Really, NRA?

A friend recently sent me a questionnaire he’d received from the NRA, along with a fundraising appeal warning that the November elections will “threaten your gun rights,” and explaining that the organization needs your money in order to protect its “pro-freedom” agenda. (I wonder when they’ll explain why that “pro-freedom agenda” required that they collaborate with Russian operatives…but I digress.)

The letter also disses all those polls showing widespread public support for background checks and other modest gun-control measures. (“Fake news!”)

If there is one thing academic researchers and legitimate political pollsters know, it is that the way you frame survey questions is critical: if you are trying to obtain an accurate reading of the public pulse, questions cannot be suggestive or loaded.

Of course, if political candidates and advocacy organizations were interested in accurate results, they’d hire a reputable pollster. The “surveys” and “polls” we all receive from various candidates and organizations are transparent efforts to separate us from our money; they are intended to push our buttons, not inquire about our opinions.

And the NRA has mastered the art of button-pushing. A few examples:

“Do you agree with the politicians and Hollywood elites who say the NRA is a terrorist organization?”

“Do you support a sweeping ban on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns?”

“Should law-abiding Americans be forced to undergo a background check?”

“Should the federal government limit your ability to defend yourself and your family by banning magazines with more than 10 rounds?”

“Should the federal government be able to register and track all firearms in the U.S. and retain personal information about those who lawfully possess them?”

“Would you ever knowingly vote for a candidate for Congress who supports new anti-gun restrictions as part of his or her agenda?”

There’s more, of course, but these “poll questions” should give you a flavor of the rest.

Before you laugh at the transparency of these formulations or dismiss the obviousness of the propaganda, it may be worth thinking about the political psychology behind the choice of words employed in what was an expensive mailing. Remember, these “polls” go to NRA members (including the friend who shared this), not to the general public–and although reputable surveys suggest that the majority of those members are far more reasonable than the organization’s leadership, they are still likely to be favorably disposed to the NRA’s mission.

They aren’t likely to be favorably disposed to “Hollywood elites.” They are very likely to resent being called a terrorist organization.

The framing of the support/no support questions is patently dishonest, but very effective. Do you favor a “sweeping” ban? Do you want the government “forcing” “law-abiding” citizens to do anything? Surely you are already worried that the surveillance state is keeping tabs on everyone, and you don’t want them “retaining your personal information.”

I’m sure you are leery of Congressional candidates who make gun control part of an (obviously nefarious) “agenda.”

The big problem with special interest organizations like the NRA isn’t that they represent majority opinion. They don’t–not even close. They are effective because their issues are so salient to the minority of people who do agree with them. (This is also true of anti-choice  and other single-issue voters.)

Because they care deeply about their particular issue, (and generally, not about many–or any–others) they vote. Reliably. And as a result, they exercise far more influence than their numbers would otherwise entitle them to. That’s one reason why the recent arrest of a Russian operative who used the NRA as her conduit to the Trump Administration and  Republicans in Congress was so alarming.

My single issue in November is the defeat of Trump enablers. It’s pretty salient to me….


  1. Those questions aren’t hard!

    “Do you agree with the politicians and Hollywood elites who say the NRA is a terrorist organization?” YES

    “Do you support a sweeping ban on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns?” YES

    “Should law-abiding Americans be forced to undergo a background check?” YES

    “Should the federal government limit your ability to defend yourself and your family by banning magazines with more than 10 rounds?” YES

    “Should the federal government be able to register and track all firearms in the U.S. and retain personal information about those who lawfully possess them?” YES

    “Would you ever knowingly vote for a candidate for Congress who supports new anti-gun restrictions as part of his or her agenda?” YES

  2. Anonymous e,

    Let’s see if we can make that unanimous. YES,YES,YES,YES,YES,YES

  3. Those actual “fake news” items from Republicans that Democrats will “threaten your gun rights” have been around for years; they simply escalated when President Barack Obama began his election campaign(s). I would bet my next Social Security check that if the threats that “the government is coming to take your guns” had actually happened, Republicans would have announced it to the world. During the 2008 campaign my cousin sent me an E-mail she had received with a long list of Obama’s proposed anti-gun laws supposedly published in American Rifle magazine, including passing a law that no American would be allowed to buy any ammunition. I researched that magazine and found nothing, researched through NRA web sites and found nothing, researched the magazine through NRA web sites and found nothing. If true, this would have been primary news during that election campaign with huntress Sarah Palin on the Republican side for Vice President. The most effective result from Republicans and the NRA keeping that chant, “threaten your gun rights” public, produced was a mass rush to all gun and sporting goods sections of department stores to buy up guns and ammunition before they were outlawed. The bogus threat provided millions of dollars in free advertisements for gun sales and increased support for the NRA.

    Has the NRA yet come out against Sasha Baron Cohen’s Showtime TV program, “Who Is America”? Mr. Cohen, a British actor and screenwriter, wrote outlandish bogus PSAs supporting Trump’s guns in schools by training and arming children as young as 4 years old and included the comment, “1st graders can become 1st grenaders” and took them to legislators who read them for media publication. Some of the legislators who were filmed announcing their support for training and arming young children are now claiming they were “tricked”. They obviously fully agreed with the ridiculous proposed issues or they would never have agreed to go public with the PSAs.

    “The big problem with special interest organizations like the NRA isn’t that they represent majority opinion. They don’t–not even close. They are effective because their issues are so salient to the minority of people who do agree with them.”

    The strongest argument I can put forth to support Sheila’s comments above are the media interviews with Republican Rep. Scalisi on his first day back on the job after being shot with an automatic “bump stock” weapon while practicing baseball, resulting in a number of life-saving emergency surgeries. He loudly proclaimed he continues his full support of selling “bump stocks” and conversion kits to increase rifles to semi- or fully-automatic military level weapons.

  4. The questionnaire followed by a request for donations is used by all kinds of organizations including Democrat ones. I get one regularly from my State Representative, a Democrat. When I once actually replied and added a few negative comments, but no money, I got a nasty letter in return. She did not get my vote in the next election. Mostly I throw them out upon arrival.

    When I lived on a farm in southern Illinois, in a predominately Republican county that had no cell towers, I regularly got called on the land line for a “survey”. These were obviously being conducted by the Republicans. All would go well until they would get to the one question they were really after, and it usually involved abortion or guns. They would quickly end the survey when they did not get the answer they wanted, but they would always call again the following week.

    A good friend got them to stop calling her when she answered one of their surveys about gay rights by telling the caller that she and everyone in her household, her husband and two cats, were gay.

  5. No questions about the cozy NRA partnership with Russian oligarchs and their money?

    Sadly, they know the “results” of their survey before it is even returned and those who see those results will never question them for accuracy. It’s the nature of our beast.

    In case you haven’t noticed, our media frames “socialism” in the same way. Why would our corporate conglomerate owned media disparage an economy system more beneficial to their readers/watchers/listeners?

    So they can control the outcome.

    And yes, this is Propaganda 101. This is all laid out very succinctly in Mein Kampf. It’s also the literary guide to Oppression.

    Have you participated in a target marketing campaign?

    This is the underlying theory behind advertising on Facebook. Because of the questions members answer voluntarily about what makes them tick, Facebook provides advertisers with access to a market who already believes a certain way. If I’m running in a Democratic primary, I don’t want to waste my money advertising to Republicans or conservatives. Therefore, I can make sure my ads only reach people who’ve indicated their politics is “liberal” or “democrat” or “progressive”.

    In other words, we make it very easy for capitalists by self-identifying our preferences.

    When my local Ball State economist slams people on the right or left (mostly on the left because his business department is in bed with the Koch brothers), I remind him of the premise behind our “free market”— rational free agents.

    As a people, do you honestly think ALL Americans are rational? Free?

    We are oppressed and manipulated every single minute of every single day because our systems are designed that way. As Sheila points out regularly, the goal of capitalism is to separate our dollars from ourselves.

    One last note, I am a journalist part-time, a progressive and a gun owner. I have a lifetime carry permit and almost always have a concealed weapon while riding my motorcycle.


    Most of the threats I’ve received have come from conservatives. The other category the threats would fall under is “law enforcement”.

    Recently, a deputy sheriff told me on Facebook and then deleted the thread, “Be safe out there on your bike.”

    Not the first time I’ve been threatened by law enforcement personnel. What makes them mad is when pointing out their posts are racist and reminding them they are public servants–not enforcers of white supremacy. 😉

    It’s rather easy in Indiana to spot the #MAGA/#NRA supporters.

  6. I sometimes play with surveyers who call. I will point out how they obviously want me to respond, then go into a polemic on why such a response would just be too simplistic or wrong. They usually wrap it up with a short demographic section, and I answer the race question by saying I’m human. I think I have been taken off of every call list.

  7. JoAnn,

    “He (Rep. Scalisi) proudly proclaimed he continues his full support of selling “bump stocks” and conversion kits to increase rifles to semi- or fully-automatic military level weapons.”

    Do you blame him? If he didn’t speak-up immediately, he would have been a dead man [politically speaking]. The Republicans would have immediately seen him as a potential TRAITOR TO THE CAUSE.

    How can you have a right-wing takeover without guns? Let’s don’t be stupid.

  8. The NRA used to be a sportsman’s organization until its “leadership” was hijacked by the capitalist gun and ammunition industries. I saw the stark shift to fascist, fear-mongering propaganda in their publications the moment the Nazi, Wayne LaPierre came onto the scene. He’s a central casting Nazi in a suit. He should be wearing a brown shirt with a red armband.

    The NRA is finally being caught as a Russian money funneling organization for Republicans and for Trump. If any of this sticks, those felonies will end up putting LaPierre in jail where he belongs.

  9. One of the root causes of violence is the economic and psychological pressure caused by the gross inequality of wealth distribution in our country. So let folks keep their guns and impose a 90% top marginal tax rate on top incomes and reimpose a heavy estate tax. Use that money to build a top flight educational system that servers everyone and rebuild our infrastructure. Make the working class secure again and I believe gun violence would go down.

  10. Marv; I fully understand why Scalisi responded with his full support. But I do BLAME him because he was simply spouting the Republican battle cry of their deliberate obfuscation of the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe they misunderstand it; “…because their issues are so salient to the minority of people who do agree with them.” Or…is he actually as stupidly staunch Republican (at any cost – including his own life) as those legislators on “Who Is America?” who want to train and arm 4 year olds with guns and 1st graders with grenades?

    The Republicans are relying on the November election to be won by those who believe Republicans actually have a cause; a cause to protect their personal views, with no awareness that not one of them is maintaining their oath of office to “uphold and protect the United States of America and the Constitution”. Trump violated his Presidential Inauguration Oath of Office within hours of swearing to uphold it; with his hand on a Bible. We assume that was a Bible he placed his hand on; legislators (the same as those testifying in court) simply hold up their right hand and swear.

  11. JoAnn,

    Let’s start to simplify things. The Republican Party [Tea Party] wants to destroy what’s left of our DEMOCRACY…COME HELL OR HIGH WATER into AMERICAN APARTHEID!

    We’re facing a future somewhere between Nazi Germany and South African Apartheid. As I’ve said before, a better word for it would be….FUTURCIDE.

  12. JoAnn,

    Have you read…”A Cricket in the Thorn Tree: Helen Suzman and the Progressive Party by Johanna Strangwayes-Booth (Hutchinson Group, Johannesberg, 1976) or Suzman’s own book…”In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir” (Knopf, New York, 1993)?

    She’s one of the great women of the Twentieth Century. At this juncture in American history, we ALL need to know about her, as well as, to understand her successes.

  13. From Wikipedia
    Helen Suzman


    “She was elected to the House of Assembly in 1953 as a member of the United Party for the Houghton constituency in Johannesburg.

    The United Party caucus supported the second reading of the 1953 Separate Amenities Bill that provided for separate (but effectively unequal) facilities for Blacks, Coloreds, Indians and Whites. When the vote was taken, Helen Suzman and one other UP member refused to vote and walked out of the House.

    Dissatisfied with the supine stance of United Party to the apartheid policies of the Government, Suzman and eleven other liberal members of the United Party broke away to form the Progressive Party in 1959. The party rejected race discrimination and advocated equal opportunities for all with a qualified franchise with a common voter’s role.

    At the 1961 general election all the other Progressive MPs lost their seats, leaving Suzman as the SOLE parliamentarian unequivocally opposed to apartheid for thirteen years from 1961 to 1974.”

  14. I just taught a unit on survey research in my class. This might be a good example for students to analyze.

  15. I recently received some mail from the Donnelly Campaign a questionnaire and of course an appeal for a donation. The questions are like his campaign totally lacking in substance.

    I received an E-Mail from his campaign titled – Tell me your thoughts on health care. Donnelly goes on to state >>Access to high quality, affordable health care for Hoosiers continues to be a priority for me and a concern for many families across our state. I hope that you will take a moment to let me know your thoughts by taking the survey below.

    You go to the link with questions – the questions concern the “for profit” system. You cannot respond to “Tell me your thoughts on health care” like we need universal heath care or single payer for all Americans.

  16. Just spent a lovely few days with all I love……lucky me…….but the greatest news is the 2 men (out of 24 folks ) who voted for himself, would never vote for him again…..they are appalled. I am thrilled.
    I always did think that the NRA got money from Russia.

  17. George Lakoff, retired cognitive brain scientist (from UC, Berkeley) is an expert on framing, where the answer is found in the question. These questionaires so written are not seeking your opinion; they are telling you what your opinion is and seeking confirmation. The NRA has a lot of company in not only telling you what your opinion is but also in their case diverting attention from their help in money laundering Russian money into Trump’s 2016 campaign with their questionaires designed to make the recipients thereof seem important in preventing gun grabbers from taking their Second Amendment rights away etc. Disgusting!

  18. I heard quoted this weekend, unfortunately without attribution, “if corporations were people, they would be sociopaths “, which is the same as my definition of corporations one rule, make more money regardless of the impact on others. That also describes incidentally Thug One and Thug Two (Putin and Trump), the GOP, and therefore the current Congress.

    In the most polite terms conceivable one could define the NRA simply as an advertising agency. Considering the above though we could also accurately describe them as the propaganda organ for a sociopathic government and their arms industry. Hello Herr Goebbles, head of Nazi Germany’s Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda

    Like Herr Goebbles, Pierre LaPierre is merely a professional serving those who pay him a fortune every year. (Even the visages of Goebbles and LaPierre are striking.)

    All is well in Republicanville.

  19. I have seen a lot lately about this red-head russian spy and the NRA.., but so soon we forget: Steven Segal, the actor martial artist big NRA star was training our special ops people. He became a Russian Citizen about four days before djt was inaugurated – you can still find the photo of vlad glad-handing him and welcoming him as a citizen of the Russian Federation. The Russians, the Israelis, the Germans, Brits, Danes, you name it – they have all contributed SOF’s for NRA training facilities in Idaho, Washington, Arizona (the big one), California, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, .. Ohio – Wyoming – etc., etc., the enemy has been under the gates for a long time – but you can only tell people so many times before you just say- screw it! If you’re that blind go to hell by yourself!

  20. Much to think about in what has been posted today, the ideas and the recommended readings.

    NRA sent us letter asking us to join them just days after our son was shot. So how do people react? Some of us are more revolted than ever by the idea of carrying a gun after a loved one is shot, but others must think “I’ll carry, I’ll swagger, and I’ll outshoot’em.”? Or is “eye for an eye” that deeply imbeded in people’s thinking? Too many Westerns? What is it?

  21. MG – – You ask, “What is it?”

    It’s the freakin’ Second Amendment, perfect for the revolutionary time in which it could only refer to muzzle-loading single shot muskets but lately grossly misinterpreted in favor of a renegade industry and the dollar. Heard of those muskets killing anyone recently?
    Check the constitutions of other civilized nations, especially Israel, constantly in civil conflict, for anything resembling the 13 colonies and their contests with King George’s Red Coats. Very convenient for the NRA and the deadly industry.
    Yes, you ask, what is it?

  22. Watching the original “Star Wars”, I listened to Yoda tell Luke that the Dark Side is FEAR, ANGER AND AGGRESSION. What we hear and see from the NRA is a constant appeal to fear the “other”, to be angry at a perceived loss of entitlement, and to follow the instructions to aggressively safeguard their weapons against that elusive entity, the “government” to protect what they have already surrendered by their allegiance to the cause of the weapons manufacturers and their oligarchic handlers.
    It is also very apparent that a majority in the military and law enforcement are all too enthusiastically supportive of the authoritarian future so apparent in this administration’s actions. Todd is right to understand the threats behind the FB comment.

  23. i live in a red state,and im begining to wonder if by the term,red state,means they would also like to communist,as to demand something.people here,and i mean literally would shit on the constitution,before giving up thier so called gun rights. every conversation with these people here are always framed with hilary,or guns. seriously,do you really expect someone to come on your property,and say give me your guns?….theyd be dead in a second after thier last breath…i like guns,hobby,shooting,home defence,and camping in the rough,with the horses,.seriously,our cats arent domesticated..anyway,when i say,its not gun matters that are going to end your needs,its when corprate america sees you as a threat…now, go,think about that,and you dont need to see how much closer that is over,the goverment… the farmers and ranchers here live on hearsay,false rumors and coffee shop hype..and its a century old. im a realist,and i do occaisionally get into a conversation with them,they dont know me,and im just passing through,but,they do listen…where they go with that,who knows,im sure theres a blue target on my back. though im always to say,im fighting so you can have your freedoms,and give some insight on who you should be talking about. with the farm prices looking bleak,again.just look at the companies like adm,con agra,bayer,etc,see the profits,they are not going your pockets,the ones who do all the work…maybe a simple eye opener is needed. like guns,they will never be controlled,like gasoline,and food,its a way of life.if ya want to change the shootings,try free,no disclosure,mental health,for free. maybe some people will see that as a alternative,over cutting,loose on a crowd. people and guns.just for the record,most of these so called good ol boys,dont believe they should pay a dime in taxes either.. but they damn sure will send that donation to the NRA,over maybe supporting a school or food line…

  24. one more,, back prior to trumps win, the nra had a woman who spoke on a commercial,and that sounded like a anti goverment speal. maybe we should call them out,and make them explain in detail what they really feel about our goverment,in a public forum,and live.with some level headed journalists,and interviewers. hey,bob edwards,,,

  25. To me the Second Amendment pretty clearly applies to militias and the benefits to colonial government of not having to arm them; just depend on the volunteers to come with their own arms. In fact it’s probably the only way that we won the Revolution.

    Any interpretation beyond that is mere speculation but unfortunately there have been enough right wing justices appointed over the years to make the interpretation political rather than strictly Constitutional.

  26. Pete – The Supreme Court got it right in a 1939 case where they found that militia meant militia. That was reversed. Now apparently everyone is in the militia though I, for one, do not remember joining.

    Even stipulating that the Second Amendment means most of what the NRA alleges, the Second Amendment, like any other Amendment, does not automatically trump all other Amendments, as most of America and many attorneys presume.

    In the well of the Supreme Court, attorneys in a gun-control case will argue that considering the established specifics of the case at hand, Amendment X (depending on circumstance, it could be any) supersedes Amendment 2.

    If you read the arguments submitted in other cases before the Supreme Court, you will see that in almost every case in which one side cites the superior application of one Amendment, the other side will cite the superior application of a different Amendment.

    All of the statements above merely prove that every Amendment has its limitations when it pits itself against another Amendment. No Amendment supersedes the other Amendments in every case.

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