The enduring influence of the NRA

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How is it possible that 90% of Americans apparently supported background checks for firearms purchases and nothing could be done to make that happen? Today, we look inside the NRA and hear some of the tactics it uses to keep weapons as American as gunpowder.



Former Lobbyist for the NRA, Richard Feldman

"The National Rifle Association, 4 million mothers, fathers, sons and daughters join the nation in horror, outrage, grief and earnest prayer for the families of Newtown, Connecticut." - Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association

One week after the second worst mass shooting in U.S. history, Wayne LaPierre -- the head of the National Rifle Association -- broke his silence to express the same kind of despair many other Americans felt. But he had a solution to make sure it didn't happen again at Sandy Hook Elementary or another elementary school in particular, or anywhere else: It was to put armed guards in every school.

The reaction to that and the reaction to what has happened since Newtown to a lot of people has been astonishing. The NRA is one of the most effective lobbyists in Washington. Many thought this was the moment it ran out of ammo, not so - the NRA just loaded another clip. What happened this week was proof of that. It still managed to defeat a bill that the majority of U.S. Senators, a majority of Republicans, a majority of gun owners and something like 90% of Americans citizens supported particularly when it came to looking into background checks. How did that happen? How does the NRA have so much power?

Richard Feldman has seen that political power up-close. He was a lobbyist for the NRA. He's now the President of the Independent Firearm Owners Association, a group that supported the Senate bill the NRA helped defeat. Richard Feldman was in Dallas, Texas.

Panel: Frank Smyth/ Scott Melzer

With a view from outside the gun lobby we were joined by two people.

Frank Smyth is a journalist and MSNBC contributor who covers the NRA and the gun lobby. He was in North Jersey.

And Scott Melzer is the author of Gun Crusaders: The NRA's Culture War, an associate professor and chair of the Anthropology and Sociology department at Albion College. He was in Ann Arbour, Michigan. 

We asked to speak with a representative of the NRA. They turned down our request for an interview.

This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott and Shannon Higgins.

We'd love to hear what you think about this segment or anything you hear on The Current. Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Follow us on Facebook. Or e-mail us through our website. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And you can always write to us at PO Box 500, Station A, Toronto, M5W 1E6.


Other segments from today's show:

On the hunt for a suspect in Watertown, Mass.

Changing language in the anti-abortion crusade

Why the customer is not always right

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