I have been reluctant to join my many friends in Gun-control Nation who have been exulting in the possible demise of the NRA because as a long-time member (I joined America’s ‘first civil rights-organization’ in 1955) I see the gun group from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, it has become a major political and PR force, using its money and influence to maintain a very public presence in and out of the government-lobbying ‘swamp’ in Washington, D.C. On the other hand, it continues to be an important social and cultural grass-roots circle for gun owners and gun enthusiasts (read: hobbyists) in hundreds of local communities throughout the fifty states.
On the political front, I always thought the NRA‘s decision to get into bed with Sleazy Don was a mistake. By cozying up to him so early in the 2016 campaign, the NRA was hitching its wagon to someone who was going to force them not only to support a very radical messaging narrative, but also require a complete and abrupt messaging turnaround from the previous eight years. The NRA was always comfortable demonizing liberals like Obama, but how do you maintain even a shred of credibility when you try to justify the AR-15’s that the dopes were carrying at Charlottesville, particularly the dopes representing the Nazis and the KKK?
Of course the NRA was going to endorse Trump, they always endorse the Republican candidate, but the endorsement has usually been near the end of the Presidential campaign when it doesn’t really count for all that much. This time around, it was almost as if the NRA‘s ad agency, Ackerman-McQueen, was actually working for the Trump campaign, given the extreme messaging of noisemakers like Dana Loesch who, it turns out, was an employee of the ad agency and not, as it was claimed, working for the NRA.
Meanwhile, the attempt by NRA to become a media presence through its video channel, NRA-TV, appears to be collapsing alongside the crumbling of the organization itself. Since February, monthly visits to the website have dropped from 370,000 to 200,000, with the decline since the April meeting a startling 35 percent! There is simply no way that this trend can continue much longer without severe repercussions for both Ackerman-McQueen and the NRA.
On the other hand, the less-noticed but more fundamental activity of the NRA continues to grow and expand. I am referring to the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any lessening of interest and activity on the weekend gun show circuit, with estimates for yearly shows running between 2,000 and 5,000 events, each of which usually attracts at least 5,000 gun nuts who will stroll past the NRA booth which is present at just about every show. Between now and mid-October, Friends of the NRA will be holding 8 social events just within 70 miles of where I live. If I lived in Baltimore, MD I could easily get to 10 weekend NRA events over the same three months. In Georgia, I can go to five events just in July and August alone. At every event there’s some good bar-b-que to eat, a gun raffle, you sit around and shoot the you-know-what with your gun nut friends.
When it comes to this kind of activity, Gun-control Nation can’t begin to compete with the NRA. And this isn’t just a function of a long-time organizing effort, it also reflects the degree to which many gun owners define their social behavior around their ownership of guns.
What seems to have happened over the last several years is a clear disconnect between the behavior of the NRA as defined by the leadership of the home office, as opposed to the way the organization relates to its membership in the field. Not to worry, because If the current fight between the NRA and its ad agency results in the collapse of the Fairfax operation, somebody will figure out how to capture and maintain the enthusiasm of all us nuts who really love our guns.