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[Bloomberg / Contributor]

National Rifle Association

Amid National Controversy, the NRA Still Notched a Number of Statewide Victories This Year

The pre-eminent gun rights organization is mired in scandal, but its political influence across the United States remains vast.

Judging by national headlines, the past year has been a rough one for the National Rifle Association. The gun group was outspent by its ideological foes in the 2018 midterms. And in the spring of 2019, reporting by The Trace and other news outlets detailed financial malfeasance by executives, board members, and longtime vendors, prompting a series of new probes by state and federal authorities.

But the cloud of national scandal obscures a series of state-level victories. Legislators in at least nine states passed new NRA-backed gun laws in 2019. Among other developments, the pro-gun legislation passed this year will make it easier for civilians to carry guns in public, encourage schools to rely on more armed law enforcement, and allow for armed teachers in the classroom.

Despite “the shocks that the NRA has endured in the last year,” its “basic grassroots structure is still what it has been,” said Robert Spitzer, a political scientist and gun politics expert at the State University of New York, Cortland. “I don’t see any evidence that structure has been shaken or disrupted in any significant way.”

At Least Nine States Passed NRA-Backed Laws in 2019

Lowered age for

permitless carry

Lowered age for

machine gun sales

South

Dakota

Idaho

Permitless

carry

Ind.

New concealed

carry permit

Kentucky

Expanded protections

for firearms in public

Tennessee

Oklahoma

Ark.

More armed

school security

Texas

Armed

teachers

Fla.

Lowered age for

permitless carry

Lowered age for

machine gun sales

Idaho

S.D.

Permitless

carry

New concealed

carry permit

Ind.

Expanded

protections

for firearms

in public

Ky.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ark.

More armed

school security

Texas

Fla.

Armed

teachers

Lowered age for

permitless carry

Lowered age

for machine

gun sales

Idaho

S.D.

Expanded

protections

for firearms

in public

New

concealed

carry permit

Permitless

carry

Ind.

Ky.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ark.

More

armed

school

security

Texas

Fla.

Armed

teachers

[Daniel Nass]

In Florida, new GOP Governor Ron DeSantis last month signed a law that would allow for teachers who pass special training to be armed in the classroom. While the new law doesn’t require school districts to participate in the expanded armed guardian program  — and many said they would not participate — its passage marked a notable turnaround for a state that saw Republican legislators and officials break en masse with the NRA in the wake of post-Parkland calls for stronger gun laws.

Efforts to bolster armed security similarly found legislative success in Arkansas, which enacted a law paving the way more armed law enforcement in schools, and in Texas, which removed a cap on the number of teachers per school who can act as armed school marshals.

Texas also enacted two bills protecting the rights of gun owners to take their guns onto public property — one pre-empts school districts from restricting guns from cars parked in school lots; the other allows concealed carriers to bring weapons into government buildings. A third NRA-backed bill passed that expanded Texans’ rights to possess guns in rented housing.

In Indiana, state lawmakers lowered the minimum age from 21 to 18 for the sale or transfer of a machine gun, expanded “Stand Your Ground” law legal immunity for self-defense shootings, and created an exemption to bans on guns in K-12 schools when the facilities are hosting a religious service.

South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kentucky all passed “permitless carry” bills that allow residents to carry concealed weapons without any kind of licensing or training. Idaho, which already had a permitless carry law in place, lowered the legal age limit from 21 to 18.

Tennessee, meanwhile, created a new class of concealed carry permit with lower training standards, though it will not allow holders to carry weapons onto college and university campuses.

The NRA nonetheless experienced a handful of defeats in statehouses this year.

Despite the gun group’s slew of victories in Texas, Republicans in the state publicly bucked the NRA when they quietly pushed through a bill authorizing $1 million for a safe-storage campaign.

In Louisiana, legislators failed to pass a law that would have strengthened the state’s pre-emption law by preventing municipalities from restricting guns in businesses and public buildings. And a bill to expand the state’s “Stand your Ground” law to houses of worship was pulled by its sponsor.

And in Missouri, the state Legislature killed bills to allow guns on public transportation and in parked cars.

But the few NRA setbacks were still largely overshadowed by victories.

Allison Anderman, an attorney who tracks state gun legislation for the gun reform organization Giffords, noted that the NRA’s state affiliates may be insulated from turmoil at the top of the organization, and have often influenced policy without spending large amounts of money. That means the NRA’s agenda can still succeed in states, especially those that have long been pro-gun.

“Last year felt different. After Parkland, the gun lobby was halted in its tracks,” said Anderman. But the NRA and its allies “definitely had success this year in terms of pushing signature legislation.”