The National Rifle Association and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both got serious about politics in 1977. That May, a coup at the NRA led to the installation of a new president who was determined to turn the organization from a sportsmen’s association into a political kingmaker. Five months later, McConnell won his first political contest, becoming the county executive of Louisville, Kentucky.
Over the next 43 years, McConnell and the NRA grew into political institutions—and they did it with help from each other. All told, the NRA has poured $1.3 million into McConnell’s Senate campaigns. The organization also helped him amass power in Congress, spending more than $20 million in 2014 to elect a Republican majority to the Senate, and $50 million more in 2016 to hold that majority and elect Donald Trump. For his part, McConnell has been a loyal foot soldier to the gun lobby, reliably shutting down any attempt to push common-sense gun safety laws through the Senate, even as nearly 40,000 Americans are killed by gun violence every year.
But with the 2020 election just weeks away, both McConnell and the NRA are teetering on the precipice of a steep political fall. FiveThirtyEight now gives Democrats the edge when it comes to winning the Senate. And the future looks even bleaker for the NRA, which is imploding before our eyes. The once-mighty lobbying group is now under investigation by multiple authorities, riven by infighting that makes the 1977 coup look like a game of Uno, and slowly losing support among Republicans politicians. But even as it becomes increasingly clear that both McConnell and the NRA are in serious trouble, the Majority Leader is trying to jam through one last gift to the gun lobby: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.
To put it simply, Judge Barrett would be a dream Supreme Court Justice for the NRA — and a nightmare when it comes to the safety of the American people. Just last year, she wrote an alarming opinion opposing laws to keep guns away from people convicted of serious crimes. In Kanter v. Barr, a man who committed fraud argued that laws prohibiting people convicted of felonies from possessing firearms should not apply to him. Two other Republican-appointed judges rejected his argument, noting that laws to disarm felons are “substantially related to the important government objective of keeping firearms away from those convicted of serious crimes.” But Judge Barrett argued that categorically barring non-violent felons from possessing guns violates the Second Amendment — an approach that no federal court of appeals has adopted. She went on to criticize her fellow judges as treating “the Second Amendment as a