Is It Time To Start A New Gun-Rights Organization?

Our friends at Media Matters have posted a pretty good summary of the financial/management problems at the NRA, even though the situation could change tomorrow and what we thought yesterday no longer holds. But the bottom line is that some of the recent disclosures on Wayne-o’s spending habits in Beverly Hills could not only cost him his job, but result in the loss of the organizations’ tax-exempt status as well.  And if it turns out that there was a conscious effort to disguise personal expenditures as business expenses, and if this effort resulted in a conscious mis-statement of IRA filings by either the NRA or its PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen, someone could be going to jail.

So let’s pretend that Wayne-o copied Paul Manafort and spent thousands of dollars on various baubles at the Zegna boutique on Rodeo Drive. And let’s further pretend that the NRA covered these purchases, and others, by billing the receipts to Ackerman-McQueen. And then let’s take the next step and pretend that Ackerman-McQueen billed these costs to the NRA as a business expense and the NRA paid the bills out of tax-exempt funds. And let’s not forget that NRA President, Carolyn Meadows, has gone on record as denying that anything untoward has happened at all. If all of this flim-flam turns out to be true, and you can read a good summary in a column on Rolling Stone, America’s gun owners may be forced to look for a new organizational home to call their own.

Well you say, that’s no problem. After all, according to our friends at the Hopkins-Bloomberg school, overwhelming majorities of gun owners support some gun restrictions, including universal background checks, higher standards for concealed-carry licensing, red flag laws and stricter controls over dealer operations. So why not form a new organization that will continue to support 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ while at the same time, advancing ‘reasonable’ restrictions on guns?

And just to keep Gun-nut Nation happy, the new NRA will continue to hold its annual jamboree as well as sponsor even more grass-roots events.  Right now there are 31 NRA events scheduled in Florida between now and October 1st. South Carolina has 10 events coming up, California has 38!

Just imagine if all these events were sponsored by a new gun-owners organization which would give you a full rack of ribs, two corn-on-the-cob and cherry pie for free, because Mike Bloomberg is happy to pay for the dinner of any gun owner who signs a pledge that he’s in favor of comprehensive background checks?

There’s only one little problem with this fantasy. It’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because advocacy movements that make a real difference have to be led by the people who will be affected most by the laws that are going to be changed.  The civil rights movement was successful because it was led by African-Americans beginning with Martin Luther King. The gay rights movement became a potent force for gender equality when gay men and gay women felt strong enough to stand up and declare their true sexual orientation for all to see.

The problem with the movement which seeks to reduce gun violence is that new gun regulations, no matter how ‘reasonable,’ won’t really make a dime’s worth of difference to the lives of most gun-control advocates, for the simple fact that they don’t own guns. So why would they care if I want to give one of my guns to my son but he and I have to drive 30 miles to a gun shop to do a background check?

But wait a minute. I thought most gun owners also favor comprehensive background checks. That’s true. But you know what other ‘reasonable’ law gets the approval of most gun owners? A law that would let them carry a handgun in all 50 states. And I guarantee you that no gun owner will join any gun ‘rights’ organization whose agenda is determined only by folks who don’t own guns.

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Think The NRA Will Change Direction? Think Again.

              Poor Wayne-o.  Here’s a guy who has spent his entire lifetime working tirelessly and endlessly for America’s gun owners and what does he get for all his efforts? He gets a drop-dead piece in Rolling Stone which has to signal the beginning of the end. My advice, incidentally, to my friends in Gun-control Nation who want to kiss LaPierre bye-bye, is that they quiet down. The last thing the boys in Fairfax would consider doing is making a management change which appears to be in response to demands from what I’ll politely call the ‘other side.’ 

              But let’s assume that Wayne-o’s tenure comes to an end. Let’s assume that the NRA Board cleans house, gets its financial affairs in order (not that any government agency has yet to charge the NRA with any illegal activity at all) comes up with a new leadership team, issues the usual ‘we can and will do better’ encomiums and goes about its way. Would any or all of those measures really change the nature or the outcome of the gun debate?  In other words, would Wayne-o’s disappearance result in a kindler and gentler NRA?

              By the way, as far as I’m concerned, the dirt being shoveled in Wayne-o’s face is nothing more than payback, given how the NRA has insulted, demonized and threatened folks who have been leading the campaign for reducing violence caused by guns. When Colorado voted to repeal comprehensive background checks in 2015, you would have thought the issue was whether Mike Bloomberg was coming to live in the Centennial State, with PSA‘s making it clear that this Jewboy needed to stay away. Shannon Watts continues to attract her share of insulting and threatening comments from NRA noisemakers like those jerk-offs Grant Stinchfield and Dana Loesch.

              On the other hand, the fact that the NRA has been trying to posture itself as a self-appointed public voice for the alt-right doesn’t mean that anything would change for the better if Wayne-o took his $5-million retirement package and disappeared. If anything, the defense of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ could become even more belligerent and more extreme.

              The NRA likes to describe itself as America’s first line of 2nd-Amendment defense, but in reality the organization is primarily focused on the South because that’s where the guns happen to be. The current Board leadership (Meadows, Childress) are both Southerners, of the 76 total Board members, 32 are from Confederate states. Visit the next annual NRA meeting and you’ll quickly realize that you may walking theough a large convention center, but you’re actually inside a big revival tent.

              The NRA counts on support from three groups. One group are gun owners who aren’t actually members, but consider gun ownership to be some kind of necessary ‘right.’ Then there are NRA members whose membership is force of habit but nothing much more. Finally and most important are the hard-core members, the folks who go to local gun events, talk up the 2nd Amendment until someone tells them to shut up, send an email to a public official or a nasty comment to me. That’s the organization’s base – that’s the core..

              Whatever happens in Fairfax, the NRA can’t afford to alienate its hard core. If anything, they need to bind their most rabid supporters as close as they can. Because what the NRA may start to lose in numbers can perhaps be made up with more noise. Which is why I don’t see the NRA becoming more ‘reasonable’ if they jettison Wayne-o, tear up their agreement with the PR firm that produces those lunatic messages for NRA-TV, and goes back to being primarily concerned with hunting and outdoor sports.

              If anything, I see the NRA becoming even more extreme, more intolerant, more unwilling to admit that maybe, just maybe, the notion that we should become a nation of gun-carrying patriots is a relic of the past. It’s a lot easier to change direction when you have enough support that it doesn’t matter if a few folks drop off here or there. But if, all of a sudden, every dime counts, you’re not about to do anything that would jeopardize the mother lode.

Guess Who Wins When It’s MOMS Versus The NRA.

              Who does Gun-nut nation fear more than anyone else? Who is the one person who represents Armageddon when it comes to all those beloved gun ‘rights?’ It’s not Hillary, it’s not Bloomie, it’s not those twenty-odd Presidential wannabes vying for the attention of blue-team donors like me.

              It’s a little lady from Indiana named Shannon Watts, whose organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, represents a real threat to the nonsensical narratives about the role of guns in American society peddled by various pro-gun noisemakers and their friends on the alt-right.

              This gang of fools launched an organized assault on Shannon last week, which started after Shannon posted a tweet criticizing the NRA‘s announcement that they would continue to fight against regulations that ban ‘armor-piercing’ ammunition since, according to America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ all centerfire ammunition will pierce ‘soft’ body armor. As soon as Shannon’s post went up (and btw, the NRA‘s statement about the lethality of ‘all’ centerfire rifle ammunition is totally and completely full of sh*t) the boys in Fairfax responded with posts on Instagram, telling their supporters to send negative comments to Shannon. This resulted in a flurry of threats, insults and profanity which has become the staple of how the alt-right deals with anything that even remotely smacks of gun control.

              Once the semi-literates who flock to Instagram started going after Shannon, the big boys and girls on the alt-right weighed in with more. Breitbart got in on the act, so did Townhall. And just to makes sure that the alt-right audience wouldn’t miss a trick, the NRA named Shannon as ‘Bloomberg’s chief lobbyist.’ Why not try to kill two birds for the price of one, right?

              Not that Shannon has ever been anything other than a pain in the you-know-what to Wayne-o and the rest of the NRA gang, but I suspect that maybe, just maybe, her tweet about armor-piercing ammunition may have given the boys from Fairfax exactly the issue they needed to avoid discussing another threat to the organization’s leadership which has just cropped up. I am referring to a pile of documents anonymously leaked to the internet, which are letters sent to the NRA Counsel, raising questions about payments made to a law firm, as well as expenses run up by Wayne-o himself while allegedly engaged in travel activities for the NRA

Most of the latter charges were for clothing bought at a clothing boutique, Ermenegildo Zegna, where a polo shirt can run as much as $495 bucks.  Right. A short-sleeve polo shirt.  Since 2004, Wayne-o has run up $275,000 in charges at the Zegna store in Beverly Hills, including a $21,000 charge in February, 2017.  All of these charges were billed to (and paid by) the PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen. No wonder the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen are now battling each other in court.

Maybe there’s an innocent explanation for why Wayne-o has run up wardrobe costs which outstrip anything Sarah Palin did in 2008. On the other hand, if he used his Ackerman-McQueen account to hide purchases for personal items which were then covered by invoices paid by NRA to the PR firm, someone’s going to jail. Using tax-exempt dollars to pay for goods or services not directly related to the tax-exempt entity’s approved affairs happens to be fraud. And $275,000 ain’t chopped liver, even in my book.

Getting back to our friend Shannon, there may be a more innocent reason why she’s getting blasted again by the NRA. Go to the MOMS website and type:  https://momsdemandaction.org/take-action/.  Then go to the ‘Attend’ link, put in your zip  code and see what comes up. Now go to the NRA website and type: https://explore.nra.org/interests/events-and-entertainment/.  Then click around and look for ‘friends of NRA‘ events in the same code. I guarantee you’ll find more grass-roots events sponsored by MOMS. I did it for Maryland – NRA has three upcoming events, MOMS has nine.

Know why the NRA hates Shannon and her gals? Because MOMS is now a true,  grass-roots organization in every sense of the word.

Right on Shannon, right on.

Daily Comment: Socialism Vs. Freedom NRA-Style.

I normally don’t post a Friday column, but today the golf course is just too wet. Plus, I wanted to get this up here before it becomes stale.

All the week the media had a grand time covering the so-called collapse of the NRA, given the leadership contretemps that emerged during the 2019 meeting at Indy. Front and center to those stories was the relationship between the boys in Fairfax and their long-time advertising agency, Ackerman-McQueen, which appears to have been double or maybe triple-billing for producing NRA-TV.

I suspect that most of the readers of my website have never watched NRA-TV. For that reason, and as a public service, here’s the latest NRA-TV production featuring the ‘relentless’ Dana Loesch. Dana got started as a spieler for Glenn Beck’s network before it went bust. She then moved to NRA-TV. She competes with some other, alt-right female spielers like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, both of whom, along with Dana, try to outdo each other in terms of throwing insulting commentary at the liberal ‘elie,’ and never appear in front of a camera without a little chain around their necks displaying their Christian-identity cross.

Lately, the NRA-TV website makes a point of making sure that the title of every segment contains the word ‘socialism,’ as in how the Left, or the Democrats, or whatever you want to call the enemy of God-fearing Americans represents an international, Socialist threat. And how do these spielers define socialism? Simple. It’s any politician who wants to take away your guns.

The decision to frame 2020 as a contest between America’s new greatness and the dangers of socialism hasn’t been finalized yet, although Schumck-o Don has been running it up the flagpole here and there. But this theme has clearly become the centerpost for gun-rights groups like the NRA, who have been warning of the dangers of a Socialist state whenever any kind of gun-control narrative rears its ugly head.

Remember how Ben Carson knew for ‘a fact’ that disarming the Jews in Germany resulted in the Holocaust? You can read the same argument in a book published by an NRA attorney, Stephen Holbrook, who happens to be a very nice guy, even though he’s totally misinformed.

Having grown up during the 1950’s, when there was a Red under every bed, I find this new appeal to the dangers of socialism to be rather quaint. After all, it’s not as if anyone has yet to suggest that we should protect ourselves from the socialist menace by re-instituting loyalty oaths or the Blacklist. Speaking of the Blacklist, I just finished reading Stefan Kanfer’s remarkable book, Journal of the Plague Year. You might want to try it out.

I simply can’t believe that even the NRA would stoop so low as to put its name alongside a commentary by Dana Loesch which is so completely stupid, filled with obvious mistakes and goes beyond anything even remotely connected to the truth. If this is what Gun-nut Nation is going to promote as an attempt to capture the 2020 vote, the last thing my friends in Gun-control Nation should do is to try and shut the NRA down.

It’s Time To Stop Talking To Ourselves.

              Here’s the takeaway from last week.  The NRA dumped Ollie North, who turned out to be a very good fundraiser for himself, and replaced him with a woman best known for her involvement with a group which preserves a Confederate memorial that graces the side of a mountain considered sacred ground by the Ku Klux Klan. On the other side of the ledger, the House Appropriations Committee put $50 million for gun research into the  budget of the CDC. 

              In the greater scheme of things, neither of these two events will make a big difference in how we try to deal with the 300 intentional gun injuries that we suffer from each day. But they do symbolize, to quote a Nobel-prize winner, as something ‘blowing in the wind,’ and the wind seems to be getting a lot stronger every day. Maggie Astor got it right yesterday in the ‘failing’ (ha-ha) New York Times, when she said that the national gun-control movement has now built “an infrastructure that had previously existed only on the conservative side of gun policy.”

              I see evidence of this infrastructure in terms of the number of fundraising emails I receive (and I get them from both sides), in terms of media coverage where outlets like The New York Times now seem to carry a feature about guns and gun violence seemingly every other day, and most of all, I see it in the pronouncements by the 20-odd candidates who have announced their intention to chase schmuck-o Don out of Washington, D.C. Just four years ago, conventional wisdom still considered it to be a big risk if you ran for public office and were anti-gun. That bit of received sagacity has disappeared. Fartig (read: finished.)

              Before you read further, let me make one point. My perspective on gun control and gun violence doesn’t date back to Sandy Hook and 2012. It doesn’t date back to 1999 and Columbine or 1994 and the Assault Weapons Ban. It dates back to 1966 when Chuckie Whitman climbed to the top of the Texas Tower and began blasting away. That’s when I first started paying attention to gun violence, okay? So when I say that we are in a very new and different state of affairs as regarding what to do about America’s love of guns (including my love of them) I’m taking the long view, probably longer than any of you. And my long view tells me this.

              Sooner or later, if you want to make a real dent in gun violence, the gun-control community is going to have to start talking to gun owners not as enemies but as friends. And this doesn’t mean just coming up with some ‘reasonable’ gun laws which allegedly garner support from both sides in the debate. What it really mean is talking to gun owners about why the ‘good guy with the gun’ narrative is a myth.

             So here’s my challenge to my friends in Gun-control Nation. There are somewhere between 2,000 and 4,000 gun shows held in the United States every year. This means that on any given weekend, there are probably 100 locations where 5,000 to 10,000 bone-fide gun nuts get together to play around with guns. I’m going to a nearby show next weekend, in fact. Here’s a calendar of upcoming shows.

              I am willing to pay the costs of renting a table at one gun show a month for the next 12 months. I’ll send a check to the show’s sponsor which will be in the name of the gun shop that I own. And then you come to the show, sit behind the table, maybe give out some literature or whatever, and engage the gun owners who attend the show in a discussion about their guns.

              I don’t care what you say. I don’t care which organization you represent. Or maybe you’ll just represent yourself. Fine with me. But let’s stop talking just to ourselves, okay? Let’s see what happens when we talk to the other side. And by the way, I have been to hundreds of gun shows and the food is always great.

North Vs. LaPierre.

              Now that the NRA has decamped from Indianapolis with LaPierre still standing and Oliver North down for the ten-count, let’s try and figure out what really took place. Because I’m sorry to say., but most of the reportage about the big battle at the annual meeting didn’t get it all wrong, but did miss some of the most important points.

              On the second day of the confab, a letter from North was read to the membership in which the NRA President informed the faithful that he was going to resign. Later at that same meeting, Wayne-o delivered his standard ‘us’ versus ‘them’ speech (patriots versus gun-grabbers) and didn’t even bother to thank the newly-retired President for his service or time. Because the Democrats haven’t yet decided who is going to run against sleazy Don in the 2020 electoral campaign, he rambled on about Andy Cuomo’s hatred of the NRA.

              The big deal got started when The New Yorker magazine published a detailed article by our friend Mike Spies, which went into details about how the organization’s finances were in tatters because of some sweetheart contracts between the boys in Fairfax and their long-time PR agency, Ackerman-McQueen.  The title of the piece, ‘Secrecy, Self-Dealing and Greed at the NRA’ set off a media wave which then set off a nasty exchange between Ollie and LaPierre, which ultimately resulted in North announcing that the NRA Board would not sanction another Presidential term, so goodbye.

              Two days before the Spies article appeared, The New York Times published what I thought was a much more significant article describing  a just-filed lawsuit against Ackerman-McQueen by none other than the NRA! This suit, which you can download here, claimed that the two parties had been negotiating for almost a year, discussions which centered around the behavior and compensation of Oliver North, who has evidently been double-dipping salaries from both the NRA and the PR agency, a clear violation of not-for-profit regulations in New York State (which is where the NRA has been registered since 1871.)

              North was hired by the NRA precisely to help the organization recover from the deficit it ran by giving sleazy Don $30 million or more for his 2016 campaign. In fact, the 2016 operating deficit of $45 million was cut to $17 million in 2017, despite the fact that revenues also declined by some $25 mil. You may recall that North ran for Senate against Chuck Robb in 1994.  He lost the race but set a single-year record for direct-mail donations of $16 million bucks. He has remained a prodigious fundraiser for various right-wing causes ever since, and no doubt his efforts in this respect are what pushed him into the President’s position of the NRA.

              If you read the lawsuit between NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, particularly Section D, you’ll discover that North has, indeed, made good use of his fundraising abilities, largely for himself.  It appears that as an Ackerman-McQueen employee, North may have not only oversold the value of his name, but didn’t even deliver the content to NRA-TV that was going to generate more cash both from sponsors and fans. 

              The boys from Fairfax have made some dumb business decisions over the last several years, chief among them moving from face-to-face to digital training with the accompanying Carry Guard insurance scam. Both of these programs have weakened the organization’s membership base, but anyone who thinks that or hopes that the NRA is now facing Armageddon doesn’t know how to read the tea leaves.

              I’ve said it in previous columns but I’ll say it again. The NRA‘s existence reflects the fact that a clear majority of Americans, including non-gun owning Americans, believe that owning a gun for self-defense is more of a benefit than a risk. And it really doesn’t matter that the evidence proves exactly the reverse. Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation figure out a convincing argument in response to this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, we will remain enamored of those little pieces of polymer which fit neatly in the pocket and hold 16 rounds,

It’s Time To Stop Worrying About The NRA.

Now that the NRA is about to celebrate the importance of gun ‘rights,’ in Indianapolis, it’s not by accident that an energized Gun-control Nation has started throwing as much dirt as possible at America’s ‘defender of freedom,’ or ‘America’s first civil rights organization,’ or whatever the boys from Fairfax are calling themselves these days.

It wasn’t that long ago that the annual NRA meeting attracted almost no attention at all. However, if you’re a gun-control advocacy group, it’s become almost de rigueur to jump on the bandwagon and energize your membership by revealing yet another scandal that can be laid at the feet of the NRA.

The piece written by Mike Spies concerning various financial flimflamming by Wayne-0 and his friends has been ballyhooed all over the place, but in terms of serious financial violations, it doesn’t really amount to a row of beans. The fact that Everytown has sent a letter to the IRS claiming that the tax-exempt status of the organization needs to be reviewed is also, to quote my beloved grandmother, hai cock and a bubba, which means it doesn’t mean anything at all.

In that regard, my friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) have joined the parade by issuing a report, “Guns, Lies and Fear, Exposing the NRA’s Messaging Playbook,” which claims that the way the NRA promotes gun ‘rights’ is no different from the “authoritarian and undemocratic political regimes around the world that deploy disinformation campaigns to secure control over public discourse,” strategies employed by, among others, Erdogan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary and Putin in what we used to call the U.S.S.R.

The demagogue communication playbook now being used by the NRA consists, among other things, of constructing an ‘us versus them’ political identity, creating an atmosphere of crisis, controlling media and vilifying the opposition. So by dint of gun owners versus gun grabbers, the ‘slippery slope,’ the NRA-TV videos and the demonization of every office-holder who doesn’t parrot the NRA line, Wayne-o now takes his place alongside some of the worst, most anti-democratic political drek-meisters floating around these days.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. Despite the fact that I have been an NRA member since 1955 and currently hold the membership status of Life Patriot Benefactor which means I get multiple fund-raising emails from Fairfax every day, if I were to receive a letter from Wayne-o tomorrow telling me the NRA is kaput, I couldn’t care less. I’ll always be a gun nut, I’ll always enjoy going to a gun show or wandering into a gun shop, and if I could drive to the NRA show in less than 10 hours, I’d be there this coming weekend because the show’s a lot of fun. But I have made it clear again and again and again and again that the NRA‘s promotion of armed, self-defense is simply wrong and has no basis either in logic, safety or effective self-defense. For that matter, this whole notion that our Constitutional freedoms rest on the 2nd Amendment has about as much basis in reality as my decision this morning to go back on my diet.

That being said, I also have to say that the CAP report comparing Wayne-o to some tin-horn politicians in various banana, goulash or halvah republics is simply nothing but crap. The only reason the NRA is considered such a formidable political lobby is because until Sandy Hook, when it came to lobbying for or against guns, they were the only game in town. The so-called demagogue playbook which CAP believes has been used so effectively by the NRA, actually reads exactly like the messaging strategy of a certain New York landlord who, if we are lucky and work hard, can drag his fat ass back to New York City in 2021.

In the meantime, let’s stop pretending that the NRA is the enemy when, in fact, one-third of American adults are legal gun owners but two-thirds believe that a gun keeps you safe. Are my friends at the CAP and other advocacy organizations ever going to explain that one to me?

Is The NRA In Trouble? I Don’t Think So.

              Far be it from me to question the motives or behavior of advocacy groups trying to reduce gun violence, because I happen to agree with the idea that there is simply no rational reason to justify or even attempt to explain 125,000 deaths and injuries from guns every year. I also know that if you want to have any voice in any public discourse at all, it doesn’t come cheap. So I’m not overly concerned when I get the multiple, daily emails from Everytown, Brady, et. al., asking me for dough. I receive just as many, if not more requests from the other side. 

              In the midst of all the sturm und drang over the recent so-called ‘revelations’ about financial mismanagement at Fairfax, however, I think something needs to be kept in mind. For all the talk about how Wayne-o has been given a golden parachute, how money and wine flow freely at certain NRA executive events, how cash is borrowed from outside sources to keep the organization afloat, blah, blah, blah and blah, what seems to be missing from the outrage and umbrage of Gun-control Nation is an acknowledgement that the way in which the NRA maintains its basic premise – representing the interests of gun-owners – hasn’t changed at all.

              NRA is and has always been a charitable organization registered in New York State. I happen to have managed a not-for-profit organization that was also registered in New York State, so I have a pretty good idea about how New York regulates charities and what this regulation means and doesn’t mean for the NRA. And what it basically means, because New York happens to be a state which does a greater degree of non-profit regulating than most states, is that the tax-exempt donations you receive have to be spent on the charitable purposes for which the organization is chartered to provide. And I don’t see one single activity that the NRA is currently providing that doesn’t fall within the definition of what it is supposed to do, namely, promote gun safety and gun training, and protect gun-owning rights.

              Now the fact that these activities often result in messaging that is offensive and misleading to some of us, doesn’t mean anything at all. And the fact that the defense of gun ‘rights’ puts the NRA in opposition to even the flimsiest, most benign gun regulations, is also in no way against non-profit law. And even the fact that management is pissing away money by giving some vendors all kinds of sweetheart deals is also not outside of the relevant regulations, as long as those vendors are providing services that further the organization’s goals.

              Let’s be honest here for a minute folks, okay? When phony videos purporting that Planned Parenthood was selling aborted fetal tissue began circulating in 2015, the pro-choice movement got up in arms and rightfully so. I’m not saying that any of the current criticisms of the NRA are inventions or aren’t based on certain facts. What I am saying is that, taken together, none of the financial flimflamming that has been detailed by Mike Spies to date necessarily constitutes anything more than a combination of sloppy financial management and reading the tea-leaves of current public opinion in the wrong way.

              I don’t think the NRA ever imagined that their support of Sleazy Don would generate the headwinds that have been blowing ever more fiercely from the #Resist network which, at this point, appear to have Schmuck-o going back to being a New York landlord in 2021. I also don’t think the boys in Fairfax understand the degree to which Gun-control Nation has both expanded and solidified its activist base. Frankly, some of the political diatribes wafting out from NRA-TV are stupid beyond belief.

              None of which, however, comes even remotely close to helping consign America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ to the ash-heap of history or running Wayne-o into jail. My friends in Gun-control Nation shouldn’t need to sensationalize something out of nothing in order to justify their existence or raise funds.     

The New Yorker Magazine Talks About Guns.

On July 1, 1972 The New Yorker Magazine published a book-length article, ‘Fire in the Lake,’ by a 32-year old journalist, Frances Fitzgerald, which set a standard for contemporary reportage, in this case, reportage on Viet Nam. Not only did this work achieve a degree of importance and influence in the annals of non-fiction writing, it also solidified The New Yorker as the prime media venue for content that could define the narrative on any subject for years to come.

I was reminded of Fitzgerald’s work when  I read The New Yorker piece about the NRA written by  Mike Spies, staff writer for The Trace (where you can also read this piece.) Because it occurs to me that in certain respects, the debate about gun violence bears some resemblance to the disagreements about Viet Nam; i.e., neither side in either argument was able to produce a narrative which was sufficiently cogent enough to convince the other side. In the case of Viet Nam, Fitzgerald’s writing ended that debate. So the question now is: could The Trace produce a narrative that would do the same for the gun violence debate?

It’s one thing to write a kiss-and-tell story about how the NRA is flimflamming money. Big deal. If anyone on the gun-control side thinks that such an article will make gun owners rethink their love of guns, think again. Going after the NRA is a simple and easy way to attract some readership from the gun-control gang, but it won’t do anything to change how gun owners and even non-gun owners think about guns.

When it comes to gun violence, we have a simple problem. It’s not that we have 300 million guns floating around, because at least two hundred million or more of those guns never figure in gun violence events at all. The reason we have gun violence is because Americans have free access to those small, high-powered handguns which are purchased by people who believe that having a Glock on your night table or in your pocket will keep you safe.

And despite incontrovertible evidence proving that guns are more of a risk than a benefit no matter how they are stored, a solid majority of Americans believe the reverse. And since less than 40% of Americans are legal gun owners, obviously there are many non-gun owners who also believe in what scholars like Alan Fiske and Tage Rai call ‘virtuous violence;’ namely, that using a gun to protect yourself is a good thing.

My friends who conduct public health research into gun violence can publish as many articles as they like showing that this reasonable law or that reasonable law may, if enacted, result in fewer gun injuries and gun deaths. But the truth is that the only way to really reduce or eliminate gun violence is to restrict ownership of certain types of extremely-lethal guns. But the more we try to regulate gun ownership, the more we will need buy-in from the folks who own the guns. And the only way that will happen is if someone explains why so many Americans believe that nothing will keep them as safe and secure as owning a gun.

I am still waiting for the first researcher to figure this one out. Because until and unless this issue is explored and understood, the community which wants to reduce gun violence is going to go nowhere fast. Yea, maybe red flag laws will bite off a bit of risk and injury here and there. But in case you didn’t know it, after Colorado passed a comprehensive background check law in 2015, gun violence in that state increased by fifty percent. 

So here’s my challenge to Mike Spies and his colleagues at The Trace. Why don’t you sit down and instead of covering yet another case of mismanagement at Fairfax, think about writing a definitive study on the realities of gun ownership which will do for the gun debate what Frances Fitzgerald did for the debate about Viet Nam. You obviously have the talent and The New Yorker has the space.

How Deep Is The Hole That The NRA Has Dug?

              This week’s New Yorker magazine includes a major article by one of my favorite gun journalists, Mike Spies, about the financial mess at America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ otherwise known as the NRA. Since I happen to be a Patriot Life Member Benefactor of the NRA (I actually have a plaque signed by Ollie North) and have been a member since 1955, obviously I have more than a passing interest in the goings on at the home office in Fairfax, and according to Mike, the goings on ain’t  very good.

              According to Mike, in a detailed and lengthy report, the NRA’s leadership has not only been hiding the extent to which serious amounts of organizational money have been flowing into the coffers of various PR companies, but it appears that these companies may be nothing more than business entities founded and run by Board and staff members of the NRA itself. Worse, the payments to these outfits have been so large that the NRA is facing a financial squeeze that could ultimately jeopardize the existence of the gun-rights organization itself.

              This is hardly the first time that mainstream media has carried articles on financial undoings within the NRA. Spies quotes  Brian Mittendorf, a Professor at Ohio State, who says that the organization has been spending money it really doesn’t have for seven of the past eleven years. In fact, Mittendorf published these details last year, and other media venues have carried the same news. What these stories all miss, however, is the fact that the NRA’s current financial problems aren’t basically caused by having given too much money to Schmuck-o in 2016 or investing heavily in video programming with costs running far ahead of returns. The serious financial issues facing the boys in Fairfax has much more to do with a fundamental shift in the behavior of gun owners and the inability of the NRA to adjust to this new view.

              In 1978, Florida passed its concealed-carry (CCW) law, which basically gave every resident of the Gunshine state who could pass a background check the right to walk around with a gun. Over the past 40 years, what is called ‘shall-issue’ CCW has become law in 43 of the 50 states. But the licensing difference between just buying a gun as opposed to carrying one around, is that in the latter case, most ‘shall-issue’ states require some kind of training before the CCW is approved.  And here is where the rubber has now met the road.

              Because in the olden days, the NRA held a monopoly on gun-training, and the NRA certified trainers, of whom there used to be more than 100,000 around the country, were the organization’s shock troops when it came to recruiting new members, as well as responding in force whenever a political situation, such as a debate over a gun law, required that gun owners show up and make some noise.

              Given the appearance of the internet, the emphasis on face-to-face gun training, indeed face-to-face training for any skill or work requirement has gone down the tubes. Instead, everyone now goes to a website, pays a fee, watches a video and then takes an online test. In that respect, the NRA is hardly the only training organization which fell behind the curve. Take a look at the online training offerings of Butler Community College in Kansas. The school has six campuses throughout the state, but you don’t have to ever show up at any physical location in order to qualify for hundreds of job-related certifications. Now take a look at the NRA‘s online training website. It’s a joke.

              The article by Mike Spies gives lots of details about how the NRA invested enormous financial resources in the internet, but what it fails to point out is that by promoting personalities (Dana Loesch, Colion Noir) instead of training, they went the wrong way. Judging from the emails I receive every day, I’m still not sure that the boys in Fairfax recognize their mistake.