The Best Way to Stop a Bad Gun Lobbyist Is With a Good Gun Lobbyist
The Newtown tragedy has led to calls from across the political spectrum for a real dialogue about how to curb gun violence. But one group thinks it is so big and so strong it doesn’t even have to discuss common-sense laws regulating guns.
The National Rifle Association this week unleashed its lobbyists on Capitol Hill to deliver their singular message: no new gun laws. The NRA is a textbook example of a nonprofit organization making maximum use of the power of advocacy.
But those who feel we can’t tolerate one gun massacre after another, those who are tired of substituting makeshift memorials and candlelight vigils for real action, are learning how to fight back, taking advantage of the same nonprofit advocacy rights used by the NRA itself. The Christian Science Monitor calls them a “dream team” of gun-safety advocates, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Fighting fire with fire, they are joining more established groups in mobilizing the power of nonprofit advocacy to reduce the chances of another Newtown.
Many of these groups are organized under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code—as is the NRA. So their fight teaches another lesson: In spite of some questionable use of the (c)(4) status by some groups during the recent election, these nonprofit advocates are important players in the policy debates at the heart of our democratic process. Certainly, 501(c)(4) groups are in a better position to challenge the NRA’s famously effective political operation than are charities, which are classified under Section 501(c)(3) and can devote only a small part of their activities to lobbying.