Here's the Only Thing That Matters About the NRA's Stance on a Gun Bill

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 10 2013 2:44 PM

Here's the Only Thing That Matters About the NRA's Stance on a Gun Bill

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) speak to the press about background checks for gun purchases, in the U.S. Capitol building April 10, 2013 in Washington DC.

Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images

Shortly after 11 a.m., my inbox rattled with the arrival of an article marked "Buzzfeed Scoop: NRA staying neutral on gun control compromise." The story, by Ruby Cramer, described an NRA that was staying out of the Manchin-Toomey fight -- a breakthrough if true.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

The National Rifle Association has been in talks with both Senators, but remains neutral on the deal, according to Manchin's office. "The NRA has not said either way," said Katie Longo, Manchin's press secretary. "The Senators have been talking to the NRA, but they're still neutral."

It's probably important to explain what this news implied. The NRA, like many political organizations, awards "report cards" to politicians based on their votes. Certain votes are "key-voted" -- the NRA announces that somesuch-or-another-thing is a "key vote" -- and these votes are "scored" against the politician. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin has an "A" rating from the NRA because he's never crossed the group on a key vote.


So whether the NRA "opposes" a bill is almost immaterial. It will factor into whether the group funds or attacks a future candidate, but if the report card isn't affected, a member basically has a free vote.

But there was no quote from the NRA in the Buzzfeed story. This is no patch on Buzzfeed. The NRA has a weird, protective, monkish media strategy, in which most queries are ignored, until they're not, and a final piece of boilerplate is issued. That happened again, eventually, as the NRA gave a statement to the generally-friendlier-to-them Free Beacon.

Expanding background checks at gun shows will not prevent the next shooting, will not solve violent crime and will not keep our kids safe in schools.

Etc and etc, some words about violent gangs -- you get the point. But until we see a bill, there's a small mystery afoot. For a decade, the NRA has only endorsed bills if it's suceeded in weakening them, or adding a favorable loophole. If it succeeds at that, it might not push back on Manchin-Toomey. Until it figures out the strategy, it can hold out the key-vote threat.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.