The Moment the NRA Decided to Embrace the Culture Wars

The Moment the NRA Decided to Embrace the Culture Wars

At 5:30 a.m. one morning in early 2013, soon after a gunman in Sandy Hook killed 26 people, National Rifle Association lobbyist Abra Belke was woken up by a phone call. She was shocked to hear a U.S. senator on the line angrily shouting, “Why would you do this?” The lawmaker was Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from a red state, saying she had just been put in an impossible situation by the NRA. The subject of the call was an ad produced by the NRA’s public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, which had targeted President Obama’s daughters: “Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the narrator asked. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? … He’s just another elitist hypocrite.” NRA HQ had released the spot without telling their lobbyists about it first. The ad, and the personal nature of it, did not go over well even among the NRA’s allies on Capitol Hill. The NRA had gone after the president’s children, and members of Congress were furious. The next person to call was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Every NRA lobbyist got calls of this type in the days that followed. The ad was another example of the tension between the NRA’s messaging strategists at Ackerman McQueen, and the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA), the NRA’s lobbying arm. While the lobbyists were on the Hill trying to make deals, Ack-Mac and NRA […]

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