President Obama won’t reveal the details of his sweeping new gun control proposals until Wednesday, but the National Rifle Association is already offering a preview of just how nasty the ensuing battle will be. In a new ad, the NRA violates the long-standing tradition of keeping the president’s children out of the political debate, attacking the president for dismissing the group’s proposal to put armed guards in schools, though his own daughters have Secret Service protection. “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the narrator asks. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
The ad refers to a remark President Obama made in a recent interview with David Gregory, who’s pictured in the spot along with Mayor Bloomberg, Joe Biden, and Dianne Feinstein. “I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools,” Obama said. “And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem.” A Washington Post-ABC News poll released this week actually found that 55 percent of Americans support the idea of having armed guards in schools.
The NRA, which was predictably “disappointed” by a meeting with Biden last week, reports that it’s seen a unprecedented surge in membership over the last month, adding another 250,000 people to the 4.25 million member group. An NRA spokesperson told CNN, “This is in direct response to the threats and accusations coming from Sen. Feinstein and President Obama,” though the Huffington Post notes that the NRA’s ongoing sale, which reduces the price of a lifetime membership from $1,000 to $300, likely had something to do with it.
The commercial is currently running on the Sportsman Channel and the NRA tells CNN that it hasn’t ruled out buying air time on other networks. However, it seems the organization’s strategy isn’t to win over new members with a measured response and logical arguments. In addition to being wildly sensational, the ad ignores the obvious explanation that unlike the average American kids, Sasha and Malia are the target of regular threats. The White House has yet to respond, but Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told Talking Points Memo: “At some point the NRA’s Washington lobbyists may realize that this kind of thing is making them irrelevant. It does nothing but offend the reasonable people who make up the bulk of their country — and the bulk of their own membership.”
For now, it seems that realization is a long way off. Politico reports that while the NRA had its lobbyists lay low in the month after the Newtown shooting, now it’s ready to mobilize. Following the president’s announcement, lobbyists will present lawmakers with the NRA’s usual case about the importance of the Second Amendment, along with the new argument that banning certain guns will hurt the manufacturers of those firearms and cost America jobs. “The NRA is good at appealing to people’s base fears,” says a Democratic lobbyist involved in the 1994 crime bill. “The letters we would get on gun legislation were so over the top we routinely had to send to the FBI or mark as suspicious. With the NRA there really is no middle ground.”
Update: The White House, in a statement, is having none of it: “To make the safety of the President’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”