WAUSAU, Wisconsin—The National Rifle Association will wait until the “Connecticut effect” has subsided to resume its push to weaken the nation’s gun laws, according to a top NRA lobbyist speaking at the NRA’s Wisconsin State Convention this weekend.
Though the NRA had been tight-lipped about how the Newtown tragedy would affect their efforts, lobbyist Bob Welch, who represents the Wisconsin NRA group, was anything but during their yearly meeting.
“We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the ‘Connecticut effect’ has to go through the process,” Welch, a former Republican state senator, told the Wisconsin’s NRA State Association during the legislative update. The group’s president, Jeff Nass, had previously mentioned that they would push the Republican-controlled legislature to pass a Stand Your Ground law, the likes of which became famous following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
Welch went on to bemoan the fact that the public’s focus on Newtown was preventing the NRA from pushing such bills through the legislature, but his remarks soon turned to braggadocio about the NRA’s legislative influence. He relayed an anecdote about how, following the Connecticut shooting, a pro-gun Democrat in the legislature had mentioned his desire to close the gun show loophole. “And I said [to him], ‘no, we’re not going to do that,” Welch boasted. “And so far, nothing’s happened on that.”
WELCH: We have a strong agenda coming up for next year, but of course a lot of that’s going to be delayed as the “Connecticut effect” has to go through the process. [...] What’s even more telling is the people who don’t like guns pretty much realize that they can’t do a thing unless they talk to us. After Connecticut I had one of the leading Democrats in the legislature—he was with us most of the time, not all the time—he came to me and said, “Bob, I got all these people in my caucus that really want to ban guns and do all this bad stuff, we gotta give them something. How about we close this gun show loophole? Wouldn’t that be good?” And I said, “no, we’re not going to do that.” And so far, nothing’s happened on that.
One of the ways the NRA remains so effective is through a massive level of political spending. Last year alone, the group spent $32 million in an effort to weaken the nation’s gun laws, including $6 million on lobbyists. Such an onslaught of political spending gives Welch the belief, whether true or not, that even those who advocate for stronger gun laws “realize they can’t do a thing unless they talk to us.”
In reality, however, the NRA is much more of a paper tiger, and its weak record in elections hardly justifies the kind of deference lawmakers pay toward the gun lobby. An analysis of the NRA’s spending revealed that “NRA contributions to candidates have virtually no impact on the outcome of Congressional races,” and recent polling suggests voters are more likely to punish a candidate for having NRA backing than to reward allegiance to the gun lobby.