NRA tactics offer template of how to work for sensible gun legislation, panel members say

photo by: Elvyn Jones

Don Haider-Markel, chairman of the Kansas University political science department, makes a point during a panel discussion on gun rights the Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters hosted at the Lawrence Public Library, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. Also on the stage were (center) Megan Jones, a KU graduate student and member of Kansans Against Campus Carry, and Jeanne Crevier, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

There are opportunities to work for responsible gun legislation through emulating the directed action the National Rifle Association uses so effectively, those attending a Lawrence-Douglas County League of Women Voters gathering were told Tuesday.

The gathering, which included the showing of parts of the film “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA” and a panel discussion on issues addressed in the film, drew about 40 people to the Lawrence Public Library.

In response to a question from the audience about the NRA’s successfully fighting such things as universal background checks that 70 percent of its members support, Don Haider-Markel, chairman of the University of Kansas’ political science department, said that statistic ignored the NRA’s sophisticated mobilization of core members in opposition of any bill restricting gun rights.

“Anytime a bill comes up in any state, they contact their members in that area,” he said. “They are capable of putting a face of the constituency before legislators.”

It’s not about poll numbers, but rather who shows up for hearings, appears in legislators’ offices, makes phone calls and sends emails, Haider-Markel said. Those core members were also more influential than their numbers because they voted in primary elections that draw only from 18 to 20 percent of registered voters, he said.

Those sharing the stage with Haider-Markel said they understood that aspect of the NRA’s success and were ready to mobilize supporters of sensible gun legislation. Megan Jones, a KU graduate student and member of Kansans Against Campus Carry, and Jeanne Crevier, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said their groups will be as present in the Statehouse as the NRA.

“Last year, Moms changed, turned back or defeated 100 bad gun bills in this country,” said Crevier, of Overland Park. “We are putting a face on the constituency. We don’t have the money of the NRA, but we have a lot of moms.”

Crevier, who last week founded a Lawrence chapter of Moms Demand Action, quickly added the organization was open to all parents and “anyone who was once a child or has a child they care about.”

The daughter of an FBI agent who grew up in a home with guns said Moms Demand Action countered the NRA’s effective never-compromise position with strong support of the Second Amendment. Crevier said the organization pointed people to gun shops whose owners offered gun safety or concealed carry classes.

Jones said her group’s goal was to change the state’s concealed carry law before the exemption that keeps firearms off college campuses expires on July 1, 2017.

“We have an election and a legislative session before it goes into effect,” she said. “We want to convince a number of people it’s not a well-thought-out idea. In a Supreme Court decision, (Justice Antonin) Scalia said gun have no place in schools.”

Kansans Against Campus Carry would post the positions of candidates for the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives online before the November general election, Jones said.

In addition to voting in local elections, people could get involved by researching a handful of contests elsewhere in the state and supporting the candidate they favor through donations of volunteer work, Haider-Markel said. ?