January 31st, 2013
08:19 PM ET
5 years ago

Despite losses, NRA president says his group has clout

(CNN) - The National Rifle Association has been known as one of Washington's most powerful lobbies.

But some of the organization’s opponents have questioned whether the NRA holds the power it once did.

If they’re right, lawmakers who vote against the group in support of an assault weapons ban or other legislation may have less of a political price to pay for their vote.

NRA president David Keene said Thursday in an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room” that the group, like others, makes intentional decisions about where to spend its cash and wield its clout.

“When we get into a political season, we're like everybody else - we look at where we can maximize our influence, where our people that we support are, and where the people that we oppose are,” Keene said.

He was presented data from this year’s Senate elections compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. The information showed that the NRA spent more than $4 million on Senate races but lost seven of the eight contests in which it invested more than $100,000.

“Those races weren't decided on Second Amendment issues,” Keene said. “When we have a race in which there is a candidate who is very clear on the Second Amendment and one who is opposed to it and that becomes an issue, then gun owners and believers in the Second Amendment go out and vote that issue.”

A better example of the organization’s power would be last year’s gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin, he said. An effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker that received national attention failed in June.

The NRA’s influence, he said, is derived of “the gun owners that look to us for leadership.”

Several Democratic senators have questioned the group’s influence.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, told The Huffington Post on Friday that the NRA is a “fringe group” and "doesn't even represent average gun holders."

Sen. Chris Murphy, who represented Newtown, Connecticut, in the U.S. House at the time of the December 14 school shooting massacre, said Tuesday on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” that “they're much less successful than they used to be.”

“In fact, you'd be better off being against the NRA in the 2012 elections than you would be being with them and that was even before Newtown happened,” Murphy said.

“So I just think that we need to wake members up to the fact that if they want to do the right thing here and join us on common sense gun reform there's not really a political price to pay at the hands of the NRA like there may have been a decade or two ago,” the Democrat said.

Keene said in the interview that he and members of his family have received death threats which has illustrated to him "the incivility of political discourse at some levels in this country."

- CNN’s Joe Johns and Carol Cratty contributed to this report

Filed under: Charles Schumer • Chris Murphy • NRA
soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Name Daniel

    Gun sales show that their influence hasn't waned

    January 31, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  2. kato

    if they want to do the right thing here and join us on common sense gun reform? everyone wants to do the right thing thats common sense but then stating "do the right thing and JOIN US on COMMON SENSE gun reform" sounds like their using a new an improve George bush trick "either your with us or your wit the enemy"

    January 31, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  3. CanadaONE

    it is a simple positive correlation

    the more guns you have the more Americans will be killed

    who in their right mind would want to put more guns in the streets of the USA?

    if you answered YES to this question – you need to be checked for psychological problems and should not be allowed to own a gun – seriously!!!!

    January 31, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  4. Name lynn

    You cannot please people, let them talk talk, because they cant do nothing either.

    January 31, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  5. jane

    This is what's wrong with America....American politicians are afraid of Lobbyist like the NRA

    January 31, 2013 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  6. JustWho

    The NRA needs to go by the wayside just like prohibition.

    January 31, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. winchester74

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, National Rifle Association C.E.O. Wayne LaPierre warned that the N.R.A. would vigorously oppose any legislation that “limits the sale, purchase, or ownership of politicians.”
    “Politicians pose no danger to the public if used correctly,” said Mr. LaPierre, who claims to have over two hundred politicians in his personal collection. “Everyone hears about the bad guys in Congress. Well, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a vote is a good guy with a vote. I’m proud to be the owner of many of those guys.”
    Mr. LaPierre’s comments drew a sharp rebuke from Carol Foyler, a politician-control advocate who has spent the past twelve years lobbying for stricter limits on the sale of politicians.
    “Right now, a man like Wayne LaPierre can walk right into Congress and buy any politician he wants,” she said. “There’s no background check, no waiting period. And so hundreds of politicians are falling into the hands of people who are unstable and, quite frankly, dangerous.”
    In addition to limiting the sale of politicians, Ms. Foyler said, it is time for society to take a look at the “sheer number” of politicians in the U.S.: “There’s no doubt that we would be safer if there were fewer of them.”
    For his part, the N.R.A. leader ended his testimony by serving notice that he would “resist any attempt” to take away the hundreds of elected officials he says are legally his.
    As if to illustrate that point, he clutched Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) close to his chest and bellowed, “From my cold, dead hands.”

    January 31, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  8. cg

    Not just a fringe group, a dangerous fringe group with no moral compass whatsoever. membershp = 1.3% of the population, not even worth considering, but they are paid gun lobbyists, a good reason to discount them altogether.

    January 31, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  9. CBP

    No one group in the United States should hold as much power as the NRA thinks it has. It is time for reason to triumph over intimidation.

    January 31, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  10. anonoymous

    Too many young children are dying at school of all places for the Nra to still have clout it once did....guess the violence hasnt reached some of them.....just wait it will

    January 31, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  11. Sandman

    This is totally absurd. How can a sane human being look and listen to this and not realize that the number one goal of this guy and the NRA mouthpieces is to sell more guns. And what better way to do so that to put throw gas on a fire of paranoid uninformed people?

    January 31, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  12. btuburner

    The NRA is a joke with less than 5mm members and they will try to cry that they have signed up 500,000 since this gun debate started back up but won't tell you when people buy a gun the shopkeeper pushes you to join the NRA with a simple form. Clowns

    January 31, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  13. OrganicManLives_N_anOraganicUNiverSE

    Oh I thought it said he had a blood clout?

    January 31, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  14. Dave

    'lost seven of the eight contests' – GREAT track record!!!!

    January 31, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  15. windrider2

    The NRA hasn't represented the interests of average gun owners for almost two decades. The NRA is a shill for the arms manufacturing industry. Its purpose is to promote gun sales. of progressively lethal weapons of mass destruction. Its governing board is full of gun industry executives who only care about the Second Amendment because it's enormously profitable.

    January 31, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  16. rs

    After hearing about all the campaign cash the NRA lathered on their Republican lackeys- I'd say they still have clout- or Republicans are bought cheaply. In any event, in today's climate, the NRA and GOP are in deep trouble. Like the ongoing gaffe-embrace of Grover Norquist, the GOP is paralyzed by their allegiance to the NRA Lobby. The NRA meanwhile slashed their membership rates to attract new members, now about 1.4 million- barely more than a percentage point against the total U.S. population- now quite angry about the massacre of school children and the daily death count in America because of guns (1,450 since Dec. 14, 2012 and counting- the Iraq war was kinder as far as death rate for our soldiers). Polling indicates Americans favor sensible actions like background checks, even gun owners do- the NRA? They say suck it up and live with that death rate- and no, YOUR kids don't count. The cowardly GOP naturally goes along for the ride.
    Meanwhile, the death rate climbs, and the NRA's mythical "good guys with guns" don't appear to be doing anything to stop the slaughter-not that anyone believed they could or would. The NRA will lose, and probably take the GOP down with them. Fitting, I'd say.

    January 31, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  17. Former Republican, now an Independent

    The NRA is no longer the voice of hunters and average Americans. It has become the advocate of gun manufacturers and violent hate groups like the Michigan Militia, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, etc.

    January 31, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  18. Lax

    NRA cause more problems than to help reduce gun violence. NRA is not only a lobbyist but also a domestic terrorists.

    February 1, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  19. norma jean

    I think Mr. Pierre {?} is in for a big surprise....... "TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGING" We are not going to be bullied into something we do not believe in and if we feel that some drastic changes in gun management are in order...it may take time.....but we are going to see some made!!!!! How many schools have to be shot up with more students being murdered before something is finally done.??

    February 1, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  20. us_1776

    No David Keene, I think you're going to discover that We The People have clout.

    You and your NRA anarchists can take a hike.


    February 1, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  21. steve

    Guns ownership demands serious, rational, enforced regulation. There is no rational reason for someone to have an assault weapon or a weapon that has a magazine of more than 9 bullets. There is no rational reason for not insisting on thorough background checks at all purchase venues. There's no rational reason for not requiring a reasonable period of delay before a purchase is complete in order to complete a background check. Gun manufactures should be required to stamp casing and bullets as well as provide serial numbers on all weapons. And all of this is after the fact of restoring mental health professionals in schools throughout the country in numbers sufficient to deal with troubled and at risk kids before they become the next headline. Lastly, none of this violates the 2nd amendment.

    February 1, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  22. stevetall

    Clout this, you single-minded, narrow-focused, fear-monger. It's time to talk, and it's time for action.

    February 1, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  23. Einstein Pacifist

    The NRA making "intentional decisions about where to spend its cash and wield its clout," translation, "NRA's ability to sale hate, buy out the truth, and blame someone else."

    February 1, 2013 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  24. Tumbleweed

    Gun owners have yielded to over 20,000 state and federal gun laws. Gun control does not work in the U.S. Look at a map of the highest crime areas in the country. They correspond directly with the strictness of gun control laws (not to mention Democratic dominated areas. The only policy that will reduce casualties in attempted mass shootings is to allow the adults among the intended victims to possess firearms. Utah has allowed teachers with concealed weapon permits to possess firearms for over 12 years with NO INJURIES and NO MASS SHOOTINGS! Get a clue; gun-free zones attract mass shooters as the Postal shootings have proven during the past 30 years. Stop doing the same thing over and over (gun control) expecting different results. It's downright STUPID!!!!

    February 1, 2013 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  25. Thomas

    Are we are a Gun Nation under God !

    Or a God Nation under the Gun ?

    February 1, 2013 02:55 am at 2:55 am |
1 2 3