Wednesday night on "The Rachel Maddow Show," host Rachel Maddow discussed how, in spite of all of the organization's noise and bluster, the NRA's political clout appears to be on the wane.
She began by discussing the political phenomenon of "low-hanging fruit," the kinds of things that everyone is pretty much in favor of. For a time, gun buy-back programs seemed like they might be that kind of thing.
"These gun buy-backs are a simple idea," she said, "if you've got a gun that you don't want, a buy-back program gives you a chance to get rid of it in a way that is safe and orderly and legal and calm." The programs have been sponsored by city governments and by church and neighborhood groups, and have proven very successful. Thousands of surplus guns have been taken off the streets and kept out of the hands of criminals and minors.
In political terms, they're an all-around winner, she said, because there's no new law, no coercion involved. The practice is completely on a volunteer basis.
Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, buy-back programs have seen unprecedented turnouts in cities like Camden, NJ and Los Angeles.
On Wednesday, however, on the second anniversary of the mass shooting that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded and 6 people dead, the city police in Tucson, AZ held a gun buy-back that was requested by a Republican lawmaker.
"This is the definition of low-hanging fruit, right?" Maddow asked, what could be less controversial?
The NRA doesn't think so. NPR reported that Todd Rathner, an Arizona lobbyist and high-ranking member of the NRA, is saying that he will sue the city of Tucson to keep them from destroying the surrendered guns.
Maddow said that Rathner and the NRA are insisting that "no matter what the owners of those guns want done with them, they should be sold to the highest bidder and put back into circulation."
She called the move "cartoonishly insensitive and cartoonishly villainous" and said that such a move begs for another political cliche, the jumping of the shark.
"This is the sort of thing that might make sense internally to the NRA when they talk amongst themselves about this issue, but the rest of the country? Where people are really not picking a fight," she said, "but looking for problem-solving, non-confrontational ways to help each other out?" It doesn't make sense.
The NRA, she said, has cultivated about itself an air of invincibility, a mystique that holds that the organization is politically too all-powerful and untouchable to be defied. The intent of which is, Maddow said, to convince anyone who might want to propose new gun laws of any kind "that it just cannot be done."
"We're supposed to be enthralled by that mystique," she said. "The Beltway press is enthralled with that mystique."
That invincibility may be a myth. She pointed to the study by the Sunlight Foundation that analyzed the amount of money spent in the 2012 election to see whose spending was most effective at electing their officials and getting the most "bang for their buck."
"It was really bad on the right," she said. For the $65 million the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) spent, it only saw 32 percent of its candidates win their elections, for example. "Two-to-one, their money was spent on losing."
Freedomworks and the National Republican Senate Committee had even worse returns, spending their money at a 3-to-one losing ratio. The big "marquee failure" the year was Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which was "profoundly ineffective. They spent over a hundred million dollar in the last election and zero of the candidates they wanted to win actually won. Zero."
That gave Rove's group a less than 2 percent return on its investment, with only two of the candidates they were out to defeat actually losing their elections. Ninety-eight percent of the money they laid out in 2012 was wasted.
"But even Karl Rove's massively ineffectual spending on the last campaign looks positively impressive, positively robust," she said, "compared to the right wing group that did worst of all."
That group was the NRA. By the Sunlight Foundation's metric, the NRA's $11 million investment in the 2012 election yielded a .83 percent return. Less than 1 percent of their money went to support candidates who won or to oppose candidates who lost.
"That is demonstrable, empirical impotence," Maddow said. These are the people we're supposed to be so afraid of challenging.
And all of that, she pointed out, was before the group's disastrous response to Newtown, which is leading the group "outside the realm of relevance."
At this point, she said to the NRA, "You are not to be taken seriously while the adults are talking."
The once feared and respected group, she said, is making a mockery of itself, and while group will be in the room on Friday when Vice President Joe Biden convenes his gun safety task force, it will no longer be dominating the conversation.
Around the country, public officials like California Rep. Mike Thompson (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) are opening the dialog about common sense gun safety measures that can make communities safer.
Cuomo got a big boost from a group of bipartisan prosecutors in his state, who said that they support the governor's plans. Increasingly around the country, public officials and legislators are feeling more comfortable defying the conventional wisdom that opposing the NRA is doomed to failure.
"The only people saying that this cannot be done, that we can not reform our gun laws are the NRA and the people who believe what the NRA has to say about itself," Maddow concluded.
Watch the video, embedded via MSNBC, below: