As you know, President Obama has called for a series of eminently sensible gun control measures in the wake of the Arizona massacre. He called for the standardizing and streamlining of our national background check system, and didn’t even raise the possibility of a ban on the sort of high-capacity magazine that likely maximized the carnage in the Arazona shooting, because it’s a nonstarter with the “gun rights” crowd. The Obama administration is requesting meetings with stakeholders on all sides of the gun control debate in hopes of reaching an agreement on how to reform the system to prevent further massacres.
Wayne La Pierre, the president of the National Rifle Association, is rebuffing this request. But as Ben Armbruster notes, this is despite the fact that La Pierre and Obama actually agree on much of the substance of the issue, which the NRA is working hard to obscure:
So why is Wayne LaPierre misrepresenting Obama’s views and rejecting his olive branch? Since everyone seems to agree on a path forward, the answer seems to be quite clear: money and self-preservation. Since President Obama took office, the NRA has benefited significantly in increased membership, due primarily to baseless and unfounded fears actively promoted by NRA officials, supporters and sympathizers, that Obama wants to eliminate the Second Amendment and take away everyone’s guns.
The NRA tells its members not to believe Obama when he says he supports the Second Amendment. It’s no wonder then that rank-and-file NRA members think Obama wants to “get rid of all the guns,” “has no respect for the country,” is “an idiot,” and “anti-American.”
Behold the limits of the perpetual search for “common ground.” If you go back to the original Op ed piece Obama wrote, you’ll see that he bent way over backward to vouch for the gun rights of law abiding Americans, repeatedly reiterated that the Second Amendment protects the rights to bear arms, and he sternly told gun rights advocates that they “need to accept” that the vast majority of gun owners are “our friends and neighbors.” But none of this is good enough for the NRA — because, as Armbruster notes, it’s in the NRA’s interest not to find common ground with Obama.
Obama and his political advisers have clearly determined that the best way to win back independents — and to win reelection — is for him to be seen to be reaching out to hostile parties for compromise, even if it means getting rebuffed. They very well may be right about this. And this has long been a hallmark of Obama’s approach — he has always projected faith in the idea that the best way to achieve change is to find common ground with opponents and proceed outward from there. But in this case the moral is clear: You can’t find common ground with folks when it’s actively in their interests not to find common ground with you.