President Obama, meanwhile, is the best friend the NRAFri Apr 13, 2012 16:1218.104.22.168President Obama, meanwhile, is the best friend the NRA has ever had. While they portray him as a constant and ominous liberal threat, the president has in reality been an ostensible ally. During his first two years in office, Obama signed laws that brought guns into national parks and Amtrak trains, while resisting attempts to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban or curb the extended clips used in the Arizona rampage that nearly killed Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
Nevertheless, Obama has been lucrative boogeyman for the NRA. In 2008, the NRA distributed literature claiming then-Senator Obama would "close down 90 percent of the gun shops in America" and "increase federal taxes on guns and ammunition by 500 percent." These claims helped raise tens of millions in membership dues and led to a run on guns and ammunition that lasted well into 2009. When the administration disappointed gun-control advocates and weapon-hoarders alike, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre said that the president's inaction was all part of a long term plot to outlaw guns in his second term.
This weekend in St. Louis, LaPierre will herd the faithful through this valley again. On Friday, Romney will be joined by prominent conservatives including Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at the "Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum." But judging by the week New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had, the fight to define "American Values" as they relate to handguns won't be over anytime soon.
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The killing of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, an unarmed black teen who was shot in the chest by a self-styled neighborhood watch vigilante, has put the NRA in the familiar and awkward position of promoting an assertive gun culture at a time of mounting outrage over the easy prevalence of guns for anyone who wants one and laws that make it easier than ever to use them. The case brought particular scrutiny to so-called "Stand Your Ground" laws, broad self-defense measures that have passed in some form in 25 states with NRA backing since 2005. Florida's especially permissive law has been cited as the primary reason that Zimmerman eluded criminal charges for six weeks following the incident.
But through it all, the gun business has been going gangbusters. Smith and Wesson shares are up 125 percent over last year, and the 160-year-old company's stock hit a new 52-week high in early April. In late March, after it received a million orders in the first financial quarter, rival gun-maker Sturm Ruger announced it was refusing any new orders until it could catch up with demand. (Ruger stock is up 112 percent over 2011 and hit an all-time high after the announcement.) According to a Business Week report, overall handgun production has more than doubled in the past decade.
The NRA not only benefits from the booming handgun business, but like its merchants-of-death alcohol and tobacco brethren, it also lobbies to pass laws that boost sales in the industry on which it relies. The organization's Institute for Legislative Affairs successfully lobbied to help bring an end to the Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 2004, and, in 2005, it pushed for the passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a law that shielded gun makers from liability suits. Ruger CEO Mike Fifer said the law "is probably the only reason we have a U.S. firearms industry anymore."