Sometime during the day Wednesday, President Obama will unveil a sweeping package of proposals aimed at reducing gun violence in America — including the serious first legislative push for gun control in quite a long time.
The National Rifle Association will be ready for him. Over the weeks since the Newtown, Conn., shooting refocused the country on guns, the NRA has quietly built up a defense against new gun laws while trying to steer clear of direct politicking after the elementary school shooting. But on Tuesday, the group pulled out all the remaining stops, unleashing lobbyists and negative campaign ads.
The fight over new gun law has begun in earnest.
Early reports on Obama’s plans suggest the White House is more than willing to take on the NRA and other groups from the powerful gun lobby. Obama has reiterated his support for an assault weapons ban, and Vice President Biden — who led the White House gun violence task force — has suggested a ban on high-capacity magazines will also be on the administration’s agenda. The main focus is expected to be a push for universal background checks on firearms purchases.
All of which are basically unacceptable to the NRA, as the group’s leaders have said many times since Obama made clear he wanted to talk about gun violence after Newtown. But the NRA has also sounded a congenial note, expressing disappointment with Obama’s task force but suggesting there are areas — like mental health — where the White House and gun rights community could connect.
That tone came to an end Tuesday, and the NRA essentially declared war on the president. The group released a a tough TV ad that calls Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for having daughters with armed guards while he expresses skepticism at the NRA’s call for armed police in every American public school.
As if to drive home the message of the spot, the NRA debuted it as part of its “Stand And Fight” campaign. The White House declined to comment on the NRA ad.
Meanwhile, Politico reported Tuesday that the NRA is releasing its DC lobbying brigade onto Capitol Hill after keeping them “on lockdown in the first month after the Newtown massacre.”
Gun rights proponents have been fired up ever since Biden’s task force started up. And conservatives on Capitol Hill have already dialed the rhetoric up to 11 when it comes to Obama, suggesting Obama could be impeached if he makes good on his promise to use executive orders to further his violence prevention goals. But the NRA’s full-scale reemergence onto the scene signaled a new chapter in the post-Newtown political story, one likely to be full of personal attacks like the one in the NRA TV spot.
For their part, gun control proponents — who point to polling showing broad support for gun control measures like background checks, even among gun owners — say the NRA’s vitriol will only serve to weaken the opponents of new gun regulations.
“At some point the NRA’s Washington lobbyists may realize that this kind of thing is making them irrelevant,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told TPM on Tuesday night. “It does nothing but offend the reasonable people who make up the bulk of their country - and the bulk of their own membership.”
As for the NRA’s ad, Glaze dismissed the spot’s central message.
“I’m guessing Sasha and Malia would be delighted not to have security,” he said, “but their dad happens to be president.”