January 31st, 2013
08:19 PM ET
10 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.

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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. Rudy NYC

    The NRA is either losing clout or picking losers to support. Out of the millions they spent during the last election cycle only 2-3% was spent on candidates that eventually won. The majority was spent on candidates who lost.

    February 1, 2013 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. ronvan

    Personally, this is one statement from the NRA that smaks of the truth! The ATF budget, several years ago, was over 2 million, today it is around 100K, ALL due to the efforts of the NRA. Also I am fed up with the use of the 2nd amendment! It has been perverted, twisted, manipulated, for the SOLE use of "personal gains"! Part of what WE should do is to make it illegal for all these lobbyists, corporations, "do gooder" groups to even TALK with an elected official!

    February 1, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  3. Tony in Maine

    So does al Qaeda, but that doesn't make them even acceptable let alone a force for good.

    The NRA was once an organization devoted to firearms safety and hunting. In the 70's it was taken over by radicals who saw the firearms industry as a great source of revenue and began lobbying for their interests, ignoring the idea of safety and hunting.

    If the NRA wants to rejoin the mainstream in the United States, it will stop the hysterical warnings of black helicopters and confiscation of all firearms and return to sponsoring scout activities involving the safe handling of single shot 22's and hunting news.

    Wayne LaPierre is a demagogue interested in power and the money that flows to him from that power.

    February 1, 2013 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Let me see, the first amendment says I have freedom of speech. However, if I was to make an appearance on the floor of congress to express my opinions about gun violence in America and I was to used certain explitive to express by outrage, I'm sure my speech would be interrupted and I'd be escorted out. So my first amendment right to express my opinion becomes violated yet my offensive language did not kill anyone. So why is it the belief of conservatives that banning some deadly assault weapons in America a violation of our second amendment??? What a dumb country.

    February 1, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  5. JustWho

    The NRA should go the way of prohibition. Disappear.

    February 1, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  6. rs

    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
    Yeah, and we know just how dangerous THAT is , right? Because its happened how many times? Meanwhile, everyday, all over the country, in every state people die because of guns. 1,450 since Dec. 14th and counting. That my friend is the real threat.

    Look- if ther government (ours or somebody elses) went after the average gun owner's firearm writing here, they'd probably just wet themselves. The "good guys" with guns are just wannabees.

    February 1, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  7. rs

    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. ...
    Yeah, a tool with but one purpose- to kill.

    Register, license insure!

    February 1, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. rs


    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
    First- the NRA deeply discounted its menbership rate- and lied like mad that "Obama's gonna git yer guns"
    Second- The law in NY passed both housed of state government- Republicans and Democrats, and there was a very public signing ceremony. Only the un-educated were "surprised"
    Finally- Cuomo's hit was more like 20%- affordable as his approval rate was near 80%

    You're right about one thing though the next election will be a game changer- America is sick and tired of tin pot radicals and the TEA Party (run by the wackos of the NRA). They're goin' down.

    February 1, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. rs

    Keith in Massachusetts

    The factthat someone would threaten the life of the president of the nra illustrates the logic of the gun control crowd.
    Actually- remeber the GOP's outrage at losing in '08? Sarah Palin and her gunsight hit list and her "2nd Amendment solutions"? We know how that turned out- she testified day before yesterday.

    February 1, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. rs


    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
    The so-called "good guys with guns" have been remarkably ineffective. Cite your case.

    February 1, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The NRA’s influence, he said, is derived of “the gun owners that look to us for leadership.”
    Oh. I always thought that your influence was derived from the campaign and PAC contributions to your various tools in government. My bad.

    February 1, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  12. Brad

    The NRA is a Legend in their own minds, they are more concerned about power/influence and greed than whats good for humanity.

    February 1, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  13. Rudy NYC

    The only people talking about taking away guns are the paranoid people. How many guns were taken away from people under the previous weapons ban that expired in 2004? Zero.

    The slippery slope argument works both ways, you know. In fact, it is the state of affairs as it exists today. Removing regulations simply makes it easier for your bad guys to get guns, especially the weapons of mass murder and mayhem.

    February 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

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

    A few million people are members of the NRA and all of a sudden it's about "influence"? Silly me for thinking the NRA is all about greasing the palms of Congress through lucrative pay backs from the gun manufacturing industry profiting from death and bodily destruction.

    Truth be told, the NRA is just another group of high profile lobbyists duping the overly paranoid into a dialing for dollar membership fee which does nothing for the member and everything for the folks such as Mr. Keene and Mr. LaPierre ... and their individual bank accounts.

    All wrapped up in God, the American flag, and blue light membership specials. Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. You get a NRA membership card too. At no cost. Don't leave home without it, GOPers. The card - not your gun. The gun you can lock up until you need it. You ever know when one of your kids might find it a interesting toy and try to examine how it works.

    February 1, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  15. Canuck

    @Nicholas Smith
    " 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."

    I have never read such paranoid nonsense in all my life as some of the utterings of the pro-gun crowd. How do you go through life with all these weird, completely irrational fears?

    February 1, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  16. Brad

    I should state the Modern NRA Movement is greedy and power hungry, initially the NRA had good intenetions on how to mesh guns with society repectfully and safely,now they are just protecting Guns manufacturers nad their own pocketbooks and the cost of society.

    February 1, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  17. rino

    More then 80% of NRA member support Background Check, NRA leaders don't. So let sum it up they do not care about dead children, they do not care about reducing violence, they so not care about our security, they do not care about human life, now they do not care about their member, so what do they care about ? Money! They are the moral equivalence of those african miltia that arm childern and make them soldier, more violence more sales. Lets stop NRA like we stopped Tobacco.

    February 1, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  18. rs

    It is fascinating. The NRA and their apologists here simply seem to want to blink their eyes and make all the deaths, injuries and damages (and the billions of dollars lost) due to guns just go away, so they can justify owning their guns and denying any role in murder in America. Worse- they want an expensive "big government" solution- more cops more weapons- paid for by the taxpayer, so their members can play war.

    Wake up people. The NRA won't be happy until we all get to engage in two or three firefights everyday on the way to work. They just want to be sure gun makers make big, fat profits, day in and day out. The NRA isn't about gun safety or training anymore- get over that myth. They want NO GUN LAWS at all; no restrictions on weapons, firepower or capacitities, or who can own, pack or carry-utter insanity. They don't care about the loss of human life, they don't care that now it is little children facing mass-murders armed with lethal firepower. THEY DON'CARE.
    More guns=more gun deaths=tyranny. It is that simple.

    February 1, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    rino wrote:

    More then 80% of NRA member support Background Check, NRA leaders don't. So let sum it up they do not care about dead children, they do not care about reducing violence, they so not care about our security, they do not care about human life, now they do not care about their member, so what do they care about ? Money!
    Take a look at who the NRA leadership is and you can see where their priorities lie. The entire board is made of people who are ownders and top executives of companies that manufacture guns and ammo. There is not one average shooting range enthusiast, or weekend hunter among them.

    February 1, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  20. rs


    stop blaming the NRA for homicidal maniacs–
    Why not? It is the NRA (and their Republican lackys) that are advocating for unrestricted guns and gun purchases. Who do you think is supporting the rights of "homicidal maniacs"?

    February 1, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  21. HJA

    I've owned many firearms over the years. I don't need the NRA. I am not worried about "them" taking my guns. What does concern me is the number of psycho's I see at the gun stores talking about how "I will fight when they come for my guns". Nobody is coming for your guns unless you do something stupid. And talking "We need a revolution" is stupid. These are the people that should not have firearms.

    February 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  22. askdavey

    americans rights and liberty;s will never be worth a dang till the lobbyest are banned and pol;s are charged with crimes when taking from them, repb. and dems. alike are stuffing thier pocketts with cash from the lobby. wake up america this is what is taking down the country,why don;t they pass a law making it againsst he law to getting to close to the lobby;s

    February 1, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  23. Manti

    Isn't it nice that America can be bought by the highest bidder. And we call ourselves a democracy. Last I read most people do want some sort of gun control and background checks. I say take it to the people. Let THEM vote. But I guess if the politicians actually voted what most of America wants their NRA pay checks would stop.

    February 1, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
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