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The NRA Is Losing Power In Congress — Even With Republicans

Ali Velshi's guest explains the dramatic downturn of the NRA's reach in Congress. But it's still powerful enough to prevent gun reform.

Ali Velshi used great graphics to showcase how over time, the NRA's influence over Democratic Congresspeople has waned drastically. Their influence over Republicans, though, has remained basically the same. Over the course of ten years, between 2008 and 2018, the number of Democrats who got an "A" rating from the NRA dropped from 67 (25%) to 3 (1%). In that same time period, the number of Democrats who got an "F" rating rose from 157 (58%) to 243 (95%).

The NRA ratings for Republicans, on the other hand, remained basically the same over the same ten years. 93% received "A" ratings in 2008, and 96% in 2018. Only 1% received "F" ratings in 2008, and it rose only slightly to 2% in 2018. He asked his guest, Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Giffords Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence, if she could explain those numbers. "What has changed? Have Democrats changed in what they say about guns or has the NRA's rating system changed?"

THOMAS: No, Democrats have changed, Ali. I think what's interesting about some of these results is that when you dig a little deeper you find thatDemocrats that ran election campaigns on a gun safety platform won. And those that didn't in the past of those 67 from 2008, many of them were those that were in the NRA's pocket, or at least when it came to gun issues, were not willing to get out front on this issue. Many are not in office anymore. So some of it has been just the shift amongst the Democratic representatives in the Congress, and some of it is that those in Congress have been willing, maybe in the past they told us they supported the positions but they were nervous to vote on it. That has changed. You know, the NRA's in-fighting and greed and corruption that's been so rampant lately, as well as the fact that the American people have really been more and more demanding on this issue has really changed Democrats' willingness to lead on this.

VELSHI: Let's talk about what those ratings mean. I'm almost as focused on the fact that between 2008 and 2018 for Republicans virtually nothing changed in terms of the support it was getting from -- they were getting from the NRA. What's the effect of the rating and the threat of losing the rating? It seems to not matter that much to Democrats and it seems to matter a great deal to Republicans.

THOMAS: Yes, and I think in some senses it is still a little bit of a wedge issue when it comes to Republican districts, so it used to be the case you'd have all of these Democrats and Republicans wearing these "A-rating" pins. Now most Democrats proudly wear their "F-rating" pins. That's been interesting to witness. I also will note that eight Republicans voted for HR8. So while it ls still very partisan, you do have Republicans now who are coming out in support of gun safety laws and they're doing just fine in the elections, also which is really interesting because it is not just Democrats that are shifting. Actually there are some Republicans who are starting to abandon the NRA's positions as well.

Not a moment too soon. And it doesn't matter HOW many Republicans come around to caring more about the lives of children and others whose lives are destroyed by gun violence. If Mitch McConnell stays in the pocket of the NRA, nothing meaningful legislatively will ever come to the floor of the Senate.

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