As Vice President Joe Biden makes his way around the country to pitch President Obama’s gun control agenda to the American people and congressional lawmakers, the National Rifle Association has launched its own targeted ad campaign designed to derail the Biden Express in five key states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia.
It’s no coincidence that in each of those five ‘battleground’ states there are lawmakers that will be vying for reelection in 2014, including several Democratic senators: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Given the vulnerability of these candidates, the NRA has set out to educate their constituents about the inherent limitations of Obama’s plan to curb gun-related violence, which includes an endorsement of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s 2013 Assault Weapons Ban, universal background checks (UBCs) and a ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
In criticizing those measures in the ad campaign, the NRA’s takes its cue not from its own team of policy wonks and researchers, but from an internal DOJ memo – “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies” – written by Greg Ridgeway, the Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice.
Among other important findings, the NIJ concluded that even “a complete elimination of assault weapons would not have a large impact on gun homicides,” that without an “extensive buyback of existing large capacity magazines” a ban on them would not be effective (a grandfather clause would “nearly eliminate any impact”), and that UBCs are contingent upon a “perfect” background check system, involving a registry of law-abiding gun owners.
So, in the print ads appearing in the local papers, the NRA poses the following question in a bold headline: “Will Obama’s gun control proposals work? His own experts say ‘No.’” The gun lobby then proceeds to highlight those aforementioned findings from the NIJ report. To get a sense of what they’re like, check out this TV ad, featuring NRA-ILA Director Chris Cox:
Naturally, the Obama administration has vehemently criticized the NRA’s campaign, claiming that the gun lobby distorts reality and misrepresents the truth about those measures.
“The NRA ad is an outrageous misrepresentation of the president’s commonsense proposals to reduce gun violence, based on an incomplete review of gun violence research,” an administration official told CNN last week.
“The ad claims that in order for our proposals to work, we would have to confiscate guns and create a national gun registry,” the spokesperson continued. “That is simply not true. The president strongly believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to keep and bear arms, and the administration has never supported a gun registry or gun confiscation.”
“The ad is based on unofficial views and proposals that reflect an incomplete review of research on gun violence and do not represent the position of the Department of Justice or the administration,” the official concluded.
(The Obama official doth protest too much, methinks.)
With respect to the NIJ report, it says what it says and says it pretty clearly. And it’d be really hard for any reasonable or open-minded person to ignore it. The NRA knows this; in fact they’re counting on this, this appeal to the public’s reason and true ‘common sense.’
Consequently, the NRA will continue run this campaign and iterate these findings across the country. Already, the gun lobby has spent $350,000 on getting this message out, with another $100,000 waiting in the wings, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, who spoke to CNN last week.
So, the main question about this latest NRA campaign is: will it be enough to have an impact? Will it be enough to derail the Biden Gun Control Express tour and the other talking heads who are pushing for gun control reform?