In this morning's National Journal Daily, I take a look at why the NRA lies low after tragedies like the one in Newtown, Conn. Here's an excerpt:
After the shootings in Aurora, Colo., this year, the National Rifle Association’s spokesman issued a statement telling the family and friends of the victims that they were in the organization’s thoughts and prayers.
After the attack in Newtown, Conn., claimed 20 children and six adults, the association stayed silent. “I’ll let you know if we put anything out,” a spokesman said.
So why does the NRA, the nation’s 4.5 million-member gun-rights advocacy group, maintain its silence in the wake of the tragedy? The organization itself would not offer a response. The spokesman did not answer the question, saying only that he would be in touch if the group had something to say.
The answer, according to Second Amendment experts, is that the NRA has nothing to gain from taking a public position, a lesson it learned after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, when the organization was “all over the news” and was criticized for its public statements. The dynamic at play is self-preservation.
The public’s reaction to the massacre has been visceral, and the NRA is keeping its distance. In time, the argument goes, that reaction will subside. So, in the meantime, the group keeps a low profile.
“They want to lay low. They just want this to go away. The problem for [the NRA] is, it’s not going away this time,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Horwitz pointed to the comments of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who said on Monday that the shootings “changed everything” and called for the NRA to discuss reform.
While Horwitz argues that comments from lawmakers signal change is afoot, others point out that similar claims were made after the Columbine shootings—and no significant reform took place. The issue, gun-rights advocates say, is not high-capacity magazines and assault rifles but mental health—which came up in the Newtown case amid reports that the shooter may have had a mental illness.
“Once the emotion dies down, if you focus on the problem in this shooting and the last six months, the common denominator has been a … person that has gone off the deep end,” said Richard Feldman, president of the Independent Firearm Owners Associatio
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