In fact, Cornin offered some rather unvarnished comments Wednesday about the National Arms Association – comments that represent a significant and unusual rebuke to the nation’s leading arms group by a leading Republican senator.
Speaking to reporters about the bill, Cornin stressed that the NRA has been thoroughly consulted. But he said the group would never join almost anything because of its “business model”.
“We worked with the National Revenue Agency, we listened to their concerns, but in the end I think they just have membership and a business model that will not allow them to support all kinds legislation, “Cornin said.
He added: “So I understand where they come from, but I don’t think most people will allow any outside group to veto good public policy.”
Republicans are not usually talking about the NRA.
The consequence of Cornin’s comments – especially the part on the “business model” – is that the issue may not be a matter of principled political differences, but of fundraising and the political strength of the NRA. Proponents of the Republican bill believe the NRA is quite amenable to the bill, but ultimately opposed the bill because it could not be seen as supportive, which could even be interpreted as “arms control.” (Indeed, the bill stops much of what Democrats wanted – such as banning weapons of attack or waiving the firearms industry’s immunity from lawsuits – and even Toomey-Manchin’s failed proposal a decade ago.)
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Of course, this posture has been obvious for a long time; The NRA has made it very clear that it views virtually any new arms restrictions – as modest as the current ones – as a slippery slope. And he strongly opposed almost everything except the brief suggestion in 2018 that he could pass red flag laws after a shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida.
But overall, you don’t see Republican politicians saying that outright.
The comments drew praise from Fred Gutenberg, the parent of one of Parkland’s victims. He thanked Cornin for “telling the truth” about the NRA.
“We worked with the National Revenue Agency, we listened to their concerns, but in the end they have a membership and a business model that will NOT allow them to support any legislation. thanks @JohnCornyn to tell the truth. pic.twitter.com/z8VfSpjfES
– Fred Gutenberg (@fred_guttenberg) June 23, 2022
The comments are particularly significant given Cornin’s rise in the Republican Party. A former Republican Senate leader, he is considered a possible successor to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell also supports the bipartisan agreement, but he has already received the top job and there are no real signs that he will be displaced, despite Trump’s efforts. And Cornin has more to lose by alienating a group like the NRA. His rivals to succeed McConnell, Senator John Tun (RS.D.) and John Baraso (R-Wyo.), Both oppose the bill, which is certainly the easiest political call for an ambitious Republican.
There are very few examples of Republicans sticking their noses at the NRA in recent years. As President, Trump has repeatedly suggested that he could oppose the group, both after Parkland and in early 2019. At one point, he told GOP senators in their faces that they were “scared” and even “petrified.” from the NRA and added: “They have great power over you people; they have less power over me. “But he did nothing to support these harsh words. In fact, although he then expressed support for the red flag laws, he is now attacking the current bill to simply provide funding to encourage states to adopt the policies he once supported.
This is relatively appropriate for Trump, whose principles have always been very flexible. And no matter how much he protested otherwise, he has always been very sensitive to anything that could potentially alienate the right wing or groups that have power over him.
Cornin’s comments on the dynamics of political power and the NRA are less direct, but no less significant, given that they are supported by actions that provoke the group. And they will become more significant if other Republicans – 14 other GOP senators back the bill – muster the courage to talk about the organically hurt group even in a similar way.
We should not count on this, but they have already shown more desire to oppose the NRA than ever before in recent memory.