Saturday, October 08, 2011

Stalking state laws: the NRA and its lobbyists work slowly but inexorably

The NRA is proving that when it comes to lobbying state legislatures, persistence is almost as important as money, as is the patience to take small bites.  (Not that lots of money hurts. :)  )

Perhaps it's the old saw about repeating a lie often enough that it becomes fact (Goebbels?) or maybe it's just familiarity breeding...familiarity, but persistence and patience have worked very well indeed for them.

When they try to grab a big bunch of policy ground in one chunk, that is when they experience most of their setbacks, as happened in Arizona this year where a governor who is a strong supporter of the NRA vetoed a "firearms omnibus" bill that contained all sorts of NRA wish-list items (like allowing guns in schools).

Many of its recent legislative successes, such as the raft of "guns in bars" bills that have passed state legislatures in recent years, are rooted in efforts that began years ago.

Here in Arizona, the first "guns in bars" bill (that I can find, anyway) first appeared in 2003.

Then in 2004.

And in 2005.

And, after a couple of years to catch their breath, in 2008.

And again in 2009.

Finally, later in 2009, the measure was passed and signed into law.

Of course, that doesn't compare to efforts to weaken local control of firearms.  In many states, the ability of local municipalities to pass gun control measures to bolster public safety has been curtailed or even eliminated.

Those efforts have been relentless, starting in the mid-1990s.

Despite the fact that municipal governments are the "retail" level of government and know best what works for their cities.

Here in Arizona, the legislature passed or considered measures affecting local firearms control in...

...1999.  The measure was vetoed, but would have barred political subdivisions (aka - counties and municipalities) from enacting ordinances affecting or participating in lawsuits against firearms manufacturers

...2000.  Decreased the ability of political subdivisions from enacting ordinances affecting firearms.  Enacted into law.

...2001.  Failed in the Arizona House, but would have completely removed the ability of political subdivisions to enact or enforce *any* rule or ordinance relating to firearms.

...2002.  In a switch, the NRA lobbied against a bill.  They killed a measure that would have required the establishment of a task force of local, county, state and federal agencies to trace crime guns.

...2003.  Barred local regulation of gun sales in their jurisdiction.  Enacted into law.

...2006.  Barred political subdivisions and state agencies from enacting ordinances and rules relating to the storage of firearms.  Enacted into law.

...2007.  Barred a political subdivision from prohibiting a peace officer from carrying a firearm, except under very specific conditions.  Enacted into law.

...2009.  Barred employers, both public and private, from enacting or enforcing policies prohibiting their employees from storing weapons in the cars.  Known as the "guns in cars" bill.  Enacted into law.

...2010.  Further diminished the ability of municipalities to enact any ordinances or rules relating to firearms.  Enacted into law.

...2011.  Barred political subdivisions from restricting hunting within city limits.  Enacted into law.

That pattern of diminution of local control was also evident in the firearms omnibus bill mentioned earlier.  It featured a clause barring universities and other schools from adopting and/or enforcing policies restricting the possession of weapons on their campuses.

The NRA, through its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), regularly rallies its members to swamp state legislators with phone calls and emails in support of (or opposition to) legislative proposals.

They also aren't shy about directly lobbying legislators.

From the Arizona Legislature's events calendar -

And that wasn't an isolated day - the NRA, its proxies (like the Arizona Citizens Defense League above), or both, lobby the legislature on a nearly daily basis.

Above, Dave Kopp of the Arizona Citizen Defense League, testifies February 14, 2011 before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of a "guns in schools" bill.  A short while later, a lobbyist directly employed by the NRA spoke in favor of the same bill.

Kopp is so friendly with the people running the Senate that when he walks into the Senate building, its almost like he entering his own office.

Seriously.  I've seen it many times.

He walks behind the reception counter, puts his briefcase on top the counter, and starts going through papers and agendas and other things back there like he owns the place.

And given how successful the NRA and its proxies have been at the Arizona Legislature and in many legislatures across the country, maybe they do.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

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