Much like Mitch McConnell, the NRA has responded to the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut with awkward silence. Since the shooting there have been no posts to the NRA’s official accounts on Twitter, YouTube, or Google Plus, and its Facebook page has been suspended (though it’s still possible to add to the page’s 1.7 million “likes”). It’s common for the NRA to put its online activities on lockdown following a mass shooting, but it is unusual that the organization hasn’t publicly remarked on the massacre. As Slate points out, after every recent high-profile shooting, the NRA has released a statement saying they’re keeping the victims in their thoughts and prayers, but it’s not the time to discuss policy or politics. (Of course, the right time never presents itself.) The only remark so far came from an NRA spokesman who told CNN on Friday, “Until the facts are thoroughly known, NRA will not have any comment.” For now there will be no official response as protesters gather in front of the NRA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and pro-gun senators say they’ll defy the organization, but if lawmakers actually push new gun control measures, the group will be ready to fight.
“They are waiting for the storm to subside,” Robert Spitzer, a SUNY Corland professor who studies gun control, tells USA Today. “They know that, historically, what happens is great public outrage (after mass shootings) until the political storm passes. And once that happens, then they resume standard procedures. They will work to defeat any proposed laws.”
While the NRA is still has 4 million members and millions to spend on lobbying, campaign ads, and political contributions, there may be truth to Mayor Bloomberg’s claim that their power is “vastly overrated.” The New York Times notes that with super-PACs dumping hundred of millions of dollars into elections, the NRA’s war chest is less influential. Demographic shifts in the electorate don’t work in the organization’s favor, and lately it’s taken up some causes that aren’t very popular with the public, such as fewer background checks and expanding the right to carry concealed weapons.
New polling backs up the idea that the Newtown massacre could be a turning point in Americans’ attitudes toward gun control. A CBS News poll conducted this weekend found that support for gun control is at a ten year high, with 57 percent of Americans saying they want stricter laws, up from 39 percent in April. Support for gun control may still drop off, as it did after the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, and Virginia Tech, and passing significant reforms is sure to be incredibly difficult. However, if gun control advocates are ever going to get new legislation past the NRA, this certainly seems like their best shot.