How did we get into this mess? A quick historical background is in order. It was 1994 and the Democrats finally lost control of their birthright; control of the US House of Representatives and the Senate. This was no normal election loss, this was a palace coup, this was not supposed to happen. Even when Reagan was in charge, he had to deal with the Democrat owned Congress, it was theirs. What caused caused this? Clinton cited the assault weapons ban, and for once he was right. People were sick of big government, they wanted their freedoms back.
This was the hay day of the NRA's power. The NRA did not vote these Democrats out, but they sure as hell scared them to death. There was no question what lobby the left feared most; and grudgingly respected, it was the NRA. So at this point the "professional Democrats", the ones that care more about strategy and DC jobs decided their party needed to relax a bit on their gun hysteria. Democrats did not change their views on guns, they just decided that they were tired of getting hit over the head by the NRA. So slowly, the gun issue dropped down their board of must do's.
In 2001, in came a new "conservative" administration. But it slowly dawned on gun rights groups that this administration was not very Second Amendment friendly. Bush was not the enemy of the 2A, but he did not seem to care much about it either. The president from Texas said he would sign an extension of the Clinton Assault Weapons Ban. In addition, his administration did nothing to advance gun rights other than some housekeeping legislation about suing gun manufacturers. In fact, the Bush administration ignored the pleas from his constituents to spread the 2A to our nation's parks.
In the end, the Republicans lost the presidency, they lost the House, they lost the Senate. At this point it is likely the NRA powers started to wonder whom they could count on. Should the NRA rely only on Republicans that did not do much and could lose power so easily and so completely? Or should they reach out to the chastened Democrats and try to build a permanent majority of politicos that at least would claim to support the Second Amendment?
I think at this time the NRA decided it was time to become a kinder, gentler organization. They could use their rankings and endorsements to ingratiate themselves with moderates and ward off potential enemies. Certainly this would be a smart way to stay relevant? This would not be considered weakness of course.
In the NRA's weakness, the moderates and liberals saw their chance. If the NRA wanted to be their friends, they would become friends; but at a price. The price was the end of the NRA's power to damage Democrats at the polls. In fact, why not just let a bunch of moderates like Chris Cox just change the NRA from the inside in order to neuter the scary dog?
The NRA today is like the dog that caught the car but now doesn't know what to do next. They have finally gone mainstream, they finally don't have to rely on conservatives only, some of whom like Bush, didn't really care about increasing gun freedoms anyway. But the price of this broader appeal is an NRA in name only. The organization can claim "victories" and Democrat "pro gun votes", but these are small issues, almost afterthoughts. The federal, state, and local governments still have tens of thousands of infringements on the books, byzantine rules that would make the health reform law blush. But does the NRA fight to get rid of this stuff? The answer is no.
So now we have the formally fearsome bete noir of the Democrat party entrenched within the state, but with no fangs, and very little purpose. Charles Degaulle once said, "France would not be true to itself if it was not involved in some great enterprise". I say to the NRA, be true to yourself, summon the passion of Charlton Heston, and get involved in some great enterprise!!