Does the National Rifle Association take orders from the gun industry? Or is it the other way around?
According to a new BloombergBusinessweek article, the relationship between the country’s most visible gun rights advocacy organization and the industry itself is more complex than commonly understood. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December, for instance, executives from major U.S gun makers contacted the NRA, looking for help handling the public-relations crisis.
“[T]he NRA reassured nervous gun company reps that they could stand down, according to people familiar with the situation,” reporter Paul Barrett wrote in the article published on Thursday. “[NRA chief Wayne] LaPierre would handle it.”
Gun companies have given millions of dollars to the NRA over the years, but according to Barrett, the NRA maintains quite a bit of power over its donors:
Gun companies defer to the NRA for two main reasons: First, there’s intimidation. The lobby group has incited potentially ruinous consumer boycotts against firearm makers that fail to follow the NRA line with sufficient zeal. Second, regardless of some executives’ concerns about civil discourse, gun companies benefit financially from the NRA’s hype. Alarms about imminent gun confiscation—an NRA staple, despite its implausibility—reliably send firearm owners back to retail counters.
At the same time, Barrett also found daylight between the NRA’s positions and those of gun manufacturers.
LaPierre’s aggressive, accusatory press conference one week after the Sandy Hook shooting rubbed some in the industry the wrong way. Like Joseph Bartozzi, a senior vice president at Connecticut-based shotgun and rifle maker O.F. Mossberg & Sons
“The funerals were still going on in Newtown,” Bartozzi told Barrett. “Parents were burying their children.”
And in interviews at the industry’s annual SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas, Nev., in January, Barrett found “a significant patch of potential common ground between the industry and the White House.” While no one would say so publicly, there is apparently little opposition in the industry to expanding background checks to private sales. From the article:
The businesspeople I spoke to in Las Vegas weren’t brave about their views. Their not-for-attribution logic went like this: Licensed gun retailers, from giant Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) to mom-and-pop Main Street shops, already do background checks. These gun sellers would not mind seeing their unlicensed dealer competition forced to comply with the same rules. Most gun manufacturers, meanwhile, are agnostic on the issue. They sell their products to wholesalers, which in turn do business with licensed dealers.
Read the whole thing here.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com