The NRA is Missing an Opportunity to Control Gun Debate

Nathan L. Gonzales May 9, 2013 · 3:04 PM EDT

The National Rifle Association has an opportunity to claim the mantle of public support in the gun control debate, and it would cost the group only a few thousand dollars in a meaningless race in Missouri to do it.

State House Speaker Pro Tem Jason Smith (R) is heavily favored to win the June 4 special election in the 8th District in a race that has been ignored by the national media because of district leans Republican.

But that shouldn’t prevent the NRA and gun-rights advocates from spending money on Smith’s behalf and then amplifying, exaggerating and misinterpreting his victory.

After all, that’s the blueprint provided by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

As Stu wrote at the end of February, the strategy is to “pick a fight in a place where you have a substantial advantage and where almost nobody else is playing, dump a ton of money attacking one candidate and supporting another, and then declare victory when — surprise! surprise! — your candidate wins.”

Bloomberg’s super PAC dumped $2.5 million in the special Democratic primary in Illinois 2nd District. The group dramatically outspent all other players in the race. He controlled the narrative of a tiny congressional primary in a Democratic district (President Barack Obama received 81 percent in 2012) and yet claimed a national victory.

Bloomberg called the result “the latest sign that voters across the country are demanding change from their representatives in Washington — not business as usual. As Congress considers the President’s gun package, voters in Illinois have sent a clear message: we need common sense gun legislation now. Now it’s up to Washington to act.”

According to Vice President Joe Biden "voters sent a clear and unequivocal signal" that the conversation has shifted after the Illinois primary results.

“"The voters sent a message last night, not just to the NRA but to politicians all around the country by electing Robin Kelly," he said after the primary, "The message is there will be a moral price and a political price for inaction."

Missouri is easy pickings for the NRA to do the same thing, but in reverse. It could run some ads against universal background checks, support the Republican candidate in a district where President Barack Obama received 32 percent and 38 percent in the last two presidential elections, and then claim the conversation has shifted.