NRA Triumphant in Houston; Still Faces Significant Challenges


The National Rifle Association's convention in Houston last weekend bristled with the combative and triumphant rhetoric of a group that achieved a major victory in 2013: completely defeating the White House-backed package of gun-control legislation, says the Washington Post. The gun-rights group seems stronger than ever with tens of thousands enthusiastic participants, record high membership and effusive approval for the path taken by the its leader, Wayne LaPierre. Beneath the surface, some NRA allies are uneasy, saying the organization is facing long-term — and even short-term — challenges on a scale it has not faced before. Those challenges include changing demographics and patterns of gun ownership; a new willingness of gun-state lawmakers, particularly Democrats, to buck the NRA; and the rise of an organized, well-funded gun control movement.

A well-known gun-rights advocate, Robert Levy, criticized the gun lobby for strenuously blocking the background check initiative on Capitol Hill. Levy, who was part of the legal team that won recent landmark gun-rights cases, also chairs the Cato Institute, an influential libertarian think tank that advocates for Second Amendment rights. “The stonewalling of the background check proposal was a mistake, both politically and substantively,” Levy said, noting that public opinion favors such an approach. Pennsylvania may provide the most stark example of a reason for NRA worry. The state has one of the nation’s highest concentrations of NRA members in the country. Yet both senators — Patrick Toomey (R) and Robert Casey Jr. (D), agreed to cross the NRA this year on background checks. In addition, three GOP House members from Pennsylvania, endorsed in the past by the NRA, have indicated support for the senators' approach.

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