The NRA’s Charm Offensive

Whenever mass shootings happen in America—something that has become all too familiar in this country—we wait to see how the NRA will respond.

Compare the NRA’s response to Sandy Hook with their response to the most recent mass school shooting at Stoneman Douglas and you get two very different stories.

Following the shooting at Sandy Hook the NRA remained quiet for about a week. Wayne Lapierre pointed this out proudly a week later when he stated, “Out of respect for the families and until the facts are known, the NRA has refrained from comment.” He then went on to defend the NRA’s work and the NRA crept back into keeping their own base energized.

But something changed this time around. This time, while the NRA did wait a week to respond publicly, it brought it’s message to the broader public, playing offense and not defense. As the Washington Post’s headline a week after the shooting stated, “NRA Goes on the Offensive After Parkland Shooting, Assailing Media and Calling for More Armed School Security.”

In addition to criticizing law enforcement for failing to identify that telltale signs of a mass killer, NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch joined a CNN Town Hall to sympathize with the victims and to lay out the NRA’s approach to gun rights and gun control in the country.

Why the sudden change in tactic and was this a successful move by the NRA?

For one thing, the response by the public to this mass shooting has been nothing like we have seen in the past. CNN pointed out that a week after the shooting, the tragedy was still in the headlines, something which has not happened in the past. Students have been organizing protests and meeting with lawmakers to finally change the country’s gun laws. If the NRA were to stay in the shadows, there would be little to no hope of any successful counterpressure for the gun lobby.

But there is another reason why the NRA went on the offensive this time around. Three weeks prior to the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas, the New York Times ran a feature titled, “The NRA’s Telegenic Warrior.” The article was about Loesch, who joined the CNN Town Hall and received raving reviews from both sides on her demeanor and composition throughout the Town Hall. You see, the NRA finally has a powerful yet pleasant voice to get their message across and likely feels they can lose some of their redneck image. Even the New York Times gave Loesch positive coverage. In the past they may not have felt safe taking their message to the public, but with Loesch they do.

Even those with a negative impression of the NRA can see the talent Loesch brings to the table. Eli Schwartzblatt, a politically engaged YU student watched Loesch at the town hall with skepticism. However following the completion of the moving event he noted, “sending Dana Loesch was a brilliant and bold move. I think Dana’s presence put a compassionate human face behind an organization that was being compared to ISIS.”

The question remains whether Loesch’s charisma can turn the tide and paint the NRA in a different light in the media and to the American public. If these shootings continue, the organization may need to hire a few more Loesches.