Most online lefties seem certain that that the Wayne LaPierre press conference yesterday was a big flop. But I think Gail Collins is right in The New York Times: the press conference was, among other things, a warning to the NRA's already docile, gelded pet legislators that they'd better not stray:
Wayne LaPierre, the C.E.O. of the N.R.A., has major sway in Congress when it comes to gun issues....Also see Michael Shear of Times, who contrasted the memorial for Daniel Inouye with the current D.C. climate:
However unhinged LaPierre might have seemed to the casual observer, he sent a clear message to members of Congress who fear the wrath of the N.R.A.: No compromise on banning assault weapons or any gun control issue. That made it hard to imagine any reform getting past the great, gaping maw that is the House of Representatives.
Across town, democracy was, at best, showing its gritty side as it ground along angrily, noisily and slowly: A weary Speaker John A. Boehner admitted failure in his efforts to avert a fiscal crisis with a bill to increase taxes on millionaires but asserted that his job was not at risk; a top National Rifle Association official bluntly challenged Congress to embrace guns at schools, not control them; and Mr. Obama bowed to the reality that Republicans had blocked his first choice to be the next secretary of state.(Emphasis added.)
Though it has been 45 days since voters emphatically reaffirmed their faith in Mr. Obama, the time since then has shown the president's power to be severely constrained by a Republican opposition that is bitter about its losses, unmoved by Mr. Obama's victory and unwilling to compromise on social policy, economics or foreign affairs.
So there you go: the NRA presser wasn't LaPierre wearing out his welcome with decent people -- it was the head of a powerful lobbying group serving notice that it was going to dig in its heels, and that the Republican Party needs to follow suit.
Do you know of any politician who used to be sympathetic to the NRA but is now treating the group as radioactive? No, and it won't happen. Scott Brown may have tacked to the left on guns (after the shooting and before the press conference), but he clearly feels he has to do that to win another special election in Massachusetts next year. Chris Christie may have denounced LaPierre's armed-guards-in-schools proposal, but he's always supported a certain amount of gun control.
We're not going to have real change in this county on guns until the NRA as it currently exists is regarded as a pariah organization -- if not in Red America, then at least in Purple America.
Remember ACORN? It was considered sufficiently mainstream that even some Republicans -- John McCain, for one -- supported it. But near the end of its organizational life, hardly any politician with national standing wanted to defend it.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis ran for president as an avowed member of the ACLU. That became a serious liability for him in the fall campaign, and he lost. What politician with national ambitions has dared to boast of ACLU membership since then?
That's what has to happen to the NRA in order for the balance of power on guns to tilt -- and nothing of the sort is happening.