The Current

NRA's political influence on the wane, says gun control advocate

As the U.S. once again debates gun control in the wake of the Orlando massacre, gun advocates are challenging the accepted wisdom the NRA is politically invincible. New research suggests the NRA is losing its grip to changing demographics.
According to gun control advocate Timothy Johnson, the NRA's waning influence gives hope there could be movement on gun control in U.S. (Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle/Associated Press)

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In the wake of the Orlando massacre, the U.S. gun rights lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA), is arguing once again that stronger gun laws won't deter terrorists.  But in a country where many are frustrated with an unending string of deadly mass shootings, the NRA's influence is beginning to slip, according to a gun control advocate.

Timothy Johnson, the guns and public safety program director for Media Matters, a media watchdog, points to a demographic issue that the NRA is facing, resulting in losing members.

"Overall the NRA demographic is going away … it's aging, it's mostly white," Johnson tells The Current's host Anna Maria Tremonti.

He adds that while there have been reports of booming gun sales over the past three years, Johnson says gun ownership isn't as prevalent as some may assume. 

"If you look at surveys of how many people own guns … household ownerships, that's actually been declining for decades."

John Lott, president of Crime Prevention Research Center, an organization that looks at guns and crime, does not agree that the NRA's influence is waning. He tells Anna Maria Tremonti that 13 million people in the U.S. have concealed carry permits and 10 states don't require permits.

According to Lott, the survey Johnson points to as a decline in gun ownership is "selective." 

"If you look at things like concealed carry permits, those have ballooned from about 4.6 million  in 2007 to about 13 million last year."

Ten days before the shooting at the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his frustration. 

"Because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun,"  Obama tells patrons at an Indiana town hall meeting, earlier this month.

 In response to the Orlando shooting, Lott hopes that the U.S. will get rid of gun-free zones. 

"Since 1950, with just three exceptions - every single, mass public shooting has occurred where general citizens aren't allowed to have guns for protection. And that's happened again this last time in Orlando," says Lott.

To date, the Orlando attack was the worst mass shooting by a single shooter in U.S. history.

A. J. Somerset, author of Arms: The Culture and Credo of the Gun, wants gun owners and people who want controls on guns to craft good laws for all. (Reuters)

Do you believe the NRA's clout could be diminishing in the U.S.? What are your thoughts on the gun control debate in the States?

Email us. Send us a tweet @TheCurrentCBC.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese and Karin Marley.

 The Current asked the NRA to participate in our discussion today but it did not make anyone available.