is only one direction that society can go: straight down the toilet. It is truly a heartbreaker. Some wonderful people are still to be found back home, but they are outnumbered by the pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle. And now we have a president who is doing everything he can to take the whole country down that same path. Truly amazing.
Nugent also claimed that The New Deal and Great Society economic programs "succeeded in brainwashing a segment of our country to believe Fedzilla would provide for anyone who decided, for whatever reason, to not be productive."
The New Deal was responsible for creating the Social Security Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs to combat poverty were responsible for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and a variety of other anti-poverty programs. These initiatives dramatically reduced the rate of poverty, particularly among the elderly.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sharply critiqued a Montana self-defense law that has been cited by the local prosecutor as the reason that Brice Harper will not face charges after fatally shooting Dan Fredenberg in Harper's garage on September 22. Fredenberg, who was unarmed, entered the garage to confront Harper who was having an affair with his wife.
During Thursday's segment on American Live, Kelly stated "it looks like that guy who did the shooting, who was having the affair is going to get away with it" and said that Harper "is getting off. Why? Because of the 'stand your ground' law or the 'castle doctrine' in Montana." Kelly also expressed the belief that the law effectively makes the punishment for unlawfully entering someone's property "the death penalty."
Montana's "castle doctrine" law allows an individual to use deadly force while in their home if the individual has a reasonable apprehension of assault. The deadly force requirement was created in 2009 by HB 228, a bill that expanded the circumstances under which deadly force could be used in self-defense and also loosened rules on the carrying of concealed weapons in public.
While the bill was under consideration, National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy called it "our most important bill of the session." The proposed legislation, however, was opposed by some members of law enforcement who cited public safety concerns.
Even as numerous states have expanded self-defense laws in recent years (often at the behest of the NRA), Montana's "castle doctrine" law stands out for the extremely low requirements that an individual must satisfy before using deadly force. Under Montana law, an individual may use deadly force on someone who unlawfully enters his or her property if that individual "reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault."
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, recently downplayed the public safety threat posed by a loophole in federal law that allows domestic abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase firearms without undergoing a background check. But the alleged perpetrator in an October 21 shooting at a Brookfield, Wisconsin spa that left three dead and four wounded reportedly abused that same loophole to obtain his firearm.
Today the Associated Press reported that Radcliffe Haughton purchased a handgun without a background check from a private seller, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming subject to a restraining order that required him to turn any firearms he owned into police.
On August 29, Cam Edwards, the host of Cam & Company on NRA News, obfuscated the loophole during a segment in which he expressed opposition to a proposal by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to require background checks on nearly all gun sales.
CAM EDWARDS: As you know, the gun laws in this country are the same for private citizens at gun shows or at their home. The laws in the country are the same for federally licensed firearms retailers whether they are at their brick-and-mortar store or whether they are manning a table at a gun show. The laws don't change based on the location.
Edwards' focus on where guns are sold is a distraction from the real issue: the lax regulation of private gun sales creates a venue for prohibited persons, like Haughton, to obtain firearms.
A CNN article published yesterday about increased efforts by the National Rifle Association to defeat President Obama credulously echoed false NRA talking points on assault weapons, without noting Mitt Romney's well-documented flip flop on the issue.
The article notes that in responding to a question about assault weapons in Tuesday's presidential debate, Obama mentioned an assault weapons ban. Instead of offering independent reporting on the topic, CNN political director Mark Preston only provided readers with the take of the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, on the issue of assault weapons bans:
"Some gun owners took Obama at his word four years ago, when he said he wouldn't take their guns away," said Chris W. Cox, executive director, NRA's Institute for Legislative Action. "So, after years of paying lip service to the Second Amendment, President Obama finally let it slip last night that he supports the most draconian form of gun control - a gun ban."
Preston, however, did not acknowledge that 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, favor assault weapons bans. Nor did he mention that President Obama never made a promise to gun owners to not restrict access to assault weapons, as Cox suggested.
Turning to an exchange during Tuesday night's presidential debate where Romney was asked by moderator Candy Crowley about his changing position on assault weapons, Preston served as a stenographer for Romney without noting that the GOP nominee told a distorted version of events concerning his role in banning assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts.
A good deal has been written about how Mitt Romney's answers on Libya at last night's presidential debate illustrated the degree to which his foreign policy is influenced by the closed conservative media feedback loop. But there was another moment from Romney last night on gun violence prevention that might indicate the degree to which the fringe right influences the Republican candidate's campaign rhetoric.
In the middle of his answer to a question about limiting "the availability of assault weapons," Romney launched into a discourse on Operation Fast and Furious, the failed gun trafficking sting. Romney called it the "greatest failure we've had with regards to gun violence" and intimated that no one knows why it was initiated: "For what purpose it was put in place, I can't imagine. ... I'd like to understand who it was that did this, what the idea was behind it, why it led to the violence, thousands of guns going to Mexican drug lords."
What made this so odd was that there isn't any uncertainty as to what the idea behind Fast and Furious was. The operation was intended to identify and dismantle the cross-border gun-trafficking rings that operate within the United States and Mexico, and both the Justice Department's inspector general and House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) have released reports affirming that fact.
In an October 16 column, Washington Times senior opinion editor Emily Miller praised Mitt Romney's opposition to gun violence prevention legislation while fearmongering about President Obama' s support for an assault weapons ban. But Miller did not acknowledge that Mitt Romney has been a proponent of assault weapons bans -- as recently as the last time that he ran for president.
Criticizing former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens for backing some gun restrictions, Miller warned that Obama "would put another liberal justice -- or three -- on the bench if given a second term." Miller presented Romney in sharp contrast to Justice Stevens, and reprinted Romney's claim that his "Sportsmen for Romney" coalition, whose members include representatives of the National Rifle Association and the gun industry, "will have a friend in the White House" if he becomes president. Obama, who has not enacted any new restrictions on firearms while president, was characterized by Miller as "an outspoken gun-control advocate before he ran for president."
By presenting Romney as a vigorous defender of gun rights, while attacking Obama on the issue, Miller effictively hid Romney's own well documented past support for rigorous gun violence prevention measures.
During tonight's presidential debate, Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed a false claim from the National Rifle Association's radio show Cam & Company that whitewashes the former Massachusetts governor's record on guns.
News outlets will surely report on what was a contentious exchange between candidates on an issue that has thus far been ignored in the presidential race. But will they get to the bottom of Romney's past support for gun violence prevention measures?
Romney echoed the NRA talking point that an assault weapons ban he signed into law while governor of Massachusetts was agreeable to that state's leading gun advocacy group after moderator Candy Crowley suggested that his position on assault weapons has changed in recent years.
CROWLEY: Governor, if I could, the question was about these assault weapons that once were banned and are no longer banned. I know that you signed an assault weapons ban when you were in Massachusetts. Obviously with this question, you no longer do support that. Why is that given the kind of violence we see sometimes with these mass killings? Why is it that you've changed your mind?
ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually in my state the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had -- at the signing of the bill both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted.
The NRA has endorsed Romney and recently used its NRA News radio outlet to rewrite history in an attempt to hide Romney's past support for tough gun control measures.
During the October 2 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards told viewers that Romney's gun policy while governor was in line with the positions of Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), the Massachusetts state gun advocacy group. Edwards also claimed that Romney loosened restrictions on assault weapons while governor instead of enhancing them. Neither claim is accurate.
During today's meeting of a Florida taskforce that is investigating the "Kill At Will" law implicated in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, National Rifle Association representative Marion Hammer said that the NRA was "proud to have been a part of the process" in enacting the law in 2005.
We believe the law is doing what the legislature intended. It is protecting the rights of people who defend themselves against attackers and intruders. The NRA supported this law. We are proud to have been a part of the process. We are proud to say we worked with legislators from both sides of the aisle to protect self-defense rights. And although there may be other bodies of law that do not go far enough to protect the innocent and the righteous, we don't see any basic need to change the premise of this law.
Hammer, who in closing stated that the NRA "see[s] the law as protecting freedom," served as president of the National Rifle Association between 1995 and 1998 and remains the organization's top lobbyist in Florida. She is hardly the first member of National Rifle Association leadership to express full-throated support for "Kill At Will." In April, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox told attendees of the NRA's annual meeting that despite "post-media hysteria" in the weeks following Trayvon Martin's death the gun rights organization "will defend those laws." At the same annual gathering, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed controversy surrounding the law, called "Stand Your Ground" by its proponents, on the national news media.
Hammer previously acknowledged in an interview with Media Matters that the NRA helped draft the law and "support[ed] it through the process." This account was confirmed by Florida Today reporter Paul Flemming who stated, "There is no doubt about it. Marion Hammer, the NRA lobbyist here, former president of the NRA wrote the legislation and she would tell you so."