For years the gun violence prevention (GVP) community has lamented the fact that they do not have the strength or the financial muscle to compete with the NRA. And even with Mayor Mike’s help, pardon the pun but too often people who want to see an end to gun violence find themselves organizationally outgunned. But all of a sudden the boys in Fairfax are finding themselves challenged by the growth of another pro-gun organization which looks at gun ownership from a very different point of view.
I’m referring to the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) which started out as nothing other than an internet sales gimmick known as ‘tribal marketing’ which generates revenue by attracting (and retaining) consumers to internet sites; the idea being that the longer someone remains connected to a website, the more crap they will purchase from that site. And the trick is to make your web visitors feel that they have some special identity or interest which sets them apart from everyone else. And if you can find a single group of Americans who feel more special than the people who actually believe that they need to carry a gun around, let me know.
Like every other pro-gun sales organization, the USCCA got started by attaching itself to the NRA. They had a booth at the annual NRA show, they used slogans about concealed-carry that were right out of the Fairfax playbook, and their basic product, CCW insurance, also copied a long-time NRA tradition of offering its membership with financial services that would protect their guns.
But the one area in which the USCCA could not compete with the NRA was the area in which the NRA has always ruled supreme, namely, the training area. After all, the NRA was founded as a training organization, currently has more than 125,000 trainers certified and enrolled on its books, and has developed training courses which most states use as the required training curriculum either for getting a gun license or qualifying for LTC.
The degree to which the NRA has always held sway in gun training, however, is now being challenged by the USCCA. Not only does the USCCA hold an annual Concealed Carry Expo, whose exhibitor list contains the same lineup of gun and accessory companies which display their wares at the annual NRA show, but Tim Schmidt’s group was booted out of this year’s NRA show so that America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ could unveil their newest insurance product, a real scam deal known as Carry Guard, without having to compete with the USCCA.
Where the USCCA also appears to be placing itself directly in a competitive situation with the NRA, however, is over the issue of training, where Schmidt and his organization are developing a national training initiative which is an exact copy of the NRA’s training network, including a process for certifying trainers that the NRA has been using for years. Right now it appears that USCCA is running, at best, about 10% the number of training classes that the NRA runs each month, but they do have classes listed in more than 20 states which isn’t a bad start.
What I find most significant about the USCCA’s growth, however, is that it seems to be happening without the crazy drift into rhetorical looniness which now characterizes the public face of the NRA. No astoundingly stupid, insultingly ignorant rants from Dana Loesch, no conspiracy theories from Wayne-o which, by comparison make Alex Jones appear calm. The USCCA’s message about ‘protecting loved ones’ is nothing more than hype, but at least it’s hype which stays within the bounds of rhetorical decency and good taste.
The USCCA says its training program sets an ‘industry standard’ but the truth is there is no training ‘industry’ nor is there any accepted ‘standard’ for gun training at all. Because this would require that gun groups take the one step they are afraid to take, namely, to advocate required training for anyone who wants to walk around with a gun.