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The NRA has weakened. But gun rights drive the GOP more than ever.

GOP politicians are taking more-uncompromising positions on guns even as lawsuits and infighting have dragged down the flagship gun lobby.

Nearly a decade ago, the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension for a full week, as conservative politicians waited to hear from the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, before taking a stand.

This week, after another rampage, at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers didn’t wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures.

Travis Ridout.

“The NRA is not a big player when it comes to spending on political advertising, but guns are still an issue that a lot of candidates are talking about,” said Travis Ridout, a politics professor at Washington State University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political ads. “A lot of it is by virtue of being pictured with a gun, and that sends a message that the candidate is not hostile to gun rights.”

In another sign of how the party has moved since the Newtown massacre, the baseless claim spread by Alex Jones that the shooting was staged has turned into a knee-jerk response for some Republican elected officials after new mass shootings. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, before she was elected to Congress, endorsed a false claim that the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., was staged, leading the House to remove her from her committee assignments. On the day of the vote last year, Greene acknowledged school shootings were “absolutely real.”

This month, the Arizona state Senate opened an ethics investigation into Sen. Wendy Rogers for a social media post that falsely suggested the May 14 mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, which authorities have said was motivated by the gunman’s white-supremacist beliefs, was done by a federal agent. Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday tweeted and then deleted false information blaming the Texas shooting on a “transsexual leftist illegal alien.”

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The Washington Post