I'm sure you're as disappointed as I am over the outcome of the presidential race last November. The reelection of President Obama will confront us with a host of new and ongoing challenges. But despite that, gun owners should be proud of a strong NRA campaign that spanned federal, state and local elections and will help to protect gun rights for years to come.
The NRA effort for this election was staggering. It combined cutting-edge technology with the classic grassroots tactics we're known for. This election cycle, the NRA contacted voters with 50 million mailers and phone calls. Added to this were television and radio ads targeted at key groups of voters, and 320 million online ads. And we hired 25 full-time campaign workers in 13 key states to work with local activists on state and federal races.
There were some notable disappointments on election night — starting at the top of the ballot — but it's important to remember that as a nonpartisan organization, we don't measure our success by the success of a particular party. The hard work of NRA-led activists also helped to retain strong pro-Second Amendment majorities in the House and Senate that will stand as a bulwark against the anti-gun plans of the Obama administration. In the U.S. Senate, gun owners helped elect pro-gun newcomers Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Deb Fischer, R-Neb. and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. NRA members also helped reelect several stalwart allies, such as John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
As for state ballots, an NRA-led campaign in Louisiana secured the passage of the nation's strongest state constitutional amendment protecting our right to bear arms. And in Idaho, Kentucky and Nebraska, citizens passed meaningful constitutional amendments enshrining their right to hunt and fish.
Even the presidential race showed how we've made progress in just the last 12 years. While anti-gun politicians haven't changed their goals, they've had to change how they market themselves to the public.
The change is stark. At a campaign event during the 2000 presidential race, Democratic nominee Al Gore openly spoke of his intent to enact "a national requirement that every state issue photo licenses for anyone who wants to buy a handgun." Careful to avoid Gore's fate, Sen. John Kerry in 2004 staged absurd photo ops to show him shooting and hunting. While the Obama team didn't go that far in 2008 and 2012, they did their best to hide their candidate's anti-gun attitudes. Despite complaints from anti-gun editorial writers that gun control was a "missing issue," Obama only addressed it when directly confronted with a question from the audience in the second presidential debate, elaborating on his desire to ban common semi-automatic firearms and hinting at new restrictions on handguns.
None of this is to say the opponents of our Second Amendment rights aren't still dangerous — they are. But their efforts to conceal their agenda show that we've made significant advances in the cause of liberty. When anti-gun politicians are afraid that gun owners will hold them accountable at the ballot box, that's what I call progress.
However, Barack Obama will never again be held accountable that way, so this year's outcome will require gun owners to be every bit as vigilant as they were during the worst of the Clinton presidency. Obama's intention to push a new semi-automatic ban is clear, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. has already sent her staff to meet with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to start drafting the legislation. And of course, over the past four years, the Obama administration has shown a willingness to sidestep Congress to enact gun control, by conducting an unauthorized registration scheme in southwest border states, pushing a ban on imports of popular shotguns, and showing a willingness to let the U.N. move forward with a global treaty that threatens our rights.
With gun owners facing these threats, the next four years will require constant vigilance and dedication. All of us at the NRA are grateful for your support during the 2012 election. Now, we look forward to working with you to meet the challenges ahead.
Chris W. Cox is the Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action and serves as the organization's chief lobbyist. Please give your support to NRA-ILA today.