The day after last month’s massacre in San Bernardino, Ca., Senate Democrats rushed to pass a measure denying guns to anyone on the no-fly terrorism watch list. The timing of the vote and the nature of the bill gave them reason to hope that they could, for once, thwart the gun lobby. Chris Cox, the National Rifle Association’s brash and boyish-looking chief lobbyist, was ready for them, the New York Times reports. Cox and more than a dozen lobbyists working for him buttonholed Republican senators in a flurry of meetings, calls and emails. On Twitter, they asked the NRA’s five million members to “call your senators NOW and urge them to vote NO on any and all #guncontrol proposals.” “It was all hands on deck,” said NRA board member David Keene. With the country jittery about guns after 14 people were killed in San Bernardino, “we needed to find out whether these senators were with us or not.”
The outcome was predictable: The Senate rejected the measure preventing those on no-fly lists from buying guns, along with a second one that would have expanded background checks, the latest in a string of legislative victories that have given the NRA. a virtual stranglehold on Congress and prompted a frustrated President Obama to issue executive orders to toughen gun restrictions. At the center of the lobbying blitz was Cox, 45, a skilled marksman and big-game hunter from Tennessee who has used the NRA's bully pulpit and his access to Republican leaders to ward off what he says is a backdoor attempt to take away Americans' guns. Cox has emerged as the group's point man in pushing to defeat new gun control laws, expand existing gun rights measures and gain even more lobbying clout for the NRA. His boss and mentor, Wayne LaPierre, remains the face of the NRA, but Cox has built up a significant power base of his own in the Capitol. He was an aide to former Rep. John Tanner (D-TN).