August 4, 2019; New York Times
On a weekend that saw 20 killed in a mass shooting in El Paso, nine in another mass shooting in Dayton, and three more in separate incidents in Detroit, the National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to melt down. This, reports the New York Times, may mark a potential shift in who controls the gun debate over the next few years.
For the past quarter-century, terms have been set by the politically powerful NRA, which has fallen prey to internecine struggles at the very time when networks of antigun violence groups across the country are coming of age in terms of funding, grassroots activism, and media presence. The NRA’s budget and membership still dwarfs organizations like Everytown Against Gun Violence and The Trace, but they are on opposite trajectories. (Everytown claims six million supporters and 350,000 donors.)
Maggie Astor, Reid Epstein, and Danny Hakim, reporting for the Times, concede that this has not ended the dominance of the NRA; rather, it has leveled the playing field in the discourse around guns in a way the nation hasn’t seen since the Clinton administration. They write, “The spate of mass shootings in recent years has led an array of activist groups to adopt positions that were once relegated to the far fringes of the gun debate; these groups now aim to hold accountable Democrats who they believe do not fight hard enough for gun control measures.”
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“They must do everything in their power, everything in their capacity as a senator, from holding a filibuster, to placing a hold on nominees and key bills, to getting back to DC right now to show the nation that they are willing to act,” said Igor Volsky, the executive director of Guns Down America. “It’s not enough to simply ask Mitch McConnell to bring something to a vote. They have to use their leverage as a United States senator to shame him into taking action.”
The fight in the legislature, however, remains markedly one-sided. The current Democratic candidates for the presidency in 2020 are unanimous in their support of universal background checks, and of the 235 Democrats in the House, only three received “A” ratings from the NRA last year.
“No more thoughts and prayers,” Senator Kamala Harris of California wrote on Sunday in a plea for funding for gun control groups. “We need action.”—Ruth McCambridge