The NRA also claims to be a potent force in elections; it says it defeated 19 of the 24 congressmen who were on its hit-list back in 1994. But a recent article in American Prospect disputes such assertions, arguing that the NRA’s impact is marginal these days because it spreads itself thinly and tends to support Republican incumbents.
Although the NRA is ostensibly an organisation seeking to protect the civil rights of its 4m members, critics such as the Violence Policy Centre (VPC), a gun-control group, contend that the level of funding from firearms manufacturers makes it, in effect, just a trade association for the gun industry. Some of the NRA’s fund-raising comes directly from gun sales. For example, Sturm, Ruger & Co., firearms manufacturers, donated $1 for each gun they sold last year and thereby collected $1.2m for the NRA’s lobbying arm.
Looking ahead, the NRA’s combative executive vice-president, Wayne LaPierre, says the NRA is “all in” for the fight to defeat Barack Obama. Mr Obama might be supposed to have done little to upset the NRA, having meekly signed legislation that allows guns to be brought into national parks and on to trains. But his quiet first term is, say many at the convention, actually part of a conspiracy to destroy the Second Amendment during his second term.
There are signs, though, that the NRA is growing out of touch with modern Americans and even with its own members—who, according to surveys, now tend to support restrictions such as mandatory background checks on buyers of weapons at gun shows. The future does not look bright, either. Despite attempts to attract women, most convention-goers in St Louis were white men over the age of 40—a segment of the population on the decline. The classified sections in NRA magazines such as American Rifleman feature, besides all the weaponry, advertisements for gardening equipment and Viagra.