chief strategist behind the organization's aggressive political strategy.
Now, the NRA has added a lesser-known strategy to protect its interests: opposing President Barack Obama's judicial nominees whom it sees as likely to enforce gun-control laws. In some cases, the group's opposition has kept jobs on federal benches unfilled.For example, the organization intensely opposed the nominations to the Supreme Court of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. And it warned senators usually on the NRA's side that if they said "aye" to confirm either or both those women, it would not go unnoticed at NRA HQ in the next election cycle.
Still in its early stages, the effort is a safety net to ensure that federal courthouses are stocked with judges who are friendly to gun rights, should gun restrictions somehow get through the group's first line of defense on Capitol Hill. The NRA also weighs in on state judicial elections and appointments, another fail-safe if the massacre of young children at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school leads to tighter gun-control measures.
That didn't keep the two off the court, obviously, but the NRA had an impact. One of the handful of senators to vote for Kagan and Sotomayor was Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana. He had a long supportive association with the gun lobby. But when he came up for election in 2012, Elliott notes, the NRA poured $200,000 into the primary coffers of his tea party-backed primary challenger Richard Mourdock, who won. Given other issues, including Lugar's age and his having effectively moved permanently to Washington during his 36 years in the Senate, Mourdock probably would have won anyway, but that NRA money didn't hurt.
The organization has not focused solely on the high court, however. For instance, it's intervened to block the appointment of two lower court nominees, Elissa Cadish in Nevada and Caitlin Halligan in D.C. They are among the 33 federal court nominees that President Obama has recently renominated because their appointments have been stalled in the Senate.
The NRA has repeatedly proved the capabilities of its massively funded, comprehensive political and propaganda campaign. This juggernaut is what confronts Americans who desire to see even the mildest additions to gun restrictions. The organization is not unbeatable. But successfully opposing its extremist agenda will require gobs of money and a coordinated, persistent strategy on a broad front.
To have any chance at winning, the NRA's foes—and that now seems to include the White House—must propose reasonable new laws that do not give the gun lobby any ammo with which to play on fears that the government is coming to take away everybody's hunting or self-defense firearms. Nobody should expect a kindergarten slaughter or a rising gun murder rate in Chicago or elsewhere to make the fight for more restrictions a sure thing. The NRA didn't get where it has by bending, as was obvious from its response to the Sandy Hook murders.