The National Rifle Association, the nation's largest and most powerful gun-rights group, is still viewed in a positive light by most Americans. In a Gallup poll released on Thursday, 54 percent of those surveyed have a "favorable" view of the organization.
Although the NRA has been the subject of intense debate over the last two decades, they have been viewed favorably my most Americans during that time. The organization's low point came in 1995 when they dipped to a 42 percent favorable rating before bouncing back to a high of 60 percent in 2005.
But among the 45 percent of Americans who report having a gun in their household, 71 percent of those surveyed give a favorable rating to the group. And when broken down among political lines, the favorable numbers are 83 percent among Republicans, 53 percent among Democrats and 36 percent among Democrats.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in mid-December, Democrat lawmakers such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) immediately began talking about banning what are known as assault weapons, a move that the NRA fought against for decades.
Feinstein was successful in her efforts to pass a 10-year assault weapons ban in 1994. However, independent studies demonstrated the ban had little effect on preventing gun violence.
The Columbine School shootings in Colorado that killed 13 took place in the middle of that ban.
Interestingly, one immediate impact of Feinstein's new assault weapons ban has been a sudden increase in gun and ammunition sales throughout the country.
For example, gun dealers in Virginia requested nearly 5,150 background checks eight days following the Dec. 14 shootings in Newtown, Conn. It was the largest number ever requested in a single day in Virginia. In neighboring Maryland, state officials are reporting they have received 8,200 gun permit applications in December, doubling the number of requests received in June this year.
"I've never seen shelves so bare in stores that weren't going out of business," John Pierce, co-founder of the Virginia-based gun rights networking hub OpenCarry.org told Newsday. "It's really shocking."
The NRA has endured further criticism in recent weeks when they remained silent for over a week before their CEO, Wayne LaPierre, came forward to offer support for a program to place an armed officer in every school in the nation.
LaPierre's press conference happened in the mid-point of the Gallup poll that was conducted between Dec. 19-22 of 1,038 randomly selected adults. The poll's margin of error is +/- 4 percent.