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Why Republicans Won’t Budge on Guns

Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans support some restrictions on firearms, but G.O.P. lawmakers fear they would pay a steep political price for embracing them.

Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, said most voters “would probably throw me out of office,” if he were to support any significant form of gun control legislation.

By Carl Hulse

WASHINGTON — The calculation behind Republicans’ steadfast opposition to any new gun regulations — even in the face of the kind of unthinkable massacre that occurred Tuesday at an elementary school in Texas — is a fairly simple one for Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota.

Asked Wednesday what the reaction would be from voters back home if he were to support any significant form of gun control, the first-term Republican had a straightforward answer: “Most would probably throw me out of office,” he said.

His response helps explain why Republicans have resisted proposals such as the one for universal background checks for gun buyers, despite remarkably broad support from the public for such plans — support that can reach up to 90 percent nationwide in some cases.

The reality is that that 90 percent figure probably includes some Republicans who are open to new laws, but would not clamor for them or punish a lawmaker for failing to back them, and the 10 percent opposed reflect the sentiments of the G.O.P. base, which decides primary contests and is zealous in its devotion to gun rights.

Most Republicans in the Senate represent deeply conservative states where gun ownership is treated as a sacred privilege enshrined in the Constitution, a privilege not to be infringed upon no matter how much blood is spilled in classrooms and school hallways around the country.

“We don’t want to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 Republican, explaining why members of his party have no interest in imposing new regulations on gun purchases, even after the murder of 19 children and two teachers, the latest in a seemingly unending series of shooting massacres in the United States.

The politics of gun control have always been fraught, and Democrats dodged the issue for decades following their loss of the House in 1994, which many of them attributed to their passage of an assault weapons ban. The epidemic of mass shootings has prompted Democrats to change course, and now even Democrats from red states, such as Jon Tester of Montana, have embraced background checks.

But as Republican voters have become more conservative, Republican lawmakers have dug in deeply against any notion that new strictures on gun purchases are an antidote to mass shootings. They say that such restrictions are unconstitutional, even though adult Americans would continue to have easy access to weapons purchases if they became law.

Republicans like Mr. Cramer understand that they would receive little political reward for joining the push for laws to limit access to guns, including assault-style weapons. But they know for certain that they would be pounded — and most likely left facing a primary opponent who could cost them their job — for voting for gun safety laws or even voicing support for them.

The political threat from any perceived support for gun restrictions was on display just this week in a hotly contested Senate Republican primary race in Alabama.

Mike Durant, an Army helicopter pilot once considered a contender for the Senate nomination, was reproached by his opponents for an 11-year-old speech in which he seemed to suggest that disarming an urban population would be a step toward reducing crime.

“Mike Durant — dangerously wrong on guns,” said one attack ad.

Mr. Durant said his remarks, made at the Army War College, were related to the civil war in Somalia, where he had piloted a helicopter in the famous Black Hawk Down incident, and were being twisted and taken out of context. But the damage was done, and the attack was considered a factor in his finishing third on Tuesday, in a contest whose victor was all but certain to be elected. Such outcomes are not lost on other Republicans.

The scene on Wednesday on Capitol Hill had a wrenching familiarity to it, as Republican lawmakers were mobbed by reporters and pressed on whether they could support something — anything — to curb the ongoing gun violence in the United States. Most who engaged said they were open to discussions, that they were happy to review what was on the table and that maybe, just maybe, some accommodation could be reached.

Democrats said they have seen it all before and know how it ends — with nothing.

“They are going to rope-a-dope the issue, hope that Congress adjourns, and 10 days from now the furor will once again die down,” said Senator Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Despite the slim prospects for success, a small group of lawmakers on Thursday began bipartisan talks to try to find common ground on some sort of legislative response. They held out hope that they could agree on initiatives such as so-called red flag laws, which would allow police to seize guns from those who threaten themselves or others. The group was given about two weeks to reach some sort of deal.

If they do not, Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, promised that the Senate would still vote on gun control bills.

“We’re putting people on the record one way or the other,” he said at a gun-control rally outside the Capitol. “We’re going to have a debate here. We are going to force people to tell America which side they are on.”

Other Democrats said they saw nothing from their Republican colleagues that suggested a change in sentiment — particularly with crucial midterms looming — or that would lead them to expect that progress could be made on gun safety, despite Tuesday’s horrendous toll.

“They are disturbed, they are troubled, but they are not willing to change where they are,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.

While they are mainly opposed to gun safety legislation, Republicans do not want to appear to be nonresponsive in the wake of the shooting. Many voiced support for new mental health programs or for “hardening” the nation’s schools as an alternative to taking action on guns.

Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, on Wednesday sought to win unanimous Senate agreement to bring up a bill he has written that creates a sort of clearinghouse on best practices for school safety.

“There’s nothing partisan about this bill whatsoever,” said Mr. Johnson, a strong proponent of gun rights. “It’s just a good idea that could save lives.”

But to Democrats, Mr. Johnson’s idea was far from an appropriate legislative response to what took place this week in Uvalde, or earlier this month in Buffalo, or in 2012 in Newtown, Conn.

“The Johnson bill is not in any way, shape or form a sufficient solution,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader.

Though the National Rifle Association has recently been diminished by scandal and financial turmoil, Democrats say that the organization still has a strong hold on Republicans through its financial contributions and support, hardening the party’s resistance to any new gun laws.

Despite the shooting in the same state, top Republicans are expected to appear this weekend at the group’s convention in Houston.

“It is hard to say no to someone, to groups, who are principal suppliers of campaign funding, and that’s where they are trapped,” Mr. Markey said of Republicans.

But Mr. Cramer noted that he did not receive the N.R.A. endorsement when he won election in 2019, and argued that most Republicans are representing not the gun-rights group, but the views of constituents who will not tolerate any action that could be seen as clamping down on gun rights.

“It is a fundamental right for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves with firearms,” said the senator, who has an “A” grade from the N.R.A. “It is fundamental. It is exactly that. It is constitutional.”

Carl Hulse is chief Washington correspondent and a veteran of more than three decades of reporting in the capital. More about Carl Hulse

Gun Violence in America

Makeshift Machine Guns: Popular devices known as “switches” are turning ordinary pistols into fully automatic weapons , making them deadlier and a growing threat to bystanders.

‘Ghost Gun’ Regulations: The Supreme Court temporarily revived  the Biden administration’s regulation of the kits that can be bought online and assembled into untraceable homemade firearms .

‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws: The shootings of two people  in Missouri and New York earlier in 2023 have renewed attention to self-defense laws across the country .

The Emotional Toll: We asked Times readers how the threat of gun violence has affected the way they lead their lives. Here’s what they told us .

A Growing Tally: Gun violence is a persistent American problem. A partial list of mass shootings this year offers a glimpse at the scope .

Gun Control: U.S. gun laws are at the center of heated exchanges between those in favor and against tougher regulations. Here’s what to know about that debate .

US gun control: What is the NRA and why is it so powerful?

  • Published 13 April

An attendee at the 2022 NRA annual meeting in Texas looks at semi-automatic rifles

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is holding its annual meeting in Indianapolis, with former US President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis due to address delegates.

The meeting is taking place amid increasing calls for tighter US gun laws in the wake of a record number of mass shootings in 2023 .

According to the Gun Violence Archive , there have been 146 mass shootings in the country since January.

What is the NRA?

Founded in 1871 as a recreational group designed to "promote and encourage rifle shooting", the National Rifle Association has grown into one of the most powerful political organisations in the US.

It lobbies heavily against all forms of gun control and argues aggressively that more guns make the country safer.

It relies on, and staunchly defends, a disputed interpretation of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which it argues gives US citizens the rights to bear arms.

It directly funds US politicians and lawmakers who support its aims.

Who runs the NRA?

Chief executive Wayne LaPierre has run the NRA since 1991.

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre speaks during the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum at the 2015 NRA Annual Meeting & Exhibits on April 10, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee

The group is currently in legal difficulties, having been locked in a court battle with New York's Attorney General since 2020.

Letitia James alleges that in the past the organisation diverted millions of dollars to leaders including Mr LaPierre for their personal use.

She is suing Mr LaPierre for millions of dollars he has been paid by the NRA, and wants the organisation to face financial monitoring.

The NRA has described her lawsuit as a "baseless, premeditated attack".

How big is the NRA?

Estimates of the NRA's membership vary widely. The association claimed that membership rose to nearly to five million in response to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook school in 2012.

However, some analysts put the figure at closer to three million.

A woman is arrested during a protest outside NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2016

Current NRA members include former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and actors Tom Selleck and Whoopi Goldberg.

Former vice-president Mike Pence is expected to join Mr Trump and Mr DeSantis in Indianapolis for the 2023 meeting.

How influential is the NRA?

In 2022, the NRA received $97m (£78m) from membership dues . That is down by more than 40% from its peak year, 2018.

The organisation blamed the Covid pandemic for the fall.

However, the NRA still has a substantial budget which it uses to try and influence US politicians on gun policy.

In 2021, it spent $4.2m on lobbying , according to non-partisan US research firm OpenSecrets.

OpenSecrets' figures suggest that since 2010, the NRA has directed more than $140m to pro-gun election candidates.

The NRA also has considerable influence via its membership, many of whom will vote for a candidate based solely on their stance on guns.

It grades members of Congress from A to F on their perceived friendliness to gun rights. Those ratings can cost pro-gun control candidates their seats.

Why is the NRA controversial?

For decades, the NRA has aggressively opposed measures which would restrict gun ownership, despite a series of high profile mass shootings, including many in schools.

The late actor Charlton Heston - a former NRA president - famously held a rifle over his head following the 1999 Columbine High School mass shooting, telling gun control advocates they would have to take the weapon "from my cold, dead hands".

Actor Charlton Heston brandishes a rifle at an NRA meeting in 2002

What has the NRA said about school shootings?

On 27 March, six people including three children were killed at a school in Nashville .

The NRA responded by calling for more security in schools , rather than restrictions on gun ownership.

The Nashville attack was the worst mass shooting at a US school since 19 children and two adults were killed in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022 .

The NRA held its 2022 meeting in nearby Houston only days after the Uvalde attack, despite widespread calls to cancel the event.

In 2018, it backed a call by then-president Donald Trump to arm teachers and other members of staff to deter gun attacks - although many teachers do not want to be armed.

  • Guns the leading cause of death of US children

Related Topics

  • US gun violence
  • United States
  • Mass shootings


Ten Powerful Arguments Against “Gun Control”

arguments against gun control nra

The fantastic list below – from our friends at List Verse – lays out ten of the best arguments against “gun control.”

10.  There’s still murder in countries where handguns are banned. The United Kingdom banned handguns in 1997 after a man shot 16 elementary students and then shot himself. Let’s look at the UK’s homicide rate before, during, and after the ban… In 1996, the murder rate was 1.12 per 100,000 people. In 1997, it rose to 1.24. In 1998, the rate rose even further to 1.43. And in 2002, it peaked at 2.1 homicides per 100,000. Just because you ban guns, doesn’t mean people won’t find other ways to massacre other human beings.

9.  Limiting assault rifles limits your Second Amendment rights. If the government restricts types of rifles or limits the amount of rounds, there’s no limit to what else they will restrict. The infringement of your constitutional rights won’t just stop at the type of arms you can bear. Who knows what other rights they’ll take away… free speech, freedom of religion…

8.  The Second Amendment is not intended for just ordinary home defense. Its intent was to guarantee the nation could never be overcome by any military power, foreign or domestic. If the military was not available… say a nuclear holocaust or a synchronized Pearl Harbor occurred… you would have to protect yourself. If you were limited to non-assault rifles, any invader with an AK-47 would have an easy day.

7.  Armed civilians help take out the bad guys. I’m referring to the first modern mass shooting in Austin, Texas in 1966. A sniper in a tower shot at University of Austin students for 90 minutes. The police who reacted had help. Students went to their trucks and grabbed their rifles and shot along side of the police. It was enough to pin the shooter down and allow the police to take the shooter out. Police then thanked the civilians for helping them fire on the shooter.

6.  Shooters will get access to a gun, even with strict gun laws in place. In 2009, a German high school student went on a rampage and killed 15 people. He did not have a gun. He used his father’s 9 mm. Even in a country with strict gun laws, a shooter was able to find one and use it.

5.  Gun rights will protect you from a police state. Edward Snowden brought our diminishing constitutional rights to light. “Big Brother” is not a myth. It’s a violation of the constitution. If the government doesn’t protect your right, what will?

4.  Rampage shooters like soft targets. They’re targeting elementary schools, churches, and theaters… not places where you’d think guns are likely to be… Hell’s Angels’ bars, Scarface’s house in Miami, or a police station.

3.  Prohibition didn’t stop alcohol… gun control won’t stop guns. The people who prospered during Prohibition by importing and supplying alcohol were gangsters like Al Capone. If gun control were in place, the people we’d really have to worry about would be the modern-day Al Capone supplying guns.

2.  Laws don’t apply to criminals. This is simple enough. Gun control does not address the issue of gun-related crimes. In 2010, gun sales in Chicago were verboten. There were 432 murders in 2010 and 500 in 2012. The FBI named Chicago the nation’s murder capital. If a criminal is going to break the law, they will find a way.

1.  The world isn’t perfect… and you can’t regulate it to perfection. There’s about one gun for every citizen inside the U.S. already. It would be impossible to collect this massive trove of guns. Even if the government wanted to, they could not control guns already present… or guns that would find their way into those hands who want them.   Click here for the original article on The Crux .

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