Few groups this side of the now-moribund Moral Majority seem to excite as much ire and hatred among liberals as the National Rifle Association. Most Americans feel otherwise. In a Gallup poll released last week, the NRA received a 54 percent favorable rating. By comparison, as of this writing, the Real Clear Politics average of President Barack Obama’s approval rating stands at 53.4 percent. For Congress, the figure is an abysmal 18 percent. In other words: The NRA is as popular as the president, and three times as popular as Congress.
The Democrats, who read polls very well, have no doubt come to see that the firearms issue offers less political advantage than they’d hoped. In a Pew Research Center poll taken two weeks ago, respondents were asked if either party “could do a better job reflecting your views about gun control.” Twenty-seven percent said the Republicans could; 28 percent said the Democrats could. The same poll asked about the influence of the National Rifle Association on policy. Some 36 percent said the NRA had too much influence, and 47 percent said the group had the right amount or too little.
These numbers suggest that directing hatred and invective toward either the NRA or the gun owners it represents is not, to say the least, a winning strategy. Nor should it ever be: In a democracy, invective is not a proper form of political argument.
There is a reasoned case to be made for reducing access to certain firearms, as there is a reasoned case to be made for many a controversial policy. But we don’t live in a reasonable era. We live in an era of fury and invective, of applause lines and slogans.