As the House prepares to break for the summer, it is expected to delay yet another vote on gun control this week. With so much frustration on both sides of the aisle, Vox interviewed Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who led a 15-hour filibuster in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
"We still have a lot of people who are loyal and obedient to the gun lobby, not their constituents," he told us in between two votes at the Senate Dirksen office building just hours after the filibuster/sit-in ended on June 16.
He continued: "This is not a controversial issue out in the American public. Polls show 90 percent of Americans support background checks before you buy a gun, and [they] support keeping terrorists, or would-be terrorists from getting guns. There is virtually nothing in America in which 90 percent of Americans agree. This is an exceptional issue to have that much consensus. And yet the NRA, the gun lobby, doesn’t support it and there are many members of Congress listening to."
He's right — 92 percent of gun owners support background checks, yet the National Rifle Association continues to lobby against any legislation that may help secure that policy.
Although many members of the media (hi) blame the NRA’s huge donations to politicians, it’s not the full story. As Jeff Stein pointed out for Vox, liberals love to feed the narrative that politicians are being bought by the NRA, when in reality the proportion of money given to politicians is fairly small.
"When you really look at how that money fits into the grand scheme of congressional fundraising, it looks much less likely to actually be playing a crucial role," Stein wrote. "According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA gave close to $1 million to Republican senators’ PACs in 2014 — or about 1 percent of the $67 million they raised that year."
The NRA may not spend as much as other special interests, but it's very strategic with its war chest, going after vulnerable candidates early and often, inciting fear in members of the House and Senate who are up for reelection and worried about losing their seats.
For instance, after the NRA gave Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) an F rating for his positions on assault rifles and poured more than half a million dollars into the Indiana primary, he lost his bid for reelection in 2012. And the NRA continues to threaten politicians with potential smear campaigns.
Just look at this interview Chris Cox, an NRA strategist, gave recently to ABC News, in which he says that politicians who publicly disagree with the NRA will "pay a price for it."
While this inflammatory rhetoric has kept politicians in line with the gun lobby, some are starting to rebel against it.
For instance, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican, voted with Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's proposal to ban people on the FBI watch list from acquiring guns, despite potential backlash from the NRA and facing a very tight race with her opponent, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, this fall. Ayotte's reelection could be a test case for other politicians who may want to stray away from the NRA’s hard line.
The lobbying group hasn't backed democratic legislation or candidates in years and continues to vehemently oppose any legislation banning assault riffles. By supporting a democratic bill, Ayotte is making a bold move.
And if she wins, it could encourage others to stand up against the NRA too.
And maybe, just maybe, we’d see more politicians pass the gun reform that most Americans want.