It’s been a pretty bleak last few years for the National Rifle Association.
The gun advocacy organization was sued by the New York Attorney General’s office in 2020, with the organization and several top executives accused of fraud and financial misconduct. In early 2021, the NRA filed for bankruptcy, with longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre later admitting that he had kept the bankruptcy filing secret from the NRA’s board.
In May of this year, per The New York Daily News, a judge shut down the NRA’s bid to declare bankruptcy in Texas, alleging that the move was done in bad faith.
“The court has great concern about this case because its purpose is to avoid dissolution that is being sought as a remedy in a state regulatory action,” the judge said.
The trial, that report said, including all sorts of embarrassing details about LaPierre, depicting him as “a coddled executive living the high life, surrounded by security,” and even that his wife travels with a “glam squad.” It even showed that LaPierre had failed to deliver a kill shot to an elephant, after three tries, during a trip to Botswana.
The NRA being in trouble, ironically, has coincided with something else: Gun sales in the U.S. are surging significantly.
In the last year, millions of Americans have bought guns, with as many as eight million buying one for the first time. So many guns are flying off the shelves, in fact, that there are numerous reports of ammunition shortages.
There are quite a few reasons why gun sales have gone up by so much. The civil unrest in 2020 has led many to fear for their safety. The pandemic left many Americans with a lot of free time, with some taking up shooting as a hobby. Stimulus checks have put more money in the hands of Americans, some of whom used that money to buy guns. And the arrival of a Democratic presidential administration in Washington has led some to fear new gun restrictions, although none have been put in place by the Biden Administration.
So what’s happened is something deeply ironic: A key part of the NRA’s mission has come to fruition, even with the NRA itself on the canvas and mired in scandal.
The AP looked at this very dynamic last month.
“It turns out, the NRA’s message has become so solidified in the Republican Party that even if the organization implodes from allegations of lavish spending and misuse of funds, its unapologetic pro-gun point of view will live on, as the heated debate increasingly shifts from Washington to the states,” that report said.
“The NRA built up an impressive mountain of power over the course of 40 years. And despite their recent fall from grace, that power doesn’t disappear overnight,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, told the AP. Murphy added that he thinks Democrats can gain ground on their priorities when it comes to gun policy.
“Democrats who support universal background checks are winning all over the country, including in states where you would have thought the NRA had a stranglehold.” This includes Georgia, where Democrats won both Senate runoffs in January.
It’s long been a key article of faith, especially among many on the political left, that the NRA plays an outsized role in the lack of new gun laws, and exerts unique pressure on politicians not to ever vote for gun restrictions.
There is some truth to that. But it’s also true that the reason many politicians vote against gun restrictions is that their constituents feel very, very strongly about that issue, and it’s the kind of issue that drives votes like few others.
Yes, it’s true that the NRA gives a great deal of money to politicians-but a great many of them would vote against gun restrictions anyway.
Of course, it’s long been a part of the NRA’s strategy to create the impression that politicians, and especially Democratic presidents, are always immediately on the verge of moving to take everyone’s guns away, or at the very least impose heavy restrictions.
Those types of restrictions tend to happen at the state and local level. But gun control at the federal level for the most part isn’t something to fear from Democratic presidents. Bill Clinton passed an assault weapons ban early in his term, and the massive backlash that followed seemed to have encouraged him to never pursue any such thing again.
Barack Obama, despite a massive amount of fear-mongering that he was plotting some type of massive gun seizure, made no such move at all during his first term. Early in his second term, following the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, the deepest restriction Obama supported was the Manchin-Toomey Amendment, which would have mandated universal background checks on most private sales of guns-but, not even that passed the Senate, nor did any other federal measure of any significance.
President Biden, per Reuters, held a meeting on Monday at the White House to address growing gun violence.
“We recognize that we have to come together to fulfill the first responsibility of democracy and to keep each other safe. And that’s what the American people are looking for when it comes to reducing violent crime and gun violence,” Biden said at the meeting, per Reuters.
Biden has endorsed “steps to crack down on illegal gun sales by licensed dealers, reduce gun trafficking in major cities,” as well as expanded background checks for chose who purchase guns.
Biden has not proposed confiscation of guns or anything like that, nor is such a scenario in any way possible or practical.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.