For all of those who thought they’d never witness it, it appears the National Rifle Association is on the run.
A growing number of its long time allies who stuck with the association’s “never give an inch” positions are cautiously distancing themselves from the organization in light of the national outrage over the murders of 17 students and faculty at a high school in Parkland Fla.
Several large corporations have severed their business ties with the NRA, withdrawing from underwriting insurance coverage or offering discounts to members.
Accustomed to using its deep pockets and organizational resources to support or oppose candidates and incumbents, the group succeeded in fending off firearms control legislation even in the wake of mass killings of first graders, nightclub partygoers, worshippers and audiences at a movie theater and outdoor concert.
It now appears that the killings at the Florida high school pushed the nation over the edge. An outraged populace appears increasingly fed up with the Association’s excuses and rationalizations.
The NRA’s campaign of fear that gun control measures are the first step in a government plot to disarm the American people, trample on Constitutional rights, and install a despotic ruling junta has lost credibility. It has damaged itself further by the hysterical responses of its leaders and has turned to its’ favorite whipping boy - “the liberal media.”
That tactic hit a new low when Association spokesperson Dana Loesch, in an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) said “many in legacy media love mass shootings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
The depth of such lunacy leaves one speechless. Was it incredibly callous or incredibly stupid? Both.
Its tantamount to saying to one of those crying white mothers, “So your daughter got shot up at school. Big Deal. Suck it up. Get over it and move on. You’re bad for business.”
It is beyond dispute that multiple failures by government agencies at all levels contributed to the tragedy at Parkland.
A clearly disturbed young man openly advertised his intention to “shoot up a school,” and all warning signs were dismissed by local authorities and the FBI.
All those involved in a clear dereliction of duty will spend the remainder of their lives with the knowledge that, but for their laxity, 17 people would be alive today.
The slow erosion of support for the NRA is surely worrisome to the association’s leaders. It faces defections in Congress and in statehouses with the prospect of further fissures in its solid wall of opposition.
Enhanced background checks for prospective gun buyers - an idea ridiculed by the NRA as meaningless and ineffective - has become a real possibility, for example, as has extending the checks to private sales of weapons.
President Trump has expressed support for establishing 21 as the legal age for gun purchases, a move the NRA opposes. He has also recommended a ban on “bump stocks,” a device which, when attached to a semi-automatic rifle, mimics the rapid-fire action of a fully automatic one.
He’s spoken in favor of arming teachers or other school personnel to confront potential threats and wants enhanced mental health programs to identify individuals suffering psychological issues and deny them the ability to purchase a weapon.
Despite rising demands, a ban on the sale of AR-15 semi-automatic rifles like the one used in the Florida high school shootings will not be enacted.
The argument over a prohibition will continue, but there is little appetite in Congress to impose one. The NRA will prevail in that argument; its clout hasn’t diminished to that extent.
With a Republican in the White House and the party in control of the Congress, it’s virtually assured that some action will be taken although it’s unclear at his stage what it will entail.
The test for the NRA will be whether to make a stand. It has historically opposed any changes it can argue infringe on gun ownership. Maybe it will recognize the public outrage unleashed by the high school massacre and accept modest changes in gun regulations.
The NRA can look reasonable and portray itself as a part of the solution to gun violence or it can fall victim to the worst stereotype of a band of wild-eyed gun nuts.
It’s on the run for the first time and one immediate step it can take is to lash a muzzle on Dana Loesch and apologize to every crying mother she insulted with her loony assertions.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.