NRA's “Massive Obama Conspiracy”: Rahm Emanuel Edition

In an April 25 op-ed for the Daily Caller, National Rifle Association CEO and Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre took to the opinion pages to once again deploy faulty logic to claim that the reelection of President Barack Obama will precipitate an “all-out war on the Second Amendment.”

LaPierre's primary piece of evidence concerning what he calls “the web of lies spun about the president's phony, claimed support of the Second Amendment,” is that current Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has been “tapped as the star co-chair for Obama's re-election effort.” LaPierre claims that this is “no honorary job” but rather “real power linking Obama's re-election with Emanual's fanaticism for destroying the Second Amendment.” But if Emanuel wanted to work with Obama to push gun bans nationwide he most certainly missed his best chance, which would have occurred when he worked in the highest levels of the Obama Administration.

The record is clear that the Obama Administration did not enact any gun violence prevention legislation during the time that Emanuel served as the highly influential White House chief of staff. Between January 2009 and October 2010, President Obama signed only two gun-related bills into law, both of which expanded, rather than restricted, the right to carry firearms.

In May 2009 President Obama signed into law legislation allowing firearms to be carried in national parks. A later bill allowing guns onto Amtrak trains was enacted in December 2009. At the time, the NRA called the legislation “a major step forward.” Gun violence prevention groups, however, were furious. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave President Obama an “F” rating in every category that it assesses. The failing report card was accompanied by a scathing publication entitled, “President Obama's First Year: Failed Leadership, Lost Lives,” that called the president's record on gun violence prevention “an abject failure.”

Even the way that LaPierre sketched out the Obama-Emanuel gun ban connection is disingenuous. He did so by slightly misquoting Obama campaign manager Jim Messina concerning Emanuel's role as one of 35 Obama campaign co-chairs:

Obama's Chicago-based campaign manager [Jim Messina] characterized the mayor [Rahm Emanuel] as key among those who “share the president's vision of [sic] a future. ...” The focus of that Obama-Emanuel shared vision for the nation's gun owners can be summed up in Emanuel's pursuit of gun bans by any means.

One problem. Messina was talking about a commitment by the Obama Administration to provide increased economic opportunities for Americans. Firearms policy was never mentioned. According to Messina's full statement:

The president's national co-chairs will be tremendous assets on the ground as we build the biggest grassroots campaign in history. They each share the president's vision for a future where every American can have a fair shot at success, where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded.

The truth is that LaPierre has been pushing conspiracy theories about the elimination of private gun ownership since before the Obama presidency. And recently the rhetoric has reached a boiling point with increasingly desperate attempts to sound the firearm confiscation alarm. After all, the NRA has never been shy about using fear to pad its coffers or those of the gun industry. But evidence shows that, beyond the NRA faithful, LaPierre has not been persuasive in the realm of public opinion concerning the regulation of firearms. An October 2011 Gallup poll found that 87 percent of respondents supported keeping or expanding current gun violence prevention measures. Meanwhile, the NRA's culture of conspiracy theory may have started to backfire on the gun rights organization.

Following the spread of false internet rumors that a transportation bill passed by the U.S. Senate contained a provision allowing for the confiscation of firearms, the NRA issued a press release entitled, "Rumor Control" in order to temper gun seizure paranoia. Perhaps the NRA, or its collaborator the Daily Caller, should consider attaching a similar disclaimer to LaPierre's opinion pieces.