The National Rifle Association, starting its annual convention today in St. Louis, enjoys immense political power and has effectively muted the debate about the use of firearms in America. The public, though still divided on guns, has shifted away from broad support for further restrictions, says the Los Angeles Times. “I think the NRA is winning,” said Dan Gross, the new president of the Brady Campaign for gun control.
Still, the NRA sounds more worried than complacent, and faces an uncomfortable reality in the coming presidential campaign. The NRA leadership is throwing its wholehearted support behind Republican Mitt Romney, who once incurred its ire by supporting stiff gun restrictions as governor of Massachusetts. Despite that history, it sees Romney as a vastly better gamble than President Obama, although Obama has done almost nothing to restrict gun use. Romney, an NRA member who has said he owns two shotguns and likes to shoot “varmints” such as rodents and rabbits, is among a who’s who of conservative leaders scheduled to speak to the convention today.