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. Nicholas Smith

    Make no mistake, background checks are de facto gun registration. The dealer keeps the forms, but the gun serial number is forever tied to the buyer, and in case of invasion, the first thing the enemy would do is get those forms then get the weapons.

    February 1, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  2. Plm931

    The fact that the NRA president thinks he has to say that they "have clout" means they have NONE. It's just another has-been group like the tea party.

    February 1, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  3. rasPutin

    Less than 3% of GUN OWNERS are members of the NRA. It speaks for nobody except the gun makers and sellers, and the irresponsible. Most gun owners are responsible and want laws that make it supremely difficult for criminals and crazies to acquire them. They also don't want mass killing machines to be widely available.

    February 1, 2013 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  4. Dennis

    Members of the NRA do not support the NRA? That is ridiculous. Many of the members of the NRA also belong to other organizations, such as Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO.org), because they feel that the NRA is sometimes to willing to compromise.

    I will let the anti 2nd amendment crowd in on a little secret. When you say "common sense gun laws", we know what you really mean.

    When the President, Vice President, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer or any of the other national leaders who do not support the entire Bill of Rights state that they support the 2nd amendment, it is laughable.

    February 1, 2013 04:38 am at 4:38 am |
  5. a little sad

    Isn't this guys son in jail for trying to kill someone with a gun?

    February 1, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  6. Chris

    The NRA has some 4 millions members. That means that they represent only slight less than 1% of the American people. Yet they have dictated national policy for decades. For a single lobby group to have that much disportionate power makes a mockery of the democratic system.

    February 1, 2013 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  7. karl

    The problem is not any gun. The problem is the people and their mental status. You want to know how to stop the voilence in which a gun is only a tool used. The answer is find out why the person want to kill!!! Once you have done that then and only then you can put into effect a cure to the problem. Example is a car driven by a drunken driver is not at fault of murder, it is the alcohol in that person that drives a person to allow themself to get behind that wheel and injure or kill their self or someone or a family. Its basic math 1 plus 1 equals 2. Do your math and see what you get.

    February 1, 2013 05:15 am at 5:15 am |
  8. The Elephant in the Room

    The Return on Investment for all of the "Citizen` United" type money, the NRA money spent on these most recent elections was abysmal. I can only imagine How FOOLISH people who gave to Karl Rove or the NRA feel right now.

    A full and his money are soon parted. It`s good for them [Sheldon Adelson & the Koch Brothers] that they have so much because they made really lousy investments from 2008 to 2012.

    Clout – Responsibily = Bullying.

    February 1, 2013 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  9. karl

    P.S. Killing has been going on forever. It has been with rope stones hands knives guns and bombs. I hear people say take away guns if it saves just one life, i ask what if takeing away a gun cost a life? Find out what drives a person to kill and that is how you save others! Ty

    February 1, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  10. themiddle

    America's version of al queda

    February 1, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  11. Jim g

    Actually the NRA has money, which the politicians just love to take. The NRA could have been a leader on this issue but instead goes nuts. Watching their president rant on tv is embarrassing to many members. He is against background checks but while the NRA vice president, brought it up as a great idea, to keep new guns from mentally ill or criminals. He could try taking a position and sticking to it for his integrity. He could have said, we need to punish the people that use guns in a crime. It is supposed to be unlawful to use a gun, while committing a crime, with an automatic additional lenthy sentence. If the judges and lawyers would go to trial and press the charges to their fullest it might help. Instead they plea bargain the crime and drop the length of the sentence. Using a gun, should be automatic if found guilty or pleading guilty. It should be serve above and beyond their other sentences. Mr Keene you are not Mose's on the mount and will never be confused as such because you are a terrible actor. Bring some credibility to your position and be part of the solution, not the problem.

    February 1, 2013 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  12. Marie MD

    What is he going to say. My group of 4M citizens is more important than the rest of the country? We don't care if six year olds die with eleven (11) bullet holes in them?
    The NRA and their leaders, slobering lapierre and this one are disgusting human beings. i wonder if they have spawned and how they would feel if their children or grandchildren were killed the way a LOT of Americans die.

    February 1, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  13. Kevin

    The NRA can have my membership back.

    February 1, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  14. Jimmyjam048

    Basically the NRA represents theinterets of gun manuacturers and cater to afraid little men who make a feeble attempt to use a big gun to compensate for SHORT comings in other areas.

    February 1, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  15. Anonymous

    NRA membership has grown over 300,000 members in the last few months and gov. cuomos polls have dropped almost 30% in the recent polls! Look for his next election results after he shoves a vote in the middle of the night in secrecy with no input from constituents ,he did it once he will do it again..maybe nest time it will affect you! Democracy ..hmmm

    February 1, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  16. Keith in Massachusetts

    The factthat someone would threaten the life of the president of the nra illustrates the logic of the gun control crowd.

    February 1, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  17. fiftyfive55

    Americans aren't stupid !!! We refuse to allow the govt to restrict guns for law abiding citizens just because what doesnt even amount to a full percentage point of guns used in crimes is being politically hyped for the politicians who also stated they wouldn't politicize this(ha ha ha).If people in places like Chicago were all forced to surrender or be restricted from buying guns,certain minority street gangs would have a field day here and would be going house to house robbing people because no one would have the power to stop them.Police can't even enforce what's illegal now.

    February 1, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  18. SmartPerson

    Hopefully the NRA has virtually no "clout" -what they've had for YEARS is "fear" – a different thing. Every time someone would propose reasonable measures to curb gun crime the crazies of the NRA would start yelling about taking to their bunkers and starting a civil war. These people are far removed from reality, far removed from the mainstream, and should be considered a terrorist group based simply upon the rhetoric of their members.

    February 1, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  19. Tim

    Murphy should not clout himself. CT. is on its way to becoming Colorado. If his kind is not careful we are looking at Chicago in the making.

    February 1, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  20. Praying for a Better America

    They may have some clout, but I have confidence that common sense and a sense of responsiblity to the greater good will win out in the end. Those of us who want to live in an America with less gun violence vote too.

    February 1, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  21. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    The nra crooks and any lobbyist shouldn't be allowed to walk the halls of congress and openly blackmail and bribe our congressmen and should be baned like the trash they are ,they could start with the likes of the pork eater grover norquest !!!!

    February 1, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  22. DocHollywood

    Apparently he only cares about having "clout" (power). Not about responsible gun ownership. The NRA at one time cared about the proper use of firearms. Now they're worried about sales and "clout". Pretty sad evolution.

    February 1, 2013 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  23. GuestAgain

    Clean up your own communities liberals and we may see a drop in crime. But then again, why recognize the actual source of most gun violence??? It's imaginary like the debt and spending problem, just ask oblabla....

    February 1, 2013 08:36 am at 8:36 am |
  24. Patrick

    I received a e-mail that states all the mass shooters were registered dems or their families were! !!!! And the movie theater shooter was dem and a obama's rea- election volunteer. And Occupy wallstreet member ummm

    February 1, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  25. sifto

    stop blaming the NRA for homicidal maniacs–NRA is first and foremost in promoting gun safety–you anti-2nd amendment people should clue in to why the dems and obama are doing this –all politics....maybe they should work on cause of any type violence by these criminals....

    February 1, 2013 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
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