How the NRA conquered Washington and abandoned gun owners like me – Chicago Tribune

In the winter of 2008, shortly after the election of Barack Obama, my fiancee and I stopped into a local gun shop in Austin to buy ammunition for target practice, a hobby we enjoyed once or twice a month. Though we hadn’t asked, the clerk behind the counter told us that all the AR- and AK-style rifles were back-ordered. We could get on the waitlist, he offered, but the delay might be a couple of months — “if it’s still even legal to buy one then.”

Eight years later, gun rights in America appear not only to have survived the Obama administration but to have thrived. Gun sales broke records almost every year of the past eight. As president, Obama signed legislation allowing guns onto Amtrak trains and into national parks, where they were previously prohibited, and his executive orders after the Sandy Hook massacre had no perceptible effect on most gun owners. Then we elected Donald Trump — a long-shot candidate who earned an endorsement from the National Rifle Association before he had even consolidated the support of his own political party. In April, Trump became the first sitting U.S. president since Ronald Reagan to address the NRA’s annual meeting. He told the cheering crowd that he was their “true friend and champion in the White House” and proclaimed that “the eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms” was over.

Perhaps the NRA shouldn’t have cheered. For years, the gun lobby has built its narrative around the idea that powerful forces in government are conspiring to ban and confiscate privately owned guns. That premise drove gun owners to sporting-goods stores as well as to the polls. Trump’s election, coinciding with conservative majorities in both houses of Congress and on the Supreme Court, has tanked gun sales and undermined the

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