The NRA's Media Strategy: Is It Working?

The effort to ban guns being undertaken by Democrats and President Obama demands a response, and the National Rifle Association isn't lying down on the job. But is the NRA's media strategy working?

For about a week after the horrific murder of 26 school children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the NRA was sensibly--and respectfully--silent over the incident. After allowing a suitable time to go by to grieve, the NRA came out with a few ideas on what to do about guns, one of which was to place armed guards in our nation's schools.

Immediately, the left skewered the NRA for the suggestion, even though the President himself later proposed something similar--and was criticized for it from his own side.

Next, on December 23, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre went on NBC's Meet The Press, and the resulting interview didn't seem to help the NRA's cause much. LaPierre's appearance was widely panned by the whole of the establishment media, but also by some of the center right. 

The most cringe worthy aspect of his Sunday morning show segment was his awkward attempts at humor over this serous topic. When appearing on TV to talk about firearm abuse, one might be best warned not to try and be funny when the senseless murder of children is the topic of discussion.

The NRA followed that initial roll-out of its argument with a video ad calling Obama a hypocrite for using armed guards himself and for sending his children to a school that had armed guards, even as he and his party scoffed at helping to supply America's children with such heightened security.

Once again the leftward media slammed the NRA. Almost to a man, the establishment media attacked the NRA for bringing the President's children into the political debate.

While many on the right thought the ad hit the right note, even some inside the NRA's inner circle thought that the video ad was "ill-advised." Late in January, Jim Baker, the head of the federal affairs division at the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, positioned himself as one that wasn't happy with the ad.

"I don't think it was particularly helpful, that ad," Baker said in a telephone interview with Reuters wire service. "I thought it ill-advised."

"I think the ad could have made a good point, if it talked about the need for increased school security, without making the point using the president's children."

Others on the GOP side of the aisle also spoke out against the ad. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slammed the ad, saying it was "reprehensible" to use the President's kids to make a political point.

"To talk about the president’s children, or any public officer’s children, who have--not by their own choice, but by requirement--to have protection, and to use that somehow to try to make a political point is reprehensible," Christie said.

Since his widely panned appearance on NBC's Meet The Press, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has stepped back a bit, allowing most of the media work to be done by David Keene, the organization's president. It has, however, been announced that LaPierre will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 30th, as that body works toward mark-up on the Democrat's newest gun ban bill.

One thing is sure, no matter what the NRA has done with it's media response, membership is way, way up. Whether the NRA has a successful media campaign or not has not stopped over a quarter of a million of new members from joining the nation's preeminent Second Amendment-supporting organization.

At the very least, the principles and work of the NRA are certainly supported directly by some four million Americans and counting, not to mention millions more that haven't parted with dues money. 

Various polling firms support this observation by finding that even after Sandy Hook, the NRA has not lost its support from the general public. So, the NRA is still in the good graces of most Americans despite its less than effective media campaign.

There have been mistakes made in the NRA's media strategy, a major one of which seems to have been putting Wayne LaPierre up as the group's public face. Perhaps, though, the NRA has done as well as it could when taking into account the fact that the entire Old Media establishment has lined up against it no matter what it does.


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