The president wants to ban assault rifles, require background checks, and ban high-capacity ammunition. He does not want to confiscate guns, despite the NRA's unsubstantiated warnings to the contrary.
There are fair arguments to be had over Obama's proposals: Redefining the Second Amendment shouldn't be done without a vigorous debate. But to drag the president's daughters into the fight, and to question their need for security, suggests that the NRA is slipping further away from the mainstream. Over-the-top tactics discredit the NRA and its cause.
Gun-rights supporters deserve a better advocate.
The gun lobby's approval ratings are plummeting, and it is losing the support of opinion leaders who should be in the NRA's corner. In a Politico column titled "The High Cost of NRA Extremism," former conservative Rep. Joe Scarborough writes, "As a longtime supporter of the Second Amendment, I had hoped their executives and lobbyists would not take an absolutist position on the issue since that would ultimately set back the cause of gun rights. Unfortunately, [NRA leader Wayne] LaPierre chose to respond as if it were 1994."
Scarborough points out that a new ABC News/Washington Post shows that a majority of Americans now support a ban on certain types of assault weapons, a shift in public opinion since LaPierre's tone-deaf response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. An overwhelming majority of Americans also support universal background checks, a national database to track gun sales, and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, LaPierre famously called federal law-enforcement agents "jack-booted thugs" and compared them to the Nazis. Former President George H.W. Bush and other GOP leaders denounced the remarks. Will gun-rights supporters walk away from the NRA today?
- After Newtown, LaPierre called for all schools to have armed police officers in place. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," LaPierre said.
- A shooting-range app for the iPhone and iPad branded as an "Official NRA Licensed Product" was released on the one-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre.
- After meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on gun control, the NRA accused Obama of an "agenda to attack the Second Amendment," a gross distortion of the president's position.
The ad signals the NRA's intention to fight a campaign-style war with Obama. The White House response: Bring it on.
"The president has the most exciting campaign apparatus ever built. It's time to turn that loose," Obama adviser Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC. "If the NRA has a list, then Obama for America has a bigger list."