Gun Control: Campaign Finance and Historical Revisionism

Historical revisionism…describes the process that attempts to rewrite history by downgrading, denying or simply ignoring essential facts.[1]

A recent article in U.S. News & World Report employs two common myths to explain why pro-gun groups allegedly wield too much political power:

Saul Cornell of Ohio State's Second Amendment Research Center, says polls consistently show broad support for gun control. What gives the gun lobby strength, he says, is that supporters see gun control as a make-or-break issue. With that passion comes money. Gun-rights groups contributed nearly 14 times as much as gun-control groups in the 2004 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.[2] [Emphasis added]

Revisiting Reality

Professor Cornell chants the oft-repeated mantra: “polls consistently show broad support for gun control.” A visit to his Second Amendment Research Center (SARC) web site shows it is a gun control organization. One of their main sponsors is the Joyce Foundation, which has a link on the SARC site.[3] At the Joyce Foundation site, clicking on the Grants link on their Gun Violence page displays a roster of Who’s Who in gun control: Violence Policy Center, Handgun-free America, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, etc. Joyce Foundation spent $3,275,616 on gun control research in 2005 alone.[4]

Opinion polls select small numbers of people to survey. Even when phrasing questions in an unbiased manner, we still have sampling error which leads to uncertainty over whether the results are an accurate reflection of reality.[5] To highlight Cornell’s miscalculation, we may refer to the 2004 elections. In Spring 2004, Consumer Federation of America, another Joyce grantee, published a survey finding:

Sixty-seven percent said they favored renewing the [assault weapons] ban, including 57 percent who strongly favor its renewal. A solid majority of gun owners, 56 percent, support renewing the ban, with 45 percent strongly supporting renewal.[6]

If this were an accurate reflection of the will of the American People, we should have seen a landslide election for gun control candidates, as the election occurred after congress and the president allowed the 1994 “Assault Weapons” ban to sunset. Instead, pro-gun candidates won 86% of the 7,000 state legislative races, 9 of 12 gubernatorial elections, and all state Attorneys General races. In congressional races, pro-gun candidates won 96% of the Congressional races, and gained four seats in the Senate.[7] Finally, George Bush, whose Justice Department published a research paper declaring the Second Amendment an individual right, won the presidential election.[8]

The Excuse

According to gun controllers, the reason for such election results is not because the majority of Americans believe in the individual right to keep and bear arms, but because the NRA buys more votes. Biased reporters repeat variations of the companion mantra: “Gun-rights groups contributed nearly 14 times as much as gun-control groups” to campaigns.

Open Secrets, source for the U.S. News article, notes that in 2004, gun control groups donated a total of $95,200,[9] while gun rights groups contributed $1,322,174,[10] nearly 14 times as much. So the gun controllers are telling the truth, as far as they choose to go with it. What they don’t tell us is how much money was contributed by organizations and individuals committed to more gun control.

First place among gun control contributors was an organization called John Kerry for President, which donated $38,563,933 in 2004. Friends of John Kerry chipped in another $1,004,000.[11] John Kerry has consistently voted for gun control laws.[12]

Emily’s List (EL) is ostensibly an organization that supports “electing pro-choice Democratic women to federal, state, and local office.”[13] A reference to gun control consists of praise for a candidate supported by EL who won the Missouri Secretary of State election despite being attacked for “her stance on gay marriage and gun control.”[14] Another reference is for a male Florida candidate who is “rabidly anti-choice and says the only kind of gun control he favors is ‘a steady hand.’”[15] EL donated $3,401,250 in campaign contributions in 2004.[16]

“Friends of Schumer” donated $2,922,504 for Charles Schumer’s reelection campaign. Schumer sponsored S. 645, the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005, to reinstate the failed 1994 ban on certain semi-automatic, non-military, firearms.[17]

George Soros is a big-time gun controller. His Open Society Institute promotes licensing of all U.S. firearms owners and gun registration.[18] Soros donated $23,450,000 to 527 committees in 2004.[19] In addition, the Soros family donated another $531,255 to candidates, Democrat PACs and committees, and 527s in 2004.[20]

Reginald Weaver, current president of The National Education Association, supports more gun control, having praised three top national gun control proponents for their legislative accomplishments:

Thank you Senator Kennedy, Representative McCarthy, and Mrs. [Sarah] Brady. The National Education Association (NEA) commends the sponsors and is proud to offer the support of its 2.4 million members for key provisions of the Children's Gun Violence Prevention Act. [21]

The NEA contributed $2,123,497 in 2004, 91% to Democrats.[22]

At least the U.S. News article was honest enough to identify the intent of recent tort reform, while implying it’s nothing more than special interest politics:

Meanwhile, with little fanfare, National Rifle Association backers in Congress allowed the assault weapons ban to expire in 2004 and last year shielded gun makers from being sued over crimes committed using their products.[23]

Of the 31 senators who voted against this reform, 29 were Democrats.[24] The Center for Responsive Politics shows that those senators voting “Nay” received over $20 million in campaign contributions from attorneys. Of those voting in the House, 140 of the 144 “Nay” votes were cast by Democrats.[25] The “Nay” voters received over $10.6 million from attorneys.[26] Lawyers contributed over $182 million in 2004, $136 million of it going to Democrats, the party heavily in favor of gun control policies such as allowing people to sue manufacturers for a legally-sold, non-defective product subsequently used in criminal acts, in turn bankrupting manufacturers to diminish availability through decreased production and increased cost.[27] This tort reform was opposed by the Brady Campaign, which was also involved in law suits against firearms manufacturers.[28]

Conclusion

This all shows how hundreds of millions of dollars not on the Brady ledger were nevertheless wielded to support Brady’s goals. Of course, there are PACs and other organizations which support the right to keep and bear arms, even though this is not their primary mission. The point here is to highlight that as far as campaign finance is concerned, gun control is alive and well. Organizations may not be publicly identified as gun control proponents, but appellations are transient; actions are all that matter.

Despite biased and uninformed media proclamations, campaign finance is not the reason for gun control’s failure to ignite a national movement. Nevertheless, with hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into every election cycle, neither is gun control going to fade away.



[1] Wikipedia, Historical revisionism (negationism), last modified July 1, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revisionist_history

[2] Will Sullivan, Packing heat on the hill, U.S. News & World Report, July 9, 2006. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/060709/17guns.htm

[3] Second Amendment Research Center, About Us. http://www.secondamendmentcenter.org/about_us.asp

[5] Wikipedia, Opinion Poll: Potential for innacuracy, last modified July 10, 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_poll

[6] Consumer Federation of America. CONSUMERS STRONGLY SUPPORT RENEWING AND STRENGTHENING THE FEDERAL ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN, Survey, pages 1-2. http://www.consumerfed.org/ASSAULTWEAPONSURVEY2004.pdf

[7] National Rifle Association-Political Victory Fund, Victory Report: Election 2004, December 6, 2004. http://www.nrapvf.org/news/article.aspx?id=154

[8] Bradbury, Nielson, Jr., Marshall, WHETHER THE SECOND AMENDMENT SECURES AN INDIVIDUAL RIGHT, US Department of Justice Memorandum, August 24, 2004.http://www.usdoj.gov/olc/secondamendment2.htm

[9] Open Secrets, Gun Control: Long-Term Contributions, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?cycle=2006&ind=Q12

[10] Open Secrets, Gun Rights: Long-Term Contributions, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?cycle=2006&ind=Q13

[11] Open Secrets, Ideology/Single-issue: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.asp?Ind=Q&Cycle=2004

[12] Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: So You Think That John Kerry Supports Gun Rights? October 19, 2004. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=10468

[13] Emily’s List, About–Who We Are, Copyright 2006. http://www.emilyslist.org/about/

[14] Emily’s List, Victory Highlights, Copyright 2006. http://www.emilyslist.org/do/pop/victoryhighlights.html

[15] Emily’s List, Insider News: Week of December 15, 2003, Copyright 2006. http://www.emilyslist.org/happening/insider-news/20031215.html

[16] Open Secrets, Ideology/Single-issue: Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and Parties, The Center for Responsive Politics.

[17] The Library of Congress, S. 645, the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Protection Act of 2005, March 16, 2005. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/D?c109:2:./temp/~c109lPzLXs::

[18] Open Society Institute, Gun Control in the United States, April 2000, page 12. http://www.soros.org/initiatives/justice/articles_publications/publications/gun_report_20000401/GunReport.pdf

[19] Open Secrets, Top Individual Contributors to 527 Committees, 2004 Election Cycle, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527indivs.asp?cycle=2004

[21] National Education Association, Statement of Reginald Weaver, Vice President National Education Association On the Introduction of the Children's Gun Violence Prevention Act of 1998, June, 17, 1998. http://www.aft.org/presscenter/speeches-columns/wws/1999/0799.htm

[22] Open Secrets, National Education Assn, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.asp?ID=D000000064&Name=National+Education+Assn

[23] Will Sullivan, Packing heat on the hill, U.S. News & World Report, July 9, 2006.

[24] S. 397: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress - 1st Session, Vote Number 219, July 29, 2005. http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=109&session=1&vote=00219

[26] Total amounts were compiled into an Excel spreadsheet, using data from The Center for Responsive Politics. Email request for spreadsheet.

[27] Open Secrets, Lawyers/Law Firms: Long-term Contribution Trends, The Center for Responsive Politics. http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?Ind=K01

[28] Howard Nemerov, Gun Control: Rebuttal to Michael Barnes, Brady Campaign. http://www.chronwatch.com/content/contentDisplay.asp?aid=16066