In the key House votes on gun control last week, there was a striking correlation between campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association's political action committee and ballots cast for a bill to weaken federal control of gun sales.
According to data provided by Common Cause, the NRA's PAC spent $1.1 million in the five-year period from 1981 through 1985. Most of this money was in direct contributions to candidates, although some was in the form of "independent expenditures" supporting candidates outside their own campaign organizations.
As passed by the House, the legislation would lift restrictions on the interstate sale of rifles and shotguns, ease record-keeping requirements for gun dealers and restrict federal officials' authority to inspect gun dealers. The legislation would retain prohibitions on the interstate sale of handguns.
The Senate, by a 79-to-15 vote, had already passed similar legislation, and NRA lobbyists indicated that they will press the Senate to accept the House version so there will be no need for a House-Senate conference.
The Common Cause data apply to two votes -- on an amendment sponsored by Rep. William J. Hughes (D-N.J.) and endorsed by numerous police and law enforcement organizations to make the bill more restrictive, which the NRA opposed, and on final passage of the legislation as backed by the NRA. The data showed:
*The average NRA support for the 248 members voting against the Hughes amendment (and therefore backing the NRA) was $4,081 in 1981-85 contributions and independent expenditures. For the 176 members who voted for the Hughes amendment, the average NRA contribution was $433.
*80 percent of those who voted in support of the NRA on the Hughes amendment had received NRA contributions, while 80 percent of those who voted against the NRA had received no NRA financial support.
*The NRA gave a total of $1,066,539 -- an average of $3,652 each -- to the 292 members voting for the bill on final passage. In contrast, the NRA gave a total of $11,614 -- an average of $89 each -- to the 130 opponents of the legislation.