Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) released a new report revealing the disconnect between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun owners across the country. The report sheds light on data showing that unlike NRA leadership, NRA members and American gun owners overwhelmingly support reasonable measures to reduce gun violence. For example, the vast majority of NRA members and gun owners support background checks for anyone wishing to purchase a gun. Murphy's report details a number of other areas where NRA leadership acts in direct contrast with the beliefs of NRA members, and exposes how it has increasingly represented the firearms industry instead.
"The NRA's leadership continues to demonstrate just how out of step they are with the American public, their own membership, and reality in general,"said Murphy. "NRA members and responsible gun owners across the country want to ensure the safety of our children and our communities, and support common sense measures to reduce gun violence. Universal background checks--which the overwhelming majority of NRA members support--will make our city streets safer, and a ban on military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines will prevent future mass shootings. I hope more and more gun owners realize that the NRA's leadership has become unhinged from the responsible gun owners across America the NRA claims to represent."
This is the third in a series of reports that Murphy will release on the national gun lobby. Earlier this month, Murphy released a report revealing the vast sums of money funneled to the NRA from firearms manufacturers, which in turn shapes the organization's lobbying agenda. And a previous report showed the NRA's ineffective political spending in the 2012 election, winning fewer than 20 percent of the key races it invested in.
Murphy has been an active leader on anti-gun violence initiatives. He recently joined six Members of Congress to introduce the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, legislation that would ban certain military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Murphy is also an original cosponsor of the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, which requires instant background checks for the sale of gun ammunition.
The text of the report can be found below:
Out of Touch:
The Disconnect Between the Gun Lobby and Gun Owners
By the Office of Senator Chris Murphy
February 18, 2013
Over the last several weeks, the Office of Senator Chris Murphy has released reports exposing the truth about the National Rifle Association (NRA). The previous reports, entitledWashington's Paper Tiger: A Look at the NRA's Ineffective Political Spending, and Not Your Grandfather's NRA: How the Firearms Industry Gives Millions to the NRA, paint a very different picture than the one that the NRA propagates. The first report looked at the effectiveness of the organization at electing or defeating policymakers and concluded that despite the perception that it is an omnipotent political force, the NRA is little more than a paper tiger. The second report scrutinized the strong and growing relationship between the NRA and the firearms industry. Gun and ammunition manufacturers, as well as retailers of firearms, contribute millions of dollars to the organization through programs like the NRA's Round-Up program and the NRA Golden Ring of Freedom, which is reserved for individuals and organizations that contribute at least $1 million to the NRA. In return for these corporate contributions, the association incites fear about the government confiscating guns to increase gun sales despite declining ownership of guns in the U.S.
This report builds on previous reports by compiling recent polling data from Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other organizations to demonstrate that many NRA members, other responsible gun owners, and average Americans support reasonable steps to reduce gun violence. These findings prove that the DC-based leadership of the association has become disconnected with its members. Furthermore, with each new outlandish statement or ad attacking President Obama and his children[i], the NRA leadership only confirms how detached from reality they have become. Even prominent Republicans, including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, denounced one such ad as "reprehensible[ii]." Yet, the NRA's leadership continues to set the course for the association and continues to peddle lies[iii] and stoke fear instead of being a constructive participant in the national conversation about reducing gun violence.
· According to polling by Mayors Against Illegal Guns[iv], 74 percent of NRA members support a requirement for a criminal background check on anyone purchasing a gun. Eighty-seven percent of non-NRA members support the same policy.
· Seventy-five percent of NRA members believe that concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanors, such as assault. Eighty-one percent of non-NRA members feel the same way according to the same poll.
· NRA members strongly support allowing states -- not the federal government -- to set basic eligibility requirements for people who want to carry concealed, loaded guns in public places. In fact, 91 percent of NRA members believe that the states should decide. These findings are completely at odds with one of the NRA's top federal legislative priorities -- national reciprocity for concealed carry permits, which would effectively eliminate these requirements by forcing every state to allow non-residents to carry concealed guns even if they would not qualify for a local permit.
· Seventy-one percent of NRA members support closing the so-called "terror gap," which allows people on terror watch lists to buy guns. In addition 64 percent of NRA members believe the law should require gun owners to alert police to lost and stolen guns. The NRA's Washington office strongly opposes both measures.[v]
· A January 2013 poll by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health[vi] found that 84 percent of gun of gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA members supported requiring a universal background-check system for all gun sales.
· Other polls find that even larger majorities of Americans, including those households with a gun, support universal background checks despite the NRA's opposition.
· A February 2013 poll by Quinnipiac University[vii] found that 92 percent of Americans supported background checks for all gun buyers. In households with a gun, 91 percent were in favor.
· A January 2013 Pew poll[viii] found that 85 percent of gun owners polled supported requiring background checks for all private gun sales, including those performed at gun shows.
· A January 2013 Gallup poll[ix] found that 91 percent of Americans surveyed were in support of requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, with overwhelming support from across the political spectrum.
NRA Gun Lobbyists Opposing Common Sense Proposals Supported by NRA Members
The tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has caused our nation to reassess whether we are doing all that we can to prevent gun violence in our schools and on our streets. A similar national outcry occurred in the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. At the time, Members of Congress held a number of hearings to consider changes to our gun laws. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre testified before the House Judiciary Committee on May 27, 1999[x] in support of universal criminal background checks. In his testimony, he stated, "We think it is reasonable to provide mandatory, instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show. No loopholes anywhere for anyone. That means closing the Hinckley loophole so the records of those adjudicated mentally ill are in the system. This isn't new or a change in position or a concession. I've been on the record on this point consistently - from our national meeting in Denver, to paid national ads and position papers, to news interviews and press appearances."
Despite this full-throated endorsement of universal background checks in 1999, the NRA now opposes them.[xi] Mr. LaPierre directly contradicted his 1999 testimony when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30, 2013[xii]. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy questioned LaPierre about this discrepancy but LaPierre avoided answering the question directly. The transcript of the exchange follows:
LEAHY: And in your testimony in '99, you supported mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale and every gun show. You said, quote, "No loopholes anywhere, for anyone."
Now, today, of course, you say criminals would never submit to background checks. Statistics show that plenty of them do. Nearly 2 million convicted criminals and other dangerous people have tried to buy firearms and, as Chief Johnson said, were prevented.
So let me ask you this: Do you still, as you did in 1999, still support mandatory background checks at gun shows? Yes or no?
LAPIERRE: We supported the National Instant Check System on dealers. I -- we were here when Senator Birch Bayh, one of your colleagues, held the hearings in terms of who would be a dealer and who would be required to have a license. If you did it for livelihood and profit, yes. If you were a hobbyist, then no.
LEAHY: Let's make -- let's make it easier, though. I'm talking about gun shows. Should we have mandatory background checks at gun shows for sales of weapons?
LAPIERRE: If you're a dealer, that's already the law. If you're talking...
LEAHY: That's not my question. Please, Mr. LaPierre, I'm not trying to play games here. But, if you could, just answer my question.
LAPIERRE: Senator, I do not believe the way the law is working now, unfortunately, that it does any good to extend the law to private sales between hobbyists and collectors.
LEAHY: OK, so you do not support mandatory background checks in all instances at gun shows?
LAPIERRE: We do not, because the fact is, the law right now is a failure the way it's working. The fact is, you have 76,000-some people that have been denied under the present law. Only 44 were prosecuted. You're letting them go. They're walking the streets.
LEAHY: And do you -- then, I understand, back in 1999, you said no loopholes anywhere for anyone. But now you do not support background checks for all buyers of firearms?
LAPIERRE: I think the National Instant Check System, the way it's working now, is a failure. Because this administration is not prosecuting the people that they catch.
They're not -- 23 states are not even putting the mental records of those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system. Now, assume that if you don't prosecute and they try to buy a gun, even if you catch 'em, and you let 'em walk away, to assume they're not going to get a gun -- they're criminals, they're homicidal maniacs, and they're mentally ill.
I mean, we all know that homicidal maniacs, criminals and the insane don't -- don't -- don't -- don't abide by the law.
LEAHY: Mr. LaPierre, my time is up. With all due respect, that was not the question I asked. Nor did you answer it.
LAPIERRE: But I think it is the answer. I honestly do. I -- the fact...
LEAHY: All right. It's your testimony.
Furthermore, the NRA's current position stands in direct contradiction to their member's wishes. In a statement on the association's website, NRA chief lobbyist Chris Cox states, "NRA does NOT support universal background checks and is not working with Manchin to implement this type of legislation. NRA opposes, and will continue to oppose, universal background checks and registration schemes."
The polling on universal background checks is clear -- the vast majority of Americans, regardless of whether they own a gun or not or if they are a NRA member or not, believe that all gun purchases should be preceded by a background check. However, the Washington-based leadership of the NRA persists in fighting against this common sense change and has even reversed its own position on this issue.
One of the most glaring loopholes in our nation's gun laws is known as the "terror gap." Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does not have the authority to block firearm sales to terror suspects including those on the terror watch lists. A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that over a six-year period, there were nearly 1,453 times where individuals on terror watch lists tried to buy guns and explosives and 91 percent of the attempts were allowed were allowed to proceed.[xiii]
Common sense alone would lead most people to believe that we should close this loophole. Yet, further strengthening the case are examples of how terror suspects have been able to purchase a firearm regardless of their suspected ties to terrorism. One such example was when Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 people and wounded 30 more on November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas. Hasan passed a background check to purchase a FN 5.7 semiautomatic handgun months before the shooting even though he was being investigated by the FBI for links to terrorism.
In spite of this evidence and the views of the majority of NRA members, the NRA has opposed the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act.v
[i]NRA Stand and Fight: High-Capacity Magazines ad - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o9VdWqY3ZV4;
NRA Stand and Fight: School Security - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=saHyMxVjceE
[ii]New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's reaction to the NRA School Safety ad - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vP1sG2AcksA#at=43
Joe Scarborough's reaction to the NRA School Safety ad - http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/01/16/scarborough-nra-is-its-own-worst-enemy/
[iv]July 2012 Mayors Against Illegal Guns Poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz - http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/downloads/pdf/poll-07-24-2012.pdf
[v]NRA opposition to mandatory gun reporting for lost or stolen firearms - http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-08-16/nra-locked-in-gun-battle-with-pennsylvania-mayors-over-town-laws.html; NRA Institute for Legislative Action fact sheet outlining their opposition to the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act - http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/fact-sheets/2011/why-nra-opposes-gun-control-supporters%60.aspx
[vi]January 2013 Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health poll, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 28, 2013 - http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1300512
[vii]February 2013 Quinnipiac poll - http://www.quinnipiac.edu/institutes-centers/polling-institute/national/release-detail/?ReleaseID=1847
[viii]January 2013 Pew Poll - http://www.people-press.org/2013/01/14/in-gun-control-debate-several-options-draw-majority-support/#gunowners
[ix]January 2013 Gallup poll - http://www.gallup.com/poll/160085/americans-back-obama-proposals-address-gun-violence.aspx
[x]NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre testifying before Congress on May 27, 1999. His remarks begin at the 2:08 mark and he specifically mentions universal criminal background checks at the 2:11:50 mark - http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/ControlLegisl.
[xi]NRA website opposing background checks - http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/news-from-nra-ila/2013/1/statement-from-chris-w-cox.aspx
[xii]NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30, 2013 - http://www.nraila.org/news-issues/news-from-nra-ila/2013/1/testimony-of-wayne-lapierre-before-the-us-senate-committee-on-the-judiciary-hearing-on-what-should-america-do-about-gun-violence.aspx
[xiii]April 27, 2011 letter from Eileen Larence, GAO Director for Homeland Security and Justice Issues, to Senator Frank Lautenberg - http://terrorgap.org/img/gao-may-2011.pdf