On Wednesday, President Obama released his long-awaited gun control proposal, a combination of executive orders and suggestions for legislation that are designed to close background-check loopholes, ban assault weapons, protect schools, and increase access to mental health services. Yet even before the president announced his plan, opponents of gun control were moving into action. On Monday, former Attorney General Edwin Meese became the latest — and highest-profile — public figure to suggest that such unilateral moves could lead to the president’s impeachment.
Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest and most powerful gun lobbying group, was busy releasing a controversial ad that asked viewers, “Are the President’s Kids More Important than Yours?” Drawing a comparison between calls for placing armed guards in public schools and the Secret Service detail tasked with protecting Sasha and Malia Obama, the commercial went on to call the president an “elitist hypocrite.”
The NRA’s ad release was perfectly timed. By noon on Wednesday, when the president announced his proposal, most major news websites were already reporting on the NRA’s response. And, while the ad only ran on the relatively obscure Sportsman Channel, most of the news outlets reporting about it also screened it as part of their stories, which means that it ended up getting seen widely on sites — and in homes — that it normally wouldn’t have reached. (If you’re interested, the ad can be found at the end of this article.)
The ad was extremely disingenuous. After all, unlike most of us, the president received 43,830 death threats between 2008 and 2012 — more than 30 a day. And unlike most of our children, Sasha and Malia Obama have also had death threats leveled at them.
The notion that celebrities and their children are especially vulnerable to attack should be familiar to many members of the NRA’s board of directors. For example, one director — Oliver North — was famously censured for accepting a $13,800 security fence from Iranian-American arms salesman Albert Hakim. Another member, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, had a bomb threat leveled against his office in 2011. Likewise, to NRA directors such as former Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), actor Tom Selleck, and musician Ted Nugent, the notion that well-known public figures require more protection than the average Joe should hardly come as a surprise.
On the other hand, it’s no shock that the NRA isn’t pulling its punches — it has a huge financial stake in the game. In 2010, the organization pulled in $227.8 million. Memberships accounted for about $100 million of its revenue, while contributions and grants — many of which came from gun manufacturers — accounted for a further $71 million.
And the NRA’s leadership also has a lot to lose. In 2010, CEO Wayne LaPierre earned $970,000 a year for his advocacy, making him the second-highest paid person in the company (No. 1 was Kayne B. Robinson, executive director of general operations).
For that matter, the NRA invests a lot to ensuring the support of key politicians. In 2012, it disbursed almost $19 million in political contributions. In fact, it wasn’t so very long ago that even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was courting the group’s support.
With an estimated $4 billion in annual sales, firearm manufacturers can find a lot to worry about in Obama’s Wednesday proposal; in context, it’s hardly surprising that they’re pulling out the big guns when it comes to fighting the White House. But the president’s kids, and the Secret Service detail that protects them, aren’t legitimate targets — they’re non-combatants who belong outside the fight.
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
Tagged: Albert Hakim, Are the Presidents Kids More Important than Yours, Barack Obama, Bruce Watson, Edwin Meese, follow the money, Grover Norquist, gun lobby, gun manufacturers, guns in america, guns in