What to Expect from the Gun Lobbies

AS A SWELLING chorus of voices rises in support of stricter gun laws, it’s helpful to know what it’s up against.  The pro-gun lobby in Washington has spent over $15 million in lobbying expenditures since 2010, which dwarfs the anti-gun lobby by a degree of 22.  In other words, the pro-gun lobby is 2200% the strength of the anti-gun lobby, and can spit out 66-years-worth of anti-gun lobby expenditures in just three years.  (These terms, pro-gun and anti-gun, are used for brevity’s sake and should not betray any bias on the part of your humble blogger).

But better predictors of how vigorously these lobbies will spend in the wake of last week’s tragedy are in the numbers from 1999 and 2007, the years of the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings respectively.  In 1999, the pro-gun lobby spent just over $8 million (in current dollars), which is about 150% the amount it spent in 2010.  In the same year, the anti-gun lobby spent roughly $1.2 milli

on, which is over 400% its 2010 number.

In 2007, however, the pro-gun lobby spent only (if that’s the word) $4.4 million, while the anti-gun lobby put in $217,405: both well under 2010 expenditures.  The difference in spending between the two years can be rooted in a variety of factors – Columbine arguably kindled a more vehement public response than Virginia Tech; Republicans controlled Congress in ’99 whereas Democrats had it in ’07 – none free from the charge of speculation.

There thus remain only two unequivocal patterns that can be expected to persist: the pro-gun lobby’s consistent outspending of its rival, and the NRA’s inordinate contribution to this phenomenon.  Besides this, anything can happen.

Data are from the Center for Responsive Politics and the much-needed guidance of a four-function calculator.  See also POLITICO's recent assessment of the gun-rights lobby.     


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