The power of the NRA — in two charts

March 20, 2013

The all-but-certain death of the proposed assault weapons ban is widely regarded as the latest in a string of legislative victories for the National Rifle Association.

The ban's chief sponsor, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), singled out the NRA Tuesday when she responded to the fate of her proposal: “The enemies on this are very powerful; I’ve known that all my life."

Another demonstration of the far-reaching influence of the gun lobby surfaced Tuesday in a new report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, that explores how the NRA has successfully convinced supportive lawmakers to amend appropriations bills with subtle changes in how the Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives track the flow of firearms.

As the report says:

"Appropriations bills are intended to allocate funding to government agencies to ensure that they are capable of fulfilling their missions and performing essential functions. But the gun riders directed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, do exactly the opposite and instead impede the agency’s ability to function and interfere with law-enforcement efforts to curb gun-related crime by creating policy roadblocks in service to the gun lobby. As a group, the riders have limited how ATF can collect and share information to detect illegal gun trafficking, how it can regulate firearms sellers, and how it partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies."

Agree or disagree with CAP's conclusions -- and remember that it does have a clear partisan bent --  there are two charts within the report, "Blindfolded, and with One Hand Tied Behind the Back," that help make its argument.

Here's the first chart:


Image courtesy of the Center for American Progress

The NRA has lobbied lawmakers to include language in appropriations bills that would bar the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health from spending federal dollars to “advocate or promote gun control," according to the report. As the chart above demonstrates, such funding has dropped significantly since the early 1990s.

This second chart chronicles 15 specific "riders" inserted into appropriations bills that CAP believes impedes the ability of DOJ and ATF to track firearms:

As Philip Rucker and I reported Tuesday, the NRA defends its push for riders, noting that many organizations and industries similarly push to have riders added to appropriations bills.

“Given rules and regulations and congressional laws, we have to work within that framework to address it,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arula­nandam.

Or, as Richard Feldman, a former NRA lobbyist who now leads the Independent Firearm Owners Association, put it: “There are lots of ways of skinning cats. It’s an old game on Capitol Hill. There are lots of ways for sophisticated professionals to play the game.”

Read the full CAP report here and share thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Juliet Eilperin | March 20, 2013