The Perception of the N.R.A.
Scott Garrett has an “A” rating on the National Rifle Association’s annual scorecard for Members of Congress. Being held in such high regard by the NRA is not something new to Mr. Garrett. In fact, he’s received their highest grade every year since he arrived in Congress over a decade ago.
Traditionally having such a strong endorsement from the NRA was always been viewed as a positive by those who follow politics. Over the years, the NRA has been successful in keeping Congressman and Senators in line with the threat of the full weight – money and local members of the NRA landing upon any wayward elected official. This NRA meme has extended to politicos and members of the media as well; Crossing the NRA comes at a heavy price.
But how Americans perceive the issues surrounding gun safety in general and the NRA in specific may be changing. Most people will point to the horrific events in Newtown Connecticut as the catalyst for this change. However, I would argue it was the NRA’s response to Newtown that will change the perception of the NRA in the minds of media and elected officials alike. NRA Executive Director Wayne LaPierre’s response to Newtown was to advocate for arming school administrators and teachers and putting an armed police officer in every school in this country.
It’s this response that has moved the NRA to the fringe of elected politics. Polling suggests that a mandatory background check for every person seeking to purchase a weapon enjoys support from 91 to 92 percent of all Americans. Even among NRA members, 74 percent support background checks. 87 percent of all gun owners (NRA members and otherwise) support such a measure.
Scott Garrett has proven time and again that his priorities are not necessarily in sync with those of his constituents. He initially stood against us when in came to emergency aid money to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; he was the lone Member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to vote against emergency health benefits for the rescue workers at Ground Zero; he was the lone Member of the delegation to support drilling off our coastline. The list goes on and on.
I can respect someone who stands up to others because he or she refuses to yield on a matter of principle. However, when it comes to Mr. Garrett I have to wonder what principles he might hold which take priority over the health and safety of us all.
Once again Republicans in the House face a real risk of being on the wrong side of history. On most matters, the Senate Minority can filibuster legislation and Republicans in the House can simply refuse to consider an issue. However, this is not one of those instances. The President has made it clear that he’s going to pursue gun safety measures by using all the resources at his disposal. Republicans will feel the heat. They’re going to have to go on record and they’re going to have to cast votes in committee and on the House Floor. This issue will not get buried and Scott Garrett’s constituents will know where he stands on background checks and other gun safety issues in time for the 2014 election.
Making matters more difficult for Mr. Garrett is the fact that the NRA is greatly weakened and I see no prospect of them recovering in time for 2014. Mr. Garrett and other Members holding similar positions on guns are on their own.
Will Mr. Garrett stand with Wayne LaPierre or will he stand up for his constituents? If the past is any sort of indicator, the NRA can count on Mr. Garrett to do their bidding. The questions for we his constituents is whether we’ll remember how he votes and what he does with respect to gun safety and whether we’ll do anything about it.