Monday, March 19, 2018

Numbers and the NRA

I've noticed the #BoycottNRA movement, which sprang up after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.  I've been surprised at some of the large companies which have chosen to cut ties with the NRA - to stop offering member discounts and branded credit cards, and in some cases to quit selling guns.  Not all companies are joining the boycott, of course.  But enough have done so that, according to the Economist, a backlash against the boycott is brewing among NRA supporters and conservatives.  So we face a war of boycotts.  Who will win?

To consider that, I want to look at some numbers.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau and the World Bank estimate the population of the U.S. in 2017 at 325.7 million people.
  • The NRA has 5 million members, by its own report.  That is .015% of the U.S. population. I'm sure it has non-member supporters but I haven't seen the numbers.
In February 2018, Time magazine reported on a Quinnipiac University poll on stricter gun control laws.  The article contains a link to the Quinnipiac polling site:
Sixty-six percent of respondents said they would support more stringent laws, while just 31% said they would not.
If you take that as representative of the U.S. population, and it was intended to be, that's quite a difference from the members who agree with the NRA.  Even among gun owners, "50% were in favor" of more stringent gun laws, and 44% were not.

You may begin to see that there are more people supporting restrictions on gun purchases than the NRA can turn out against them.  Why, then, does Congress never act? The answer, as usual, is money.

I'm sorry to have to say this to all the NRA members who genuinely believe in the Second Amendment, good gun management, and recreational hunting.  I choose not to have guns myself; my father owned guns and was a recreational hunter.  I'm not against guns, hunting and shooting per se - I do oppose the culture that has built up that says anybody can have any gun they want, any time they want, whether they have the training to use it or not, and no matter how crazy or angry they are.  There are more restrictions on owning and using a car than on a gun.  I'm sorry - nobody not actively involved in a war needs an AR-15 or anything similar.  Dad, as I recall, hunted with a .30-06.

The NRA has morphed over the years into the lobbying arm of the gun manufacturing industry, which donates huge amounts of cash to the NRA, which it then passes on, through carefully structured PACs, to Republican congressmen, who currently control Congress.  Business Insider published an article on this in 2013; it isn't new news. has a really interesting breakdown of where NRA money comes from, and where it goes, up to date to 2018. 

It isn't just the gun manufacturers, either.  According to NPR, the FBI is investigating "whether Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the NRA to assist the Trump campaign in 2016."  Read the NPR article for more detail on this.

You and I can call our representatives and tell them we want stricter gun controls - and I do - but you and I can't match that kind of money.  So nothing happens - until the kids from Florida stood up and said, #NeverAgain.  And these kids will be voting in a very few years.

The tide is turning in the courts, too.  In early 2017, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, upheld Maryland's ban on assault rifles by a vote of 10-4, with this comment:  "Put simply, we have no power to extend Second Amendment protections to weapons of war."  In November 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of this ban, as well as an appeal of an open-carry ban in Florida.  So the bans stand.  States can ban assault rifles, and open-carry.  I live in one that has.  Unfortunately, California is right next to Nevada, which doesn't ban anything; so the traffic is still there.

Considering the NRA boycott war I began with, I don't think there's a question that those of us who believe in rational restrictions on gun ownership can out-boycott the NRA supporters.  There are simply more of us - a lot more.  We can't outbid the NRA for Congress; but if we make it clear to corporations supporting the NRA that they could lose our business if they continue, I believe we could have an effect.  Let's try it.


  1. One of the characteristics of our political system is the "equality" of the States. A "blue" state like California gets two Senators. So does Nevada. So does Wyoming. So does Rhode Island. Our nation is large, and various in its composition of population. Much of the country is sparsely populated, or rural, at least in comparison to the populous ones. Lower populous or more rural states tend towards "red" conservatism (with exceptions like Texas). Smart political strategists can build constituencies out of shadow issues like abortion, gun rights and land use, in order to produce favorable policies on issues that really count, like energy, taxes, and the war industry.

    No matter how I vote, in California, it won't have any effect on the U.S. Senate's overwhelming "pro-gun rights" majority, because we live in a "blue" state where the outcome is already determined before-hand (before elections).

    So this issue is most important in States where people believe in gun rights, like Wyoming, or Kentucky, or Kansas. It doesn't take much cash to "buy" a Senator from a state that already has a pro-gun bent. They're just following their constituency.

    I think the teenagers who've started this anti-gun movement have a real good thing going. It remains to be seen how much endurance they have. It will take a lot to succeed, against the odds as they now align.

  2. You're right on all counts, of course. Let me share something I posted yesterday on Facebook, in response to a post about Justice Stevens' call to repeal the 2nd Amendment. I think it sums the situation up:

    My biggest problem with this is that, as far as I understand, if we open a Constitutional convention - which is what this could require - we can't limit discussion to the Second Amendment. The entire Constitution would be up for grabs. The thought is chilling.

    The alternative to a convention is repeal by 2/3 of the House AND the Senate, AND ratification by 3/4 of the states. On repealing the 2nd Amendment we won't get ratification by 3/4 of the states, because it's primarily coastal states with big cities that want to. Largely rural states will not ratify. Sad but true.

  3. I also agree that the kids in the anti-gun movement are invigorating and inspiring. I was at the League of Women Voters booth at the Oakland Tech #NeverAgain rally a week or so ago, and it was AMAZING. The League ran out of voter registration forms! Never happened before. Those kids understood that voting is a crucial part of change. May they keep doing it.

  4. nice bro