The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary has galvanized the American public to start taking the 48,000 deaths from gun violence per year seriously. Fifty four percent of Americans, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll, favor tighter gun control — a five year high. A Huffington/YouGov poll came to similar conclusions.
Yet the National Rifle Association (NRA) will likely stand in the way, given its long history of blocking even the most minimal restrictions on gun owners. Here are six times when the NRA has been on the wrong side of what should be uncontroversial gun rules:
1. Wanted people on the terrorist watch list to be legally able to acquire guns. Inasmuch as it makes sense to have a secret “terrorism watch list,” one would think a primary reason would be to prevent people who might commit terrorism from accessing the weapons that one uses to do so. Yet people on the watch list are still allowed to by guns: in 2010 alone, at least 247 people suspected of involvement with terrorism bought guns legally. While 71 percent of NRA membesr support closing the so-called “terror gap,” the NRA claims efforts to close the loophole are plots by “politicians who hate the Second Amendment.”
2. Opposed required background checks on every gun sale. Forty percent of all gun sales legally take place without background checks on the purchaser, because federal law doesn’t require them for so-called “private” gun sales at places like gun shows. Eighty percent of gun crimes involve guns purchased in this fashion. NRA members recognize how dangerous this law is; 69 percent of them support a “proposal requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns.” Yet the NRA opposes any effort to close this loophole, calling it “a stepping stone for gun control advocates seeking to ban all private sales, even among family and friends.”
3. Lobbied to allow warlords to get arms on the international market. The U.N. Arms Trade Treaty is a small step towards the regulation of the massive international weapons trade, aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of murderous insurgents and terrorists. It contains zero restrictions on domestic gun markets. Yet the NRA has vigorously opposed the ATT, calling it an “attack on our Second Amendment freedoms” by “global gun grabbers.”
4. Wanted to prevent the public from accessing information about where guns come from. Though there’s a federal database that traces sales of guns used in crimes, you’ll never know what’s in there. That’s because NRA has helped muscle through the so-called “Tiahrt Amendments” (named after sponsor, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt [R-KS]) to the federal gun code, which prevent the public, journalists, academic researchers, some police officers, and people suing the gun industry from accessing crucially valuable data. The Tiahrt Amendments were passed over the objection of federal and local law enforcement.
5. Pushed to keep guns in bars. Guns and drunk people don’t mix well. Yet when the Tennessee legislature was considering banning guns in establishments that make most of their money from booze, an NRA lobbyist was given a rare opportunity to address the state GOP caucus opposing the bill. It died.
6) Supported forcing all business owners to allow guns on their property. Many business owners are understandably nervous about permitting people to bring loaded guns to work. Yet the NRA has pushed legislation in a number of states that would force businesses to allow employees to bring guns to work provided they leave them in their cars.
Interestingly, there’s not much for politicians to gain from pandering to the NRA’s gun maximalism: Despite consistent political rhetoric to the contrary, the lobby isn’t nearly as powerful as one might think.