by Max Brantley
The New Republic has written at some length on the thinking behind the Michael Bloomberg gun control group, highly visible currently in Arkansas with ads pounding Sen. Mark Pryor for preventing a vote on a very modest piece of legislation on gun background checks, as the NRA demanded.
Short version: Reason didn't work. The gun control advocates think the only solution is to get as mean and bullying as the NRA. And if there's collateral damage to Democratic politicians like Mark Pryor in tough re-elections against even more pro-gun opponents, tough.
TNR advances the proposition that the NRA's clout is overrated, a notion that would be hooted in Arkansas political circles.
And yet for some time now, the NRA’s power has been more a matter of entrenched wisdom than actual fact. Gun ownership is declining—from half of households in the 1970s to a third today. A slew of senators and governors have won campaigns in red or purple states despite NRA F ratings, including Tim Kaine (Virginia), Kay Hagan (North Carolina), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Claire McCaskill (Missouri), and Bill Nelson (Florida), who has campaigned on gun control but has won majorities even in deeply conservative Panhandle counties. Senator Chris Murphy, a rookie Connecticut Democrat who has taken a lead on the issue since the Newtown massacre, points out that, of the 16 Senate races the NRA participated in last year, 13 of its candidates lost. “The NRA is just all mythology,” he says. “The NRA does not win elections anymore."
The last statewide politician to directly oppose the NRA in Arkansas was a fellow named Bill Clinton. He did OK.