Trayvon Martin’s death may have opened a nationwide dialogue about the wisdom of lax gun laws. But that hasn’t slowed down the National Rifle Association. The absolutist Second Amendment group remains firmly on offense, representing a movement that has crushed its political adversaries so thoroughly that even tragic tales can’t slow its juggernaut.
At its annual convention in St. Louis, Mo. this weekend, NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, decried the “sensational reporting from Florida,” referring to stories about Martin, an unarmed teenager recently who was shot to death in late February. NRA Executive Director Chris Cox defended the state’s “stand your ground” law that may ultimately let shooter George Zimmerman off the hook, declaring, “Castle doctrine can literally save your life.”
These are the words of an aggressive, well-funded lobby that is turning gun lovers’ wildest dreams into reality. Indeed, recent high-profile shootings made possible by lax guns laws — including one that almost killed former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — have failed to arrest the two-decade-long trend, boosted by a pliant Republican Party, a solid Supreme Court majority and a Democratic Party that has mostly abandoned the gun-control cause.
Despite four years of the NRA crowing about the dangers Barack Obama presents to the Second Amendment, his presidency has been remarkably friendly to the pro-gun cause, and persisting fears to the contrary have inspired a golden era of gun rights in the states.
Here are highlights of pro-gun victories since 2009:
— In 2009, Obama enacted legislation permitting firearms in national parks.
— In 2009, Arizona and Tennessee passed laws letting people carry guns in bars.
— In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to extend federal gun-rights protections to states.
— In 2010, Louisiana approved a bill letting people carry firearms in houses of worship.
— In 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, with considerable bipartisan support, a bill that makes a firearm-carry permit in one state valid in every other state.
— In 2011, Mississippi enacted legislation allowing people to carry firearms on college campuses, and in bars and churches. Later that year, the measure was expanded to include sporting events, polling places, airports, courthouses and other government localities.
— In 2011, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Hampshire put into effect versions of Florida’s “stand your ground” law, granting people broad latitude to use lethal force when they perceive a threat to their safety.
The list does not include NRA victories at beating back gun-control efforts, such as prohibiting people on a government-designated terror watch list from buying a firearm, or closing a loophole that allows sales of weapons at gun shows.
The one substantial concern gun-rights advocates have with Obama is that his Supreme Court appointments, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are considered less than friendly to the cause — although they replaced two justices also sympathetic to gun control. And judicial appointments is one area where a second-term Obama may hit the pro-gun cause, if he ends up replacing one or more of the high court’s five conservatives.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.