The National Rifle Association appears to be a very powerful lobby in the United States which seems to be very successful at preventing anti-gun legislation. Nevertheless, it would appear to be quite feasible for there to be a competing lobby operating at the level of the NRA to lobby Congress for more gun control legislation.

A search for "anti NRA" reveals there are organizations opposed to NRA-style policies, but they aren't anywhere near as well-known or powerful. Why is that? Is it really that far-fetched that 5 million Americans would support anti-NRA-style lobbying with their wallets, to offset the 5 million members of the NRA?

What has prevented the growth of an anti-gun lobby as powerful as the pro-gun NRA?

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    Lots of comments deleted. Please note that this question is not about which side of the gun issue is right. This is not a discussion which belongs here. Also, comments should aim to improve the question, not answer it. If you think you can answer the question, please write an answer which adheres to our quality standards. – Philipp Nov 8 '17 at 18:25

12 Answers 12

  1. There definitely are organizations that are counter. Brady is nearly as famous.

  2. The reason it's not as seemingly effective is due to the fact that - due to political structure of the United States - it is far more work to pass sweeping arms control legislation:

    • any efforts that are pro-2d-amendment automatically have the "this is what Constitution says" tailwinds, both political and legal; whereas any opposite efforts have the same exact head-winds.

    • Additionally, most additional anti-2d-amendment measures require passing new legislation, whereas most opposing efforts require merely NOT passing it. Again, due to political structure of USA, it's easier to do the latter than the former on any topic (and becomes nearly insurmountable when Republicans control the Presidency thus requiring not just passing the legislation but also overcoming the veto).

  3. Having said that, I would also dispute the question's assertion that it's not effective. There's plenty of laws, especially on state level, with some states making it incredibly difficult to be armed (think CA, NY, IL, DC). It only seems like it's not very effective if your end game is full prohibition (and if your game is full freedom, vice versa, NRA seems like it's not very effective, for a change of perspective).

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    Another point re the constitutionality aspect is that any change to the 2nd Amendment (or any other part of the Constitution) requires the approval of 3/4 of the states. Many of the states have sizeable rural populations, to whom gun ownership is a normal part of life. Even in the rural parts of California... – jamesqf Nov 8 '17 at 18:21
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    I would perhaps mention unity in 2, and I think that's what @DrunkCynic was getting at. The gun rights supporters have a simple clear position. The solutions proposed to gun problems are varied and not always mutually compatible. – user9389 Nov 8 '17 at 18:36
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    The question itself shows that effective organizations for stricter gun control are largely unknown. The part of the anti-gun lobby which is known, because it is very loud, has become so extreme (calling for full prohibition, calling anyone who ever wanted to even think about owning a gun as a horrible monster, and so on), that the majority doesn't feel too inclined to stand up behind it. – vsz Nov 9 '17 at 5:36
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    @reirab I was not arguing the 2nd Amendment itself. I was arguing its use in the particular debate of gun control. Under the same text I could argue that I need a private nuclear submarine. – armatita Nov 9 '17 at 16:52
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    There was a very good point made about the NRA having a natural advantage because it's much, much easier to stop new legislation in the US than it is to push it forward – TheEnvironmentalist Nov 12 '17 at 21:18

Because not owning a gun isn't a big deal.

If you are not currently armed that fact generally requires no attention. Guns are a much bigger part of the typical gun user's life than the typical person who never handles a gun.

The exceptions are generally the families of people killed by strangers with guns, and people currently reading a news article about them. So far it seems that these incidents are rare enough that the base state of apathy re-asserts itself before politicians are forced to listen.

The NRA is very effective because there are a large number of people willing to put in some modicum of effort to further its goals. Its oppositions are ineffective because their supporters are not as consistently motivated. They are willing to express approval and vote, but can't be bothered to write letters and make phone calls.

If you spend a couple hours every other week using or caring for guns an hour to draft a letter or make a phone call is a smaller relative commitment than if your only contact is reading about bad things. Even for the people who want to do something about bad things they read about guns might not be the priority.

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    Seems reasonable. – Robert Harvey Nov 8 '17 at 19:43
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    Agreed. There isn't an anti-gun lobby because there isn't a desire for one. – user1530 Nov 8 '17 at 21:16
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    @blip that is a little stronger than I would contend. I think there is a fair amount of desire to ban guns especially in the coastal cities, but I suggest it is spread over enough people that it rounds to almost nothing. People saying "there oughta be a law" and going on to the next thing isn't how laws get made here. – user9389 Nov 8 '17 at 22:04
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    The truth is that despite a philosophical opposition to widespread, most people really aren’t scared of them. The vast majority of people will take little action until something promises to personally disrupt their lives. Gun control efforts do personally disrupt the lives of many gun owners, though, so they are scared of them (occasionally to non-factual extremes). – Obie 2.0 Nov 9 '17 at 3:07
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    A more casual way to express this might be that no one went to the anti-gun range to not shoot at targets to practice going to Arbys this weekend. Lots of people went to the gun range to shoot at targets to get ready for deer season. – Freiheit Nov 9 '17 at 21:54

The short cynical answer? There is money to be made selling Guns. There is no money to be made by not selling guns.

Money is what lobbyists are all about.

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    It should be noted that the NRA does not sell guns, is a non-profit organization, and is not heavily funded by gun manufacturers or dealers. Their money comes primarily from their membership dues. Obviously they would face a financial impact if American attitudes towards guns changed, but arguing that the NRA only cares about the money is like making the same argument about labor unions -- y'know, minus the coercion. :-p Anyway, both sides see it entirely differently, and there's little hard evidence to support such claims. – Wes Sayeed Nov 9 '17 at 5:54
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    @WesSayeed I don't think anyone is arguing that. That said, it is fair to say that while they weren't created as a lobbying firm, they have become the defacto lobbying arm of the gun industry under the leadership of LaPierre. They do spend a lot of money on lobbying. – user1530 Nov 9 '17 at 6:01
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    Downvoted because it is contrary to fact. The NRA (and most other such groups) are not primarily funded by gun sales (factcheck.org/2013/01/do-assault-weapons-sales-pay-nra-salaries ) Most of their influence, at least IMHO, is not due to money, but to a base of people who support their position. Their annual income (around $350 million) could easily be matched by one prominent anti-gun activist, Michael Bloomberg, who reportedly has spent around $135 million. – jamesqf Nov 9 '17 at 6:27
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    @jamesqf you oversimplify the answer. It's not about what money they can spend, but that producing guns is an industry. This means a) there is corporate support for the cause outside the NRA, b) politicians will consider loss of jobs as another side-effect of anti-gun laws c) people work in the industry, thus are more likely to support or accept it because they identify with their work (and more consciously for the fear of loosing their job). Of course, the answer is very brief and doesn't elaborate on the core statement -> room for improvement – Darkwing Nov 9 '17 at 9:25
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am Nov 11 '17 at 16:51

The simplest answer is there's no coherent anti-gun argument because the path to achieve what they want involves banning and confiscating all guns.

Whenever we have a mass shooting in the US (which is what typically sparks these debates), the subject of gun control comes up. But the laws that inevitably come up would do little, if anything, to prevent mass shootings. Most of the gun control laws fail because they're aimed at people who have already done bad things. Understand, if you want to buy a gun in the US, right now, you must pass a Federal background check

When an individual goes to a retailer to purchase a firearm, the retailer contacts the FBI to run a background check on each gun purchaser. The FBI checks the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to see if they are a prohibited purchaser. Prohibited purchasers include felons, fugitives, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill.

Unsurprisingly, mass shooters tend to fall into one of three categories

  1. They pass the background check, as they have no prior criminal record
  2. They should have been unable to pass a background check but the paperwork got lost somewhere
  3. They buy the guns illegally (since you're going to commit a crime, why bother with pesky laws?)

Most of the laws proposed would tweak these background checks (see the endlessly mentioned, but nearly non-existent gun show loophole). In fact, the Obama administration, just before the end of his term, tried to tweak the rules to put all Social Security Disability recipients into the NCIS (FBI background check system). It was such a bad rule the ACLU opposed it

In December 2016, the SSA promulgated a final rule that would require the names of all Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit recipients– who, because of a mental impairment, use a representative payee to help manage their benefits – be submitted to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) , which is used during gun purchases.

We oppose this rule because it advances and reinforces the harmful stereotype that people with mental disabilities, a vast and diverse group of citizens, are violent and should not own a gun. There is no data to support a connection between the need for a representative payee to manage one’s Social Security disability benefits and a propensity toward gun violence. The rule further demonstrates the damaging phenomenon of “spread,” or the perception that a disabled individual with one area of impairment automatically has additional, negative and unrelated attributes. Here, the rule automatically conflates one disability - related characteristic, that is, difficulty managing money, with the inability to safely possess a firearm.

So what would it take to get the gun control some people want? If they're honest, it would involve repealing the Second Amendment

Given all of this, why do liberals keep losing the gun control debate?

Maybe it’s because they argue their case badly and — let’s face it — in bad faith. Democratic politicians routinely profess their fidelity to the Second Amendment — or rather, “a nuanced reading” of it — with all the conviction of Barack Obama’s support for traditional marriage, circa 2008. People recognize lip service for what it is.

And

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

But that's only half the story. Once it's gone, now you have to write laws and adjudicate them. That's easier said than done

And when you’ve done all that and your vision is inked onto parchment, you’ll need to enforce it. No, not in the namby-pamby, eh-we-don’t-really-want-to-fund-it way that Prohibition was enforced. I mean enforce it — with force. When Australia took its decision to Do Something, the Australian citizenry owned between 2 and 3 million guns. Despite the compliance of the people and the lack of an entrenched gun culture, the government got maybe three-quarters of a million of them — somewhere between a fifth and a third of the total. That wouldn’t be good enough here, of course. There are around 350 million privately owned guns in America, which means that if you picked up one in three, you’d only be returning the stock to where it was in 1994. Does that sound difficult? Sure! After all, this is a country of 330 million people spread out across 3.8 million square miles, and if we know one thing about the American people, it’s that they do not go quietly into the night. But the government has to have their guns. It has to. The Second Amendment has to go.

In short, you're talking about a massive political hill to climb with legislators on the political Left who understand that a lot of these people vote for them and would deeply resent having their guns outlawed and seized by the government. Fear of gun violence hasn't gotten to the point where they can even think about it. So we debate it around the edges. Good luck motivating them to do more.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Nov 17 '17 at 13:37

There is a fairly powerful anti-gun lobby in the US. It's managed to get hundreds of laws passed.

When you get down to it, the NRA isn't really what stops most gun control measures from passing though. The NRA has only a few million members--but according to a recent Gallup poll, around 42% of American households own at least one firearm1. The NRA just the tip of the iceberg.

The other difficulty that's run into when trying to pass gun control legislation is simple evidence (or lack of it). Despite hundreds2 of laws, it's essentially impossible to point to any of them having led to even a small (but measurable) reduction in crime. To the extent there's actual evidence (and I'd say that extent is pretty minimal), it seems to indicate that the opposite is true. Years ago, John Lott did a study showing an inverse relationship--i.e., that more ownership and more permissive gun laws generally lead to reduced crime. He's now up to the third edition of his book so he keeps the statistics and such reasonably up to date.

Of course, his conclusions have been criticized, and some of the criticism is undoubtedly fair--but regardless of whether his claims are 100% factually correct, they seem sufficiently well supported for a fair number of people to find them credible, so he's shaped public opinion to at least some degree.

So what will happen?

I doubt that the anti-gun lobby is going to gain a huge amount of momentum particularly soon. On the other hand, I do think the pro-gun lobby is slowly losing momentum, and (more importantly) supporters.

Both sides have been fighting this for decades now. Both habitually make statements that run right on the ragged edge between distortions of the truth and outright lies. Both routinely treat (even extremely weak) correlation as proof of causation. In short, both sides have given the vast majority of people more than ample reason to ignore most of what they have to say (and it would appear that most people have responded--while mass shootings lead to a small, short-term rise in sentiment favoring firearm control laws, the reality is that most people are probably more concerned about whether there's an accident that will slow their commute this morning than they are about crimes committed with guns3.

Nonetheless, there is a pretty clear long-term trend toward a higher percentage of the population living in urban areas. That tends to lead to an ever-decreasing percentage of people who hunt, own firearms, or think of firearms as having any real place in their own lives. Eventually, the pro-gun faction is almost certain to become a small enough minority that they'll lose political influence, and laws will be passed that sharply curtail private ownership of firearms.

What about the shorter term?

There are a few areas where enough Americans currently agree that I'd expect to see more laws passed in the (relatively) near future. For example, a recent Gallup Poll estimates that 96% of Americans favor requiring background checks for all gun purchases. That's a large enough majority that it strikes me as nearly inevitable that it will actually happen. Smaller but still significant majorities favor requiring a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales, and requiring that all firearms be registered with the police.

Summary

  • Quite a few laws have actually been passed.
  • There seems to be essentially no evidence that any of them has been at all successful.
  • The single biggest problem for the anti-gun lobby is that they're almost certainly vastly outnumbered by those who own firearms or are at least somewhat friendly to that cause.
  • Requiring background checks for all firearms sales seems sufficiently popular that (at least in my estimation) it's likely to happen fairly soon.

  1. And note: that's what's reported. At least to me, it seems likely that the real number is somewhat higher; few people are likely to report owning a firearm if they really don't, but some (e.g., people who own illegal firearms) are likely to say they don't even though they really do.
  2. If you want to get technical, the real number is much higher (twenty thousand has been thrown around for decades now), but many of those are local laws that are superseded by state laws (and such) so they have no real effect.
  3. I suppose it may sound like I'm painting people as being rather callous toward victims of shooting. A fair argument could be made, however, that the callousness is in very little attention being paid to the fact that well over twice as many people die in traffic accidents as by shooting (~37,000 annually vs. ~13,000 annually).
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    @DrunkCynic: If this were a statistics site, I'd agree. But it's not--it's a politics site, and it appears (at least to me) that the public and vast majority of politicians accept correlation as implying causation sufficiently that the difference has little effect on current political opinion/climate. – Jerry Coffin Nov 9 '17 at 14:15
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    Allowing people to continue with a misunderstanding of the statistical relevance of the numbers being used is irresponsible. Supporting the misrepresentation of the statistics and the influence they have is worse. – Drunk Cynic Nov 9 '17 at 14:41
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    @JerryCoffin agree with Drunk Cynic: statistics have the imprimatur of science, it's why misinterpreting them is so effective. – Jared Smith Nov 9 '17 at 14:49
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    @blip: As far as I can see, the "gun control/regulation" lobby really is largely just an anti-gun lobby. Although the reason the give publicly is crime reduction, when you get down to it most I've talked to simply dislike (or outright hate) guns. Their current targets are just that as well--based on personal discussions and (for example) some leaked internal memos, it's apparent that the ultimate goal of many is to prohibit all private ownership of firearms--and others go even further, wanting all governments to give up firearms as well. – Jerry Coffin Nov 9 '17 at 17:40
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    @JerryCoffin can you point to any real proposals to ban guns wholesale? Again, this is something the NRA wants us all to believe...but it really doesn't exist. There's a big difference between proposing gun regulations (sales, tracking, data collection, safety regulations, etc) and proposing we ban guns outright. The latter isn't really a thing. There isn't any significant sizable group of people that are pushing for that. – user1530 Nov 9 '17 at 18:06

Guns are a necessary tool for police work, military, and hunting. Like any necessary tool, hobbies develop around them based on collecting, competitions in their use, etc. There are car clubs, old farm machinery clubs, and gun clubs.

The NRA was not founded primarily as a political organization, but as a gun club where people who are interested in guns could get together to share their common interest. No one hangs out at the anti-gun store to discuss anti-guns with their friends. It's a lot easier to muster energy to defend something you love, than it is to muster energy against something you hate.

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    I might contest the second paragraph. Historically, hate has been a great thing to rally around as much as love. – user1530 Nov 8 '17 at 22:07
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    @blip True. Just look at the last election. Pretty much all of the energy on both sides was directed against what they hate, a problem that has seemed to get progressively worse over the last several election cycles. To the point now that we've had representatives and senators assaulted and nearly killed by political opponents on 2 different occasions within the past 6 months. – reirab Nov 8 '17 at 22:14
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    @reirab well, just look at politics throughout the entirety of human history. :) – user1530 Nov 8 '17 at 22:31
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    Also historically police unions have been big proponents of gun control. Turns out their members, even more than the general public, don't like the streets being awash in guns. – T.E.D. Nov 9 '17 at 11:46
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    @RobK - police chiefs don't get control of the unions, that's pretty much the opposite of how unions work. Having training classes for the guns that are out there, in your example, in no way runs contrary to the idea of being against "the streets being awash in guns." If you're against that kind of thing, but that's the current status quo, then getting as many of those gun owners safely trained would be even more of a priority. Holding a gun safety class does not say anything about a stance on gun control measures or not. – PoloHoleSet Nov 9 '17 at 16:28

Why is there no effective anti-gun lobby in the United States?

Because, in the end, there really aren't that many anti-gun constituents in the US.

The NRA has done a wonderful job getting their demographic to hear "ban all guns" when the phrase "gun control" is brought up. But rarely, if ever, are proposed gun control regulations trying to achieve the objective of getting rid of guns.

So, to answer the question bluntly: There is no anti-gun lobby because there aren't all that many people that are universally anti-gun.

To user4012's point, there certainly are organizations lobbying to increase gun regulations. And they are effective to varying degrees, but also have the challenge of not having a unified base of support like the NRA has. The NRA, ultimately, has a rather simple objective (reduce as many restrictions on the gun industry as possible) which just makes it an easier thing to sell to those that are for that. The topic of gun control quickly can get complicated and isn't as simple of a message to communicate...nor are there any real monetary incentives to push for it. In fact, there are real incentives to not push for it if you are a politician thanks to the success of the NRA. The NRA has simply been quite successful at doing what they do.

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    I think there's a huge constituency that are anti-gun. The problem lies elsewhere. – Robert Harvey Nov 8 '17 at 18:40
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    @RobertHarvey Yes, thanks to the NRA, there are people like you that think that. They've done a great job at convincing people that. – user1530 Nov 8 '17 at 18:44
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am Nov 9 '17 at 16:55

Gun restriction is an issue that is hard to mobilize due to asymmetrical incentive structures at the individual level. This asymmetry is described in Mancur Olson's "Logic of Collective Action", a classic public choice theory of interest mobilization.

Concentrated interest are easier to organize than diffuse interests. Mobilization is costly in terms of time, money, and effort. At the same time, mobilization is essentially a public good: It is impossible to exclude those wo do not contribute to the work of mobilization from enjoying its benefits. Even if a gun manufacturer is not part of the Firearm Industry Trade Association NSSF, the manufacturer will benefit from their lobbying and PR. In other words, every mobilization effort can be exploited, and potentially undermined, by free-riders.

Concentrated interest can surmount the free-rider problem more easily, however, because the stakeholder group is relatively small. As stated above, a large stakeholder is the gun industry, which contributes more than one quarter of the NRA's revenue, and which is the only stakeholder of more specialized trade associations like the NSSF. Even though an individual gun corp. would still benefit from the gun lobby's work if it just free-rode, there is still a positive marginal benefit from investing in the gun lobby. Gun corp's contribution still makes a difference in terms of its return.

Compare this to the diffuse benefits of gun control: The free-rider problem is compounded for the gun regulation movement, because the group of potential beneficiaries is practically boundless. Every single person has very little incentive to contribute, because their contribution makes almost no difference for their own security. Each individual's marginal benefit derived from contributing to the gun regulation lobby is insignificant, yet the overall success of the movement depends on individual contributions.

There is thus an asymmetry of incentives on the individual level that makes it harder to organize a powerful lobby against gun control. However, on the aggregate level, this arguably reduces overall welfare, as the power asymmetry biases policy away from (diffuse) public interest and toward (concentrated) special interests.

  • I've down voted this question for the multiple implications that the primary stakeholder in the pro-gun lobby is the gun industry. – Drunk Cynic Nov 14 '17 at 14:28
  • @DrunkCynic they are one of the two primary stakeholders, so it's a very valid point. That said, this answer assumes there is an anti-gun lobby. I have to see any mentions of an actual group specifically out to ban guns wholesale. I'm not convinced such a group exists of any meaningful size. – user1530 Nov 14 '17 at 15:59
  • @DrunkCynic There are two main stakeholders of the NRA, one is the industry. In addition, there are other industry-only associations. Thanks for your comment, I've pointed this out more clearly in an edit. – henning Nov 14 '17 at 16:04
  • @blip My point is that it is very hard for an effective anti-gun lobby to form. I would like to leave open the question at which stage we might speak of an anti-gun lobby at all, e.g. whether the CSGV may already be called such. I've changed the wording to "movement", which is agnostic. Thanks for the feedback. – henning Nov 14 '17 at 16:06
  • @DrunkCynic I've also added that the other stakeholder is not representative of the large and diffuse group of US gun owners in general, but rather constitutes a subset with particularly intense preferences -- as opposed to the diffuse group of gun regulation advocates whose preferences are much weaker and thus more prone to free-ride. – henning Nov 14 '17 at 16:16

It would be hard to come up with a general consensus as to how anti-gun laws should work. Rather, if one asks if current gun control measures are more stringently enforced, you'll find that many of the gun laws are sufficient.

Take for example, we know that the recent shooter was a former member of the Air Force and had been dishonourably discharged from duty. This would have been enough to disqualify him from freely owning a Military style weapon. However, the lapse was that it didn't register in a background check, so he got his tool of massacre.

I'm sure the consensus for tightening loopholes would be greater as opposed to outright weapons ban. Is the anti-gun lobby willing to pursue this?

I don't see the call to ban guns something that can be achieved overnight. It simply isn't the case

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    I've down voted this answer because the Texas Shooter was not subjected to a Dishonorable Discharge; Instead, he was given a Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD). A BCD doesn't prohibit firearm ownership. Instead, the Domestic Violence charges for which he was Court-Marshled should have been reported to NICS, which would have prevented his firearm purchases. – Drunk Cynic Nov 10 '17 at 19:36

There is another aspect that seems to have thrown a spanner into multiple efforts to introduce more control (not outright bans) over gun sales:

Efforts that depend on individual judgement of law enforcement officials, or social/monetary standing, to restrict gun access, can end up being considered (or maligned as) discriminatory or even racist ploys, especially in times where law enforcement is under scrutiny regarding racial/social equality issues.

One example is the discussion about restricting "saturday night special" style inexpensive guns when they were considered a problem - such arguments can be found in period newspaper articles...

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    It would be nice to have an example of your example. – user9389 Nov 10 '17 at 22:52

There are organizations opposed to NRA-style policies, but they aren't anywhere near as well-known or powerful. Why is that?

What has prevented the growth of an anti-gun lobby as powerful as the pro-gun NRA?

To supplement the other answers on this question:

One of the factors is that if someone were to advocate that strongly and effectively, they would (and sometimes do) face intense intimidation pressure and threats from people who are very passionate about making sure they have the right to own and use their guns however they want. Such intimidation does not need to come from the leaders of the NRA but can be effective coming from ANYONE who supports their ideas.

Edit: To those who think this sort of thing just doesn't happen, remember folks like Thomas C. Wales, and recognize that even the US President openly suggests that "second amendment people" should take matters into their own hands to remove someone from power if she does not share their ideas about how freely guns should be available.

  • Downvoters: do you just dislike that this happens? I've seen it happen, where well-intentioned people are silenced (and not just on this issue!) because it's just not worth the cost of standing up to a strong-willed person with guns who is willing to do anything they think necessary preserve their "rights" to use lethal physical violence against those they disagree with. Some threateners are sufficiently well-connected with law enforcement etc. that it's clear to all involved that they would never be punished. – WBT Nov 12 '17 at 4:23
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    We're at conspiracy level of drivel here. – Drunk Cynic Nov 14 '17 at 14:30
  • There's no conspiracy, just that a very small percentage of gun owners happen to be violently passionate about maintaining their rights to own those guns and interpret gun control advocates as threats. That interacts with potential advocates' desire for self-preservation, but it's still not a conspiracy. – WBT Nov 14 '17 at 15:56

While there are certainly many passionate people on both sides of the gun control debate, gun owners, as a whole, tend to be more passionate about the issue than do gun control proponents. This is particularly true in light of the number gun-owning Democrats, some of whom might swing to the Republican column if their legislator were to vote for a gun control law they didn't like. Legislators know that, and it matters, because they don't want to lose the gun owners' votes.

Additionally, there is the 2nd Amendment.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The meaning of that is unfortunately rather unclear, and this fact has led to much debate. However, in 2008, the Supreme Court held in a 5-4 vote that the right to bear arms is an individual right. As with any 5-4 ruling, one has got to reckon that it could be overturned some day. But for now, it is the law of the land.

It should be added that the Court has allowed various restrictions on gun ownership, such as mental health restrictions, criminal background restrictions, and restrictions against particularly powerful weapons. So a gun control lobby can do certain things, but if they try for too much, they will run into the 2nd Amendment limit.

EDIT: In regards to the level of passion:

Obviously, it can't be measured directly. But there are plenty of proxies. A person who believes something, but not very passionately, would be more likely to answer a poll in accordance with their belief, but might be less likely to take interest in a single-issue organization, magazine, or website. On the pro-gun side, a simple google search took me straight to [guns.com], which, as of right now, has eight different stories on the front page, all of them written today. Clearly, the people in charge of the site are putting a lot of effort into it. If they weren't, some of the stories would be older. Then there is of course the NRA, Gun World Magazine, Guns&Ammo, Firearms News, Guns Magazine, with many more linked from those in turn. It's the same thing on youtube; here is someone's review of 10 gun channels, for example.

On the gun-control side, there are also single-issue groups, such as Brady. But a lot of the action seems to come from general-interest left-of-center organizations, such as moveon and Democracy Now. It's similar on Youtube; here is a pro-gun-control video from Al Jazeera; here is another from The View. These are people for whom gun control is just one issue among many.

The passion difference is so pronounced that even the New Yorker writes

. . . The N.R.A.’s biggest asset isn’t cash but the devotion of its members. Adam Winkler, a law professor at U.C.L.A. and the author of the 2011 book “Gunfight,” told me, “N.R.A. members are politically engaged and politically active. They call and write elected officials, they show up to vote, and they vote based on the gun issue.” In one revealing study, people who were in favor of permits for gun owners described themselves as more invested in the issue than gun-rights supporters did. Yet people in the latter group were four times as likely to have donated money and written a politician about the issue.

and here are similar write-ups about the "Enthusiasm Gap" from the BBC and The Atlantic. Here in the Washington Post, gun control advocates are claiming they have closed the enthusiasm gap, which obviously implies that it existed in the first place. It's also interesting that the gun-control people are merely claiming equal enthusiasm, in relation to an event that worked out in their favor.

  • I don't believe "More passionate" is either accurate nor relevant. There is a great deal of passion on the anti-gun side. – userLTK Mar 5 at 13:04
  • @userLTK your comment appears to be offered as a refutation of sorts. Yet your second sentence simply repeats a point I made. I'm curious why that is. – William Jockusch Mar 5 at 23:47
  • "gun owners, as a whole, tend to be more passionate about the issue than do gun control proponents." That statement bothers me and I don't know how you can claim it. Everything else you wrote is fine. – userLTK Mar 6 at 0:43
  • That's reasonable, and I'll address it in the main post. I just find it weird when a refutation actually repeats part of the original post; it leaves me wondering if I've been heard. – William Jockusch Mar 6 at 0:46
  • Passion is a funny word and perhaps not ideal for the point you're trying to make. The voices coming out of Florida last week were among the most passionate I've ever heard. Passion isn't the strength, voting block is the strength and I think that's what you're trying to say. When a bill will cost a politician votes, that becomes a bill he has to pay close attention too. The gun laws are particularly good at swinging voters away from a candidate if he votes against their liking. That's the NRA's strength, not their passion but their leverage. Passion alone, often doesn't win. – userLTK Mar 6 at 21:05

protected by Philipp Nov 9 '17 at 9:24

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