Summary: The gun ban lobby includes not just a few groups like the Brady Center but also the mainstream media as a whole. Its preferred tactics are to use misleading terms and to ignore the actual facts of gun control’s failure.
The massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, this past December hit home like few other tragedies. Yet again a lunatic commits mass murder, this time slaughtering our most vulnerable and most cherished: our children. Words cannot express the bottomless grief one feels at the mere thought of such loss. Sandy Hook rightfully shook our sensibilities and forced us to reassess what we believe about ourselves and America. Why is this happening? we ask.
As usual, before police cordoned off the crime scene, the Left had its answer ready: not enough gun control. Left-wingers repeated their old refrain: America can no longer defend its “gun culture,” which is responsible for this tragedy, and we must have a national “dialogue” on guns.
In fact, we have been having a “dialogue” about guns for decades, and it has been very one-sided. The Left has often received what it asked for, starting with the 1968 Gun Control Act, the 1993 Brady Law (until the courts found parts of it unconstitutional), and a so-called federal “assault weapons” ban on semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines from 1994 to 2004. Yet none of this has affected gun crime or prevented any massacres. The Centers for Disease Control, a federal agency widely seen as favoring gun control, produced a major study in 2003 that admitted, “The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.”
Prior to the 1968 Gun Control Act, few controls existed on privately owned firearms, with the exception of machine guns—that is, guns that keep firing as long as you hold the trigger—which have been strictly regulated since 1934 under the National Firearms Act. Even children could order rifles through the mail with parental permission. Yet firearms crimes were less frequent, as were the mass shootings that seem to be a regular feature in the news these days.
Activists on the Left don’t really want a dialogue. They want a total ban on guns in private hands, but they rarely admit that. Instead, they mask the issue with misleading language, selective statistics, and a campaign to vilify their political opponents.
On the gun control issue, only a few small activist groups dedicate their work to banning guns. Here is the list, with the most recent available annual revenues shown on their IRS tax returns:
American Hunters and Shooters Association (2011 revenues $5,000)
Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence (2010 revenues $3 million) and its 501(c)(4) affiliate, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (2010 revenues $2.9 million)
Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (2010 revenues $309,000)
Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (2010 revenues $249,000)
Legal Community Against Violence (a.k.a Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; 2010 revenues $978,000)
Mayors Against Illegal Guns Action Fund (2010 revenues $2.7 million)
Stop Handgun Violence (co-founded the American Hunters and Shooters Association in 2005; 2012 revenues $143,000)
Third Way (formerly Americans for Gun Safety Foundation; 2010 revenues $7.5 million)
Violence Policy Center (2010 revenues $832,000)
United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund (affiliated with Mayors Against Illegal Guns; 2010 revenues $1.3 million)
The best known gun control groups are the Brady Center and the Violence Policy Center (VPC). VPC receives most of its funding from the Joyce Foundation ($6.3 million since 1998) on whose board Obama used to serve; George Soros’ Open Society Institute ($800,000 since 1999); and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($575,000 since 1999). The Brady Center receives much of its funding from small donors. FoundationSearch only reveals modest payments from foundations. From 2008 to 2011 the largest donation, $34,000, came from the Ladner Family Foundation. By contrast, the Brady Center’s last tax return says $2.7 million of its $3 million revenues were raised with the help of a professional consultant that specializes in online and direct mail fundraising (the Brady Center paid the consultant $96,000). In the same year, the group’s (c)(4) affiliate, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, paid the same consultant $99,000 to bring in $2.8 million of its $2.9 million revenues.
Altogether these 10 groups provided less than $20 million to the gun control cause in 2010, a trifle compared with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which lists 2010 revenues of $228 million. To the uninformed this appears to be a David versus Goliath struggle, the little good guys versus the big, bad old NRA, and that’s the way the Left likes it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Conservative groups often focus on one or a few issues like abortion, taxes, excessive regulations, immigration, or guns, and rarely unite behind other causes. Conversely, the Left should be understood as a single amorphous organism. Like a giant amoeba, one segment may move one way and a second another, but the whole organism moves slowly forward as one. While leftist groups may identify themselves with one issue, most work together on…