The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative (NRA-ILA) issued an election postmortem claiming that the public has been misled by the media "about the effectiveness of NRA campaign spending." The release is the latest attempt by the NRA to sustain what has been a false media narrative about the NRA's ability to influence elections.
Despite the NRA's protestations, the outcome on Election Day could hardly have been worse for the gun organization. The NRA failed to achieve its main goal, the defeat of President Obama, and also backed the losing Senate candidate in six out of seven races where the NRA spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of House incumbents who lost their seats were endorsed by the NRA. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation concluded that less than one percent of $10,536,106 spent by NRA Political Victory Fund went to races where the NRA-backed candidate won.*
These results do not comport with the widely-accepted media narrative that the NRA is an electoral powerhouse. Despite research by American Prospect contributing editor (and former Media Matters staffer) Paul Waldman proving that the impact of both NRA campaign contributions and endorsements is overblown, the fable of NRA influence has persevered. Slate's Brian Palmer encapsulated this narrative in July when he wrote that the NRA "can reliably deliver votes" and "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
Although mythology surrounding the NRA's power has persisted for years in the media, that façade appears to be crumbling in the wake of the 2012 elections. An article by The Hill titled "Report: NRA shoots blanks this election," highlighted the NRA's ineffective spending and noted that the Sunlight Foundation's report "challenge[s] the popular political wisdom that the NRA is among Washington's most influential lobbying forces and that candidates who buck their agenda do so at their own peril." The Washington Post offered similar analysis in an article titled "National Rifle Association shut out on Election Day" that cited the Sunlight Foundation's conclusions.
As an attempt to continue projecting itself as an organization that can determine the outcomes of elections, the NRA is now touting the success of three state ballot initiatives preventing states from banning hunting as evidence that money given to the NRA was well spent.
But the hunting ballot initiatives -- which were not even opposed by NRA nemesis the Humane Society -- are not what the 2012 elections were about for the NRA. In 2011, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced an "All In" campaign to remove President Obama from the White House that compared a potential Obama second term to a 2004 tsunami that killed over 250,000 people in South Asia.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, where the National Rifle Association spent $18 million dollars to little effect, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre promised to defeat Democrats who do not support his organization's agenda in the 2014 elections. According to LaPierre, a columnist for the organization's publications, Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will "go out on that plank" with President Obama and "the American public and the NRA will saw it right off."
From the November 9 edition of The Daily News on NRA News:
LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom.
But the NRA had an abysmal track record for the 2012 elections. Besides failing to achieve its primary goal to defeat President Obama, the NRA backed the losing candidate in six out of seven Senate races where it spent more than $100,000. Over two-thirds of incumbent House members who lost re-election bids were endorsed by the NRA.
For years, the media has advanced a false narrative that the National Rifle Association is an electoral powerhouse with a real ability to impact the outcomes of elections. The 2012 elections clearly demonstrate that the conventional wisdom is at odds with reality. While most incumbents in the House of Representatives kept their seats on November 6, over two-thirds of incumbents who lost were backed by the NRA.
Slate's Brian Palmer summed up the media's conventional wisdom on the NRA over the summer, when he wrote that the group "can reliably deliver votes," and this "is considered by many the most powerful lobbying group in the country."
This false media narrative of NRA's supposed influence on elections has persisted, even as an analysis by American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (who previously worked for Media Matters) concluded that both NRA endorsements and campaign contributions have a negligible impact on elections. In a study of House races over four election cycles, Waldman determined that Republican incumbents did not receive a statistically significant advantage if endorsed by the NRA. The average campaign contribution of $2,500 to NRA-endorsed House candidates was also found to have insignificant impact on elections.
Of the 26 incumbent House members who lost on Election Day, 18 were endorsed by the NRA. Defeated incumbents included four Democrats and 14 Republicans. Four of the eight defeated incumbents not endorsed by the NRA were Democrats who lost to other Democrats in California's top-two primary system.
Overall, the NRA fared poorly in the 2012 election. According to open government group the Sunlight Foundation, the NRA Political Victory Fund, the NRA's political action committee, received a less than one percent return on $10,536,106 spent on independent expenditures during the election cycle. The NRA spent 0.44 percent of its money supporting winning candidates and 0.39 percent opposing losing candidates.* The NRA Institute for Legislative Action, the organization's lobbying arm, garnered a 10.25 percent return on $7,448,017 spent on the election. In seven Senate races where the NRA spent more than $100,000, six of the NRA-backed candidates lost.
The following NRA endorsed incumbents were defeated on Election Day. Two incumbents included in this analysis are currently trailing vote tallies, but those races have not been officially called:
ABC, CBS, and USA Today ignored a call for strong gun violence prevention laws included in statements by Mark Kelly on behalf of his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, at the sentencing hearing for Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner.
While ABC, CBS, and USA Today reported on Kelly's statement to Loughner that "you may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place," they ignored his comments about the role of high capacity magazines in the shooting and concerns that he and Giffords have about the enforcement of gun laws.
Ted Nugent is continuing to attack Americans for re-electing President Obama, using his latest Washington Times column to state, "If you voted for Mr. Obama, you are thunderously dumb and incredibly naïve."
The National Rifle Association board member also comments that he has "a rotting fence post smarter than these mouth breathers" and declares, "Twenty years ago, the results would have been different. America wasn't nearly as stupid back then as we are today."
Shortly after Obama's election victory, Nugent took to Twitter to state that Americans "voted for economic & spiritual suicide" because Obama will "destroy America." He also referred to Obama's supporters as "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters."
Nugent is one of many conservative commentators who have reacted to the election's result by revealing his contempt for American voters.
The National Rifle Association said they were "all in" on the 2012 election. They lost. Now it's the media's responsibility to stop portraying them as an invincible electoral juggernaut.
The media has warned for years that strengthening gun violence prevention laws is impossible because of the political power of the gun lobby. This claim was always flawed; studies show that the NRA and its allies do not wield outsized power, and common sense gun policies are favored by large majorities of Americans and even, in some cases, NRA members.
But yesterday's election results provide incontrovertible evidence that the media's portrayal of the politics surrounding the gun issue has been inaccurate.
The NRA's mantra throughout the election season was that they were "all in" to defeat President Obama. In his cover story for the election issue of the NRA magazine America's First Freedom, executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged readers to "send President Obama his walking papers," writing, "This is it. We're down to the wire. It's now or never, victory or defeat. The time for talking is over. On Election Day, Nov. 6 -- only a month from now -- Americans will vote either to defend or surrender freedom in the most consequential national decision in U.S. history."
The NRA backed up LaPierre's words with more than $11 million in often misleading television, radio, and digital ads, direct mail, and other election spending attacking Obama and supporting Mitt Romney, with much of the spending earmarked for swing states.
On Election Day, President Obama was re-elected, winning at least 303 electoral votes and a majority of the popular vote.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent is responding to President Obama's re-election by saying that Americans "voted for economic & spiritual suicide" because Obama will "destroy America." He also referred to Obama's supporters as "subhuman varmint[s]" and "Pimps whores & welfare brats & their soulless supporters."
In a November 6 post titled "Vote," ex-militia blogger and Fox News guest Mike Vanderboegh wrote, "At least later on you can say you tried everything else before you were forced to shoot people in righteous self-defense of life and liberty."
Vanderboegh, one of the self-proclaimed "midwives" covering the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Operation Fast and Furious "because nobody else would touch it," has repeatedly appeared on Fox News over the past two years to discuss the failed gun trafficking sting. Setting aside his use of violent rhetoric and threats of armed insurrection against the United States government, Fox News promoted Vanderboegh as an "authority" on the topic.
In the wake of the passage of healthcare reform in March 2010, Vanderboegh received national exposure after telling his readers that "if you wish to send a message that [then-Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows." According to The Washington Post, "In the days that followed, glass windows and doors were shattered at local Democratic Party offices and the district offices of House Democrats from Arizona to Kansas to New York." Vanderboegh was unrepentant, telling the Post, "Glad to know people read my blog."
According to federal prosecutors, the plot of Vanderboegh's novel Absolved inspired four members of a Georgia militia to attempt to obtain explosives and manufacture ricin, a biological agent, as part of a plan to assassinate government officials. In Absolved, a deadly shootout between a man who has stockpiled weapons and law enforcement inspires a group of anti-government extremists to devise a widespread assassination campaign against government officials. In its introduction, Vanderboegh described the book as "a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF" and "a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry."
MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe suggested that gun violence prevention is a killer issue that hurts Democrats, attributing the party's success in recapturing the House in 2006 to Nancy Pelosi taking the issue off the table. This fantastical claim ignores the variety of issues on which the 2006 election actually turned, including the handling of the war in Iraq; the fact that several strong gun restrictions were and remain extremely popular; and that the Democrats lost the majority in 2010 without taking action on guns.
Discussing what he saw as the failures of the Republican Party during this election, Wolffe said on the November 6 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
WOLFFE: I don't think that the choice of character what really their problem this time around. It's not that their profile didn't fit. They need a nominee the next time around who can lead this party in a different direction. You know, we're talking about the House and the Senate and where they're going to end up, Nancy Pelosi, who gets a lot of criticism for being supposedly arch-liberal, she did one big thing to help Democrats take majority in the House, which is to say, we're not going to stick with gun control. You know, if you want to be a Southern Democrat and you want to not talk about guns at all, you do what you like. Republicans need to have a candidate who will say, on abortion you can be pro-life, you can be pro-choice, it doesn't matter.
While the Democratic Party did make an effort to recruit candidates who opposed strong gun violence prevention laws during the 2006 election cycle, it beggars belief to claim that that effort is what paved the way for their victory.
The Washington Post concluded at the time that the Democrats were able to take back the House due to "an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq and a rash of scandals tainting GOP incumbents in several states." Exit polls also showed the economy and terrorism as top issues for voters.
If avoiding the supposed stain of being in favor of gun violence prevention had been as important as Wolffe suggests in 2006, one would expect the National Rifle Association to have had some impact. But the purportedly pro-gun Democratic class of 2006 made big gains even though not a single member was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, and all four NRA-endorsed Republican challengers lost to their Democratic opponents that year.
Right-wing media outlets are reporting that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an advocate of gun violence prevention, denied the National Guard entry into Brooklyn to aid victims in the wake of Hurricane Sandy because members of the National Guard carry firearms. In fact, during the press conference the critics are citing, Bloomberg said he opposed having the Guard patrol the streets because he believed the New York Police Department was sufficiently equipped to protect the public and that the Guard would be better used in locations with smaller police forces.
During an October 31 press conference, Bloomberg was asked to respond to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz's request for additional National Guard resources to deter criminal activity. Bloomberg responded that "The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns," adding that "[w]e don't need it" and that the troops would be better used for that purpose in "locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York."
REPORTER: Mr. Mayor, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz has a question, additional National Guard in Brooklyn, do you agree?
BLOOMBERG: No, we appreciate the help. The National Guard has been helpful, but the NYPD is the only people we want on the street with guns. We don't need it. There has been one or two minor outbreakings, disgraceful as they may be, looting reported in the paper, but the vast bulk of people are doing the right thing. And in Brooklyn people are safe the same way they are in the rest of the city. We have the resources, the NYPD is 100 percent confident that we can protect the public, we've been doing this for an awful long time. You just have to take a look at the crime rate to understand how good a job this is. And the National Guard has plenty of responsibilities. There are plenty of locations upstate and into surrounding states where they don't have a police department the size of New York, and they can use help from the state, and that's where they should be.
From the November 3 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse highlighted fears from gun owners about President Obama's call to reinstate the assault weapons ban and suggested that those fears could sway the presidential election. In so doing, Fox is ignoring the fact that an assault weapons ban is favored by most Americans and that research suggests that the gun lobby has relatively little influence on election outcomes.
During the November 1 edition of Happening Now, La Jeunesse claimed that President Obama "stunned gun owners with his plans for a second term" when he indicated support for restrictions on assault weapons during the October 16 presidential debate. He further indicated that "gun owners could cause a problem" for Obama in some swing states, warning that "gun owners do vote."
But by harping on the importance of gun owners in presidential elections, La Jeunesse helped advance a false National Rifle Association narrative that exaggerates the influence of the gun lobby. An analysis conducted by The American Prospect contributing editor Paul Waldman (a former Media Matters staffer) found that NRA intervention has almost no influence on election outcomes. Waldman's report further showed that claims that the NRA had a significant impact on the 2000 presidential election -- a claim often repeated by the NRA and the media -- is baseless.
In focusing on the opinions of the handful of gun owners he interviewed, La Jeunesse also ignored the fact that large majorities of Americans say that they would support a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Ted Nugent claimed that Democratic politicians in Detroit "train[ed] and reward[ed] people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive" causing the majority of residents to become "pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle" during an October 30 interview with The Washington Times. Nugent, a board member of the National Rifle Association and columnist for the Times, is also a high-profile endorser of Mitt Romney.
According to Nugent, President Obama is "doing everything he can to take the whole country down" the same path as Detroit:
It is so very true that my birth city of Detroit was the cleanest, most neighborly, positive-energy, work-ethic epicenter of planet earth when I was born there in 1948, right on through to the 1960s. Enter the liberal death wish of Mayor Coleman Young and a tsunami of negative, anti-productivity policies by liberal Democrats that put a voodoo curse on our beloved Motor City. When you train and reward people to scam, cheat and refuse to be productive, there is only one direction that society can go: straight down the toilet. It is truly a heartbreaker. Some wonderful people are still to be found back home, but they are outnumbered by the pimps, whores and welfare brats that have made bloodsucking a lifestyle. And now we have a president who is doing everything he can to take the whole country down that same path. Truly amazing.
Nugent also claimed that The New Deal and Great Society economic programs "succeeded in brainwashing a segment of our country to believe Fedzilla would provide for anyone who decided, for whatever reason, to not be productive."
The New Deal was responsible for creating the Social Security Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Housing Administration, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs to combat poverty were responsible for the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, and a variety of other anti-poverty programs. These initiatives dramatically reduced the rate of poverty, particularly among the elderly.
Fox News host Megyn Kelly sharply critiqued a Montana self-defense law that has been cited by the local prosecutor as the reason that Brice Harper will not face charges after fatally shooting Dan Fredenberg in Harper's garage on September 22. Fredenberg, who was unarmed, entered the garage to confront Harper who was having an affair with his wife.
During Thursday's segment on American Live, Kelly stated "it looks like that guy who did the shooting, who was having the affair is going to get away with it" and said that Harper "is getting off. Why? Because of the 'stand your ground' law or the 'castle doctrine' in Montana." Kelly also expressed the belief that the law effectively makes the punishment for unlawfully entering someone's property "the death penalty."
Montana's "castle doctrine" law allows an individual to use deadly force while in their home if the individual has a reasonable apprehension of assault. The deadly force requirement was created in 2009 by HB 228, a bill that expanded the circumstances under which deadly force could be used in self-defense and also loosened rules on the carrying of concealed weapons in public.
While the bill was under consideration, National Rifle Association lobbyist Brian Judy called it "our most important bill of the session." The proposed legislation, however, was opposed by some members of law enforcement who cited public safety concerns.
Even as numerous states have expanded self-defense laws in recent years (often at the behest of the NRA), Montana's "castle doctrine" law stands out for the extremely low requirements that an individual must satisfy before using deadly force. Under Montana law, an individual may use deadly force on someone who unlawfully enters his or her property if that individual "reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent an assault."
The National Rifle Association's media arm, NRA News, recently downplayed the public safety threat posed by a loophole in federal law that allows domestic abusers and other prohibited persons to purchase firearms without undergoing a background check. But the alleged perpetrator in an October 21 shooting at a Brookfield, Wisconsin spa that left three dead and four wounded reportedly abused that same loophole to obtain his firearm.
Today the Associated Press reported that Radcliffe Haughton purchased a handgun without a background check from a private seller, and obtained the weapon two days after becoming subject to a restraining order that required him to turn any firearms he owned into police.
On August 29, Cam Edwards, the host of Cam & Company on NRA News, obfuscated the loophole during a segment in which he expressed opposition to a proposal by Mayors Against Illegal Guns to require background checks on nearly all gun sales.
CAM EDWARDS: As you know, the gun laws in this country are the same for private citizens at gun shows or at their home. The laws in the country are the same for federally licensed firearms retailers whether they are at their brick-and-mortar store or whether they are manning a table at a gun show. The laws don't change based on the location.
Edwards' focus on where guns are sold is a distraction from the real issue: the lax regulation of private gun sales creates a venue for prohibited persons, like Haughton, to obtain firearms.