The National Rifle Association will promise to offer "meaningful contributions" to the gun control debate after the Newtown first-grader massacre. That contribution has turned out to be a series of cliches which the NRA will offer Vice President Joe Biden Thursday in its meeting with his gun commission. An NRA official tells Politico's Mike Allen it will frame the gun control debate as a familiar fight between "real Americans" and the "elites."
The NRA tells Allen its message to Biden will be this:
"We are willing to talk to policymakers about any reasonable proposals and plans. However, the NRA is hearing not just from Beltway elites and the chattering class, but real Americans all over the country that are hoping the NRA is not going to compromise on any of the principles of the Second Amendment, nor are we going to support banning guns. But we're willing to listen."
The idea that some Americans are less American than others is a familiar refrain from the Tea Party. Before Mitt Romney managed to piss off half the nation with his
"47 percent" comments, in the 2008 campaign, Sarah Palin apologized for picking out small towns as "the real America" and "pro-America" part of the country. Likewise, Rep. Michele Bachmann gave one of her more memorable interviews to MSNBC's Chris Matthews urging voters to "look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?"
To back up its claims of realness, and in anticipation of fending off the Biden commission's policy proposals to curb gun violence, Allen reports the NRA is focussing on signing up members. Its goal is to reach 5 million members by the end of the debate. Right now, it has 4.2 million, which is 100,000 more since the Newtown shooting.
But herein lies the problem with the NRA's claim that it has real Americans on its side. According to a University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center survey, 32 percent of households have guns. According to Gallup, 47 percent of Americans say they have a gun in their home. That means the NRA doesn't even theoretically represent a majority of Americans. But it doesn't even represent a majority of gun owners, or even a third of gun owners. There are 312 million people living in America, meaning that if the Gallup poll is accurate, there are 146 million gun owners, and the NRA's membership amounts to just 2.9 percent of gun owners. That's even though membership is only $25, comes with a one of three free gifts (bizarrely, one of them is a knife), and a little bumpersticker looks cool on your car.
In his strange press conference after the Newtown shooting, the NRA's Wayne LaPierre rattled off a bunch of cliches quite familiar to gun obsessives. The line, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun"? It's been quoted everywhere in the press, but it's so old that it had been made into countless Facebook memes (one version at right) long before LaPierre's statement. The cliche it'll throw at Biden Thursday -- that it represents "real Americans" in opposing any gun restrictions -- is false, according to several polls. Perhaps worse for the NRA, it's also one the media knows well and is already tired of.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.