This Slate article on the NRA is quite good, though I couldn’t help thinking of the scene in Lawrence of Arabia when Anthony Quayle’s character rhetorically says “Britain is great–and why?”, and Omar Sharif’s character snaps back “Because it has guns!” I think that, on a visceral level, the fact that we all know they have powerful weapons makes the NRA get more attention than other special interest groups. I also think that having all these weapons gives the NRA members some sense of cowboy bravado–makes them feel cocky and arrogant.
Watch this video from Glenn Beck’s site, The Blaze of the NRA Convention:
Now, you may disagree, but I see people who are profoundly into a hobby, which always looks weird to an outsider whatever the hobby; but when you add (a) that it’s politicized and (b) that we’re talking about deadly weapons here, you start to feel that this ain’t stamp collecting. Nobody ever used stamps to attack anyone, and nobody ever worries that the President is going to take his stamps away.
People in any hobby are usually full of passionate intensity about said hobby. Gamers act just as “weird”–to the layman–about their games as the NRA people do about their guns. (And true, the two groups do often overlap.) But it’s just that when you throw in the lethality factor, it gets to be more troubling and politically sensitive.
Whenever the NRA comes up, there’s always a lot of talk about the Second Amendment, which states:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
There is some controversy as to whether “keep and bear arms” means simply “own guns” or “take up arms as part of a military unit”. The evidence I have seen leads me to suspect the Second Amendment is alluding to the latter, and that the Amendment is only a convenient shield for gun enthusiasts. I think more than anything else the “gun-rights” issue is more of a symbolic proxy war between the city-dwelling cosmopolitan liberals and the rural, nationalist conservatives.