WASHINGTON, D.C. — Beyond the financial muscle, the NRA has people power. The NRA can inundate local, state or congressional offices with phone calls via a single action alert to the membership.
Cleta Mitchell, an NRA board member, says, “Obama famously referred to people who ‘cling to guns and religion.’ He was right. We do. And we are proud of it. This is about abiding principles, and people take action when they think someone or some group is taking away precious values.”
Grover Norquist, the influential tax activist and an NRA board member since 2000, believes that gun-control advocates fail to recognize that their efforts are viewed by many gun owners as a message that says, “You don’t like me.” That message blots out all other efforts to communicate, he says. And no one, he says, votes for a candidate simply because that candidate is in favor of gun control. Millions of voters, however, will vote against a candidate on that single issue, he says. He thinks Democrats’ efforts to pass new gun laws will backfire.
“The D’s keep coming back to this. This is so visceral to them,” Norquist says. “Again, it’s an expression of contempt for Middle America. They don’t like you and yours and don’t think you should be in charge of the capacity to take care of yourself. They know they can’t do this for you, but they’ve hired these nice people to draw chalk outlines of your kids, and that’s supposed to make you feel better.”
William Vizzard, a retired ATF official who is now a criminal justice professor at California State University at Sacramento, says the NRA is not trying to be like other Washington organizations seeking to influence legislation.
“The NRA is a populist lobby,” he says. “They get support when people are mad and stirred up. They want the attention. They’re not interested in fixing things. They want to stir things up, and the more they stir things up, the more members they get and the more money they make. What do they gain by compromising? Nothing.”