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The NRA’s terror campaign against Congress kicks into high gear

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 4/17/2013, 10:16 a.m.

The NRA’s terror campaign against Congress kicks into high gear

The dust had barely settled on the Senate’s vote to halt the GOP filibuster against the compromise deal on the gun control bill before conservatives began pecking away at it.

The deal was to support background checks for private gun sales, and other lesser gun curb measures. The list of ways that these senators can dither, delay and dodge, always with the goal of killing the bill, is dizzying.

They will make the same endless arguments that the NRA has made for years: that the bill does nothing to stop the carnage on the nation’s city streets or the next lone nut shooter from massacring kids at a school.

Next, they’ll toss every amendment they can think of to gut the bill while at the same time stretching out the time it takes to debate them. To become law, it will take 60 votes, and the longer the clock ticks and the longer the debate lasts will play directly into the hands of the opponents.

There are two other things that will make passage of the bill intact a close call. The first is how the NRA rates senators and congresspersons that buck it. It grades senators and congresspersons from A to F on their vote on gun legislation.

Few, if any, GOP senators in years past have dared to risk bucking the NRA and backing tougher gun control curbs. Since the expiration of the assault weapon ban in 2004, the nearly two dozen bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate to stiffen gun laws have all been defeated. In nearly every case, they did not even make it to the House or Senate floor for a vote.

The second problem is the 2014 mid-term elections. Though the NRA was hazy at first on whether it would give the senators that agreed to the background check compromise a failing grade, or any grade, Heritage Action — the political arm of the Heritage Foundation that opposes the compromise — said that it would grade senators on the legislation.

The NRA now says that it will grade senators on their final vote on the bill. And with a number of GOP congresspersons and senators up for reelection in 2014 — many in conservative strongholds — almost certainly their vote would be a campaign issue against them by a Tea Party-backed challenger. And there will be challenges. To survive the challenge, they would have to spend tons of money, time and energy, assuring one and all that they are not an avid foe of gun owners.

The background check compromise was taken by some as a sign that the NRA’s grip on Congress may be loosening, which may be wishful thinking. The NRA has been wildly successful in browbeating Congress for the past decade through its well-oiled, well-versed labyrinth of PACs, lobbyists, legal counsels, divisions, funds and a foundation.

The NRA has these divisions: Federal Affairs, Public Affairs, Finance, Research and Information, Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources and, most importantly, the NRA Political Victory Fund.