Robocalls, in which an automated service sends recorded messages to the phones of certain families, can be a sophisticated means for politicians and advocacy groups to target particular citizens for votes or support. The National Rifle Association is scrambling to curb any restrictions on gun purchases in the wake of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and it has every right to use robocalls to advance its cause.
But when the NRA began ringing the phones of families in the very same Newtown, announcing an “urgent legislative alert” about efforts to restrict “your gun rights,” the tactic seemed to show the extent of the NRA’s bullying extremism — and its insensitivity. The failure to scrub the numbers of Newtown residents from the call list suggests a lack of courtesy, if not decency.
But having sensitivity to any concern except the advancement of gun ownership isn’t the NRA’s way. It has targeted Democrats and Republican lawmakers alike, hoping to delay gun control bills. Meanwhile, much of what remains of the “Connecticut effect” (the NRA’s term for the swell of support for gun restrictions after the mass shooting) has been slipping away. The Connecticut robocalls, which were aimed at rallying voters against a state legislator who was pushing a gun-control measure, were typical of the NRA’s hardball tactics.
When confronted with complaints by Newtown residents and the parents of slain children, the organization fell back on the platitude that it is merely providing a “service” for members and supporters. Many who received the calls were neither, suggesting that the NRA either made a big mistake, doesn’t understand technology, or, perhaps, knew exactly what it was doing. The NRA spares no one in pursuit of its goals, not even the friends and neighbors of slain children.