So the NRA concealed-carry fashion show in Milwaukee has ended and the boys in Fairfax can get back to doing what they know how they do, which is to convince everyone living in the United States that protection against crime and terrorism is best accomplished by walking around with a gun. The only problem is that if gun sales continue to tank the way they have tanked over the last couple of months, the gun industry might find itself going the way that the print version of the Village Voice went this week. And if nobody’s buying guns, then nobody’s going to join the NRA – so now what to do?
It would be misleading, however, to paint a dire picture of the NRA’s financial strength; in fact, America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ seems to be doing quite well in terms of revenues and cash in the bank. In 2014 they had $310 million in revenues, the number for 2015 was $336 million and they ended their 2015 fiscal with $75 million in the bank. They have 850 people on the organization’s payroll and Wayne-o pulled down over $5 million big ones in salary which isn’t chopped liver even in my way of doing things.
So if anything, the decision to get into fashion and other consumer programs is a logical step for the outfit to take, particularly since for the first time in their entire history, the NRA is being challenged for dominance of Gun-nut Nation not by the forces of evil (a.k.a. tree-hugging liberals, progressives, government do-gooders – all amounts to the same thing) but by another pro-gun organization which makes no secret about the fact that it wants to become a household word for anything and everything having to do with guns.
I’m talking about the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) whose founder, Tim Schmidt, is a true innovator in the field of ‘tribal marketing,’ which is shorthand for getting consumers to buy your products because they feel a special bond to everyone else who’s buying the same crap, and what could be a more special bond than the bond which exists between people who believe they need to walk around with a gun? Schmidt’s organization has had a spectacular growth; his concealed-carry insurance has been so successful that he was booted out of this year’s NRA show, he has now started a national training effort which has USCCA certified trainers in more than 20 states, and daily traffic to his website, according to SimilarWeb, is more than twice as high as the number of people who visit NRA.org.
It can’t just be coincidence that the NRA fashion show was held in Milwaukee, which happens to be in Schmidt’s back yard. From every honest source that I contacted, the show was a rather quiet and hum-drum affair, the Communications Director of the Wisconsin State Anti-Violence group, Anneliese Dickman, told me that social media venues which would usually be blasting pro-gun screeds if the NRA came to town were remarkable silent during the weekend affair. Incidentally, her group, known as WAVE, held a demonstration in front of the Convention Center while the fashion show was going on inside – the WAVE group does a great job of raising community consciousness about gun violence, and if you want to send them a donation, you can do it right here.
I get the impression that the NRA’s Milwaukee show was an effort to test two things: First, they may start producing a series of second-tier, regional shows in various venues throughout the lower 48, if only because many potential gun owners just can’t make the trek across the country to attend the big shindig each year. Second, I also suspect that this show was designed to test whether the new Carry Guard brand will attract merchandisers who want to align their products with the NRA.
The NRA is a tax-exempt 501C(3) organization because it started out as an educational effort. But who’s to say that training women how to carry a gun in their panty-hose isn’t the kind of training we all need today?