Will COVID-19 Kill The NRA? Maybe.

So here I was, getting’ all ready to drive down to Nashville next month for the NRA show, and America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ cancels the show.  I went to my first NRA jamboree in 1980 – it was held (believe it or not) in Philadelphia and a Presidential candidate named Ronald Reagan showed up to give a speech. I don’t remember anyone actually walking away from the exhibition area to listen to the speech. After all, how can you compare the joys of eating a nice, greasy corn dog to some political pandering about a ‘welfare queen?’

That was then – this is now. What I find so impressive and even somewhat quaint about the NRA show is how little things change from year to year. The guns are the same, the appeals to liberty, freedom and all the other patriotic co-branding is the same, the food is the same (nothing that could remotely be considered ‘health food’ is sold at the show) and the t-shirts are the same.

Most of all, the people are the same, and if there is one concession I would love to have at an NRA show, it’s the renting of those little, electric carts which allow people to ride around who otherwise can’t walk. Oh, you say, it’s too bad that so many gun owners have been crippled by some kind of accident or disease. Wrong. They can’t walk because they are too fat. You’ll never see so many huge people in one public space at the same time.

Thanks to the ‘Chinese’ virus (Trump’s use of that word is the single, most disgusting thing that any American President has ever said) I’ll have to wait until 2021 to visit with all my friends at the NRA. But my visit to next year’s show assumes there will be a show. And the way things are going for the organization of which I happen to be a Hall of Fame, Defender of Freedom, Benefactor Member, I’m not sure there will be a 2021 show that I can attend.

I was even hoping to wear the NRA Patriot’s Medal I received after I sent Wayne-o some extra cash. But from reports that have recently surfaced in the media about all kinds of cash-flow problems in the Fairfax home office, even the organization’s top leadership is feeling the crunch. Staff have been laid off, some temporarily, some permanently. Local meetings and get-togethers have been cancelled as well. Until last week, you couldn’t go to a gun show anywhere in the United States without seeing a big Welcome! Banner from the NRA. Now there are no gun shows.

What caught my eye in the NRA’s shut-down announcement, however, was not the fact that their remaining staff is going to be working from home. Rather, it was a comment in Wayne-o’s letter sent to the entire organization which told employees to “contact any germane state or federal agency to determine eligibility for any additional aid.”

Hey, wait a minute! Just wait one gol dern minute! I thought the only people who ever go to the government for ‘aid’ are the welfare cheats, the illegals scamming the food stamp system, all those good-for-nothings who steal hard-earned money grabbed by the government from honest, decent, law-abiding folks like you and me. The NRA is now saying that the same government whose jack-booted thugs assaulted legal gun owners is the same government that can be trusted to hand out financial aid? What?

If the Covid-19 virus had stayed in China like it was supposed to, the NRA would have held its annual meeting in Nashville and welcomed another visit by our ‘wartime President’ who would have reminded his adoring audience that he could always be counted on to defend their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ He would have trashed all those ‘Socialists’ on the other side, probably thrown in a few curse words as well, and then run off to hold one of his Nuremberg rallies in another friendly, red-blooded state.

No wonder Trump is considering lifting the ban on stay-at-home orders. He’s the last person who ever stays home.

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Look Out Wayne-o. Here Comes Rob Pincus and Dan Gross.

Watch out everybody!  There’s a new gun-control organization in town.  It’s called the Center for Gun Rights and Responsibility, and it allegedly made its first appearance at last week’s SHOT show, which I didn’t attend. But for those who did show up, they had an opportunity to meet the guy who’s going to be running this operation, who just happens to be a long-time gun-control advocate named Dan Gross. 

Is that the same Dan Gross who used to run the Brady Campaign?  Sure is. And if you want to get a little taste of what his group is going to be doing, you can watch a brief YouTube video of Dan giving a spiel about his new organization right here.  He appeared at a 2nd-Amendment rally in DC back in November, which was one of a number of events leading up to the big rally held in Richmond, VA last month. 

Now here’s the really funny part. Gross was introduced to the crowd by Rob Pincus, a self-promoting gun trainer who used his social media presence last year to publicly attack the NRA’s continued support of Wayne LaPierre. Once it looked like the boys from Fairfax might be going into free-fall, Pincus went out and started a new organization, Save the Second Amendment, whose raison d’etre is to reform the NRA and bring the gun-rights discussion back to where it belongs.

Except the real agenda of Pincus and his friends is to pick up financial support from enough pissed-off NRA members to get things moving their way. And their way is to replace the NRA with an organization that will promote gun ‘rights’ while keeping the discussion fair and balanced at the same time.

Sooner or later, someone would try to take advantage of the mess at Fairfax and try to attract disaffected NRA members to a version of NRA-lite. The terrain to the Right of the NRA has been owned for a few years by Larry Pratt and his money machine, a.k.a., the Gun Owners of America scam. So, the only direction that a ‘new’ NRA can move is slightly to the Left, which is where all these allegedly ‘reasonable’ gun owners can be found.

Pincus already has his own organization called Save the Second Amendment, which is basically a blog that promotes the idea of a smaller, more focused and more open NRA. If anyone believes that by joining forces with Dan Gross, these two airheads can even remotely begin to make their presence known in the gun-control debate, you should also be willing to defend the proposition that Martians have landed at Area 51.

Here’s what we know for sure about Gun-nut Nation: When it comes to anything having to do with protecting gun ‘rights,’ or the God-given ‘right’ to self-defense, or any other marketing slogan which connects ‘guns’ to ‘rights,’ the members of this brigade are ready, willing and able to piss away fifty bucks just about every time they are asked. Know why Rand Paul is such an ardent promoter of gun ‘rights?’ Because he’s up to his ears in promoting and directing conservative, direct mail campaigns.

The first person to truly understand and take advantage of the desire of gun owners to part with cash was Tim Schmidt, who used an internet marketing strategy known as ‘tribal marketing’ to build a very successful product called the United States Concealed Carry Association, which basically pushed the NRA out of the concealed-carry training game. The idea is you sell products to people who will buy your crap because they want to belong to a special family or group who share certain common ideas and beliefs. And what stronger belief is out there than the idea of protecting yourself with a gun?

The problem with what Pincus and Gross are trying to do is they don’t have anything to sell. And if you think the NRA has in any way lost the ability to attract gun-owning bucks, I suggest you download their recent store catalog from which I just ordered a beautiful polo shirt for only $49.95.

Is The NRA Finished? Don’t Be So Sure.

              Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a story about NRA finances based on the publication of the organization’s 2018 tax return. If this story had appeared before the impeachment thing heated up, it would have been big news. But right now media click-bait is based overwhelmingly on the contest between Schiff and Trump, with an occasional aside about how yet another member of the MAGA team can’t keep his you-know-what in his pants. Anyway, back to the fiscal and financial doings at the home office in Fairfax, VA.

              The headline of the story was what has become the standard gotcha’ narrative employed by Gun-control Nation to throw a little dirt on America’s ‘first civil rights organization,’ namely, that while everything the NRA touches these days seems to  be going to Hell in a handbasket, Wayne LaPierre’s salary and benefits keep going up. Putting together his salary and some other financial perks, Wayne-o’s compensation package increased by 55%. Not bad for a guy who looked like he was going to be jettisoned from the top position earlier this year.

              The WSJ article went on at length about how Wayne-o continues to draw support from the group’s major donors, but the reporter who did the story happened to miss the most important news of all; namely, that revenue from membership dues also went up by more than 30% last year. In 2017 the revenue from dues was $128 million, last year the annual members kicked  in $170 million. Remember when everyone was predicting that the NRA was going down the tubes? Yea, right.

              I have been involved with various advocacy organizations for years, including the usual conservation, wilderness and outdoor groups. All of these organizations play an important role in promoting what I believe to be a public narrative which needs to be heard. Lately I have become invested in supporting the Boone & Crockett Club because they are becoming a strong voice in conservation and the protection of wildlife.

              That being said, most not-for-profit advocacy organizations tend to spend much of the money they receive from donations on themselves. Between salaries, perks and other staff benefits, the average dollar received by these organizations is usually split about 50-50 between the costs of getting their message out to the general public and the costs of standing around the water cooler comparing who got the best Black Friday deal.

              In that regard, the NRA’s balance sheet doesn’t look all that bad. Given the fact that next year’s financials will not contain the hefty $30 million they were spending every year on NRA-TV, if anything, they will probably be back to operating in the black. Where they are still legally vulnerable is the continuing New York State investigation concerning how Wayne, Ollie and a couple of others were double-dipping by drawing paychecks from both the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen. Know what will happen if it turns out that this behavior violated New York State not-for-profit rules?  The NRA will be assessed a financial penalty, the lawyers will negotiate over the amount for a couple of years, and then  they will pay a fine. As my grandfather would say, “det’s det.”

              I was never impressed by the NRA‘s attempt to become yet another alt-right media presence via NRA-TV. Never mind the attempt to promote a political line right out of Breitbart and Alex Jones, the one-minute spiels by Dana Loesch and Grant Stinchfield, along with Colion Noir’s prancing around were just boring to the extreme.

              People join the AAA because it’s something which just goes with owning a car, and it’s not like the annual dues make such a dent out of the household budget each year. I have renewed my AAA membership at least 20 times, I have used their emergency towing service exactly twice.

              It’s not protecting the 2nd Amendment or the fear of losing their guns which keeps NRA members in the fold. If you’re a gun owner, it’s simply something you do. Think this habit can be broken by digging up some dirt on Wayne LaPierre? Think again.

High Five to Margaret Ayers for sending me the WSJ article.

When It Comes To Gun Laws, The NRA Isn’t The Last Word.

              All of a sudden the boys down at Fairfax have become very concerned about doing everything with guns in a very legal way. The NRA website no longer contains those obnoxious, crazy videos from Dana, ‘home-school Queen’ Loesch, or the dance-and-prance shooting lessons from Colion Noir. Instead, now we get a whole menu of tips and tricks about how to make sure that everything you do with a gun stays completely within the law.

              Except there’s only one little problem with the NRA‘s new-found concern for making sure that all gun laws are properly observed.  And the problem happens to be the fact that the way the NRA chooses to describe certain gun laws may not be the way some of those laws actually work. Take, for example, their advice on how to purchase a gun as a gift for someone else.

              The comment starts off like this: “Giving someone a firearm carries a certain level of legal responsibility that does not come with gifting iPads or socks. You should know the laws that apply to buying firearms as gifts for another person.” Fair enough. I have no problem with the NRA‘s advice up until now.

              But then things get a little sticky, because the text then goes on to mention the fact that if you purchase a gun from a dealer, you must undergo a background check which involves declaring that you are buying the gun for yourself. But what if you knew that after buying the gun you were going to walk out of the store, wrap the gun up as a gift and give it to someone else? And let’s say further that you live in a state where giving that gun to someone else doesn’t require another background check? Which still happens to be the law in 29 of the 50 states.

              Here is what the NRA has to say about that: “Even if you are not keeping the gun, you are the owner of that firearm until you legally transfer it to the intended recipient.” Sorry,  but that’s not how the background check law works at all. Because what the law says is that you have committed a felony if you knew you were going to transfer the gun to someone else at the time you first purchased the gun and claimed on the 4473 background-check form that you were buying it for yourself.

              This issue was decided by the Supreme Court in Abramski v. United States, which was argued and decided in 2014. Bruce Abramski was a part-time cop who walked into a gun shop in Virginia and bought a Glock. He then took the gun to Pennsylvania and gave it to his uncle who had earlier sent him the money to purchase the gun. But to take the gun out of the shop in Virginia, Abramski had to undergo a background check, and even though he was buying the gun for his uncle, he certified that he would be the legal owner of the gun.

              Had Abramski paid for the gun in Virginia but let the dealer ship it to another dealer in the uncle’s hometown, he would have been following the law. But by walking out of the Virginia gun shop with a gun which he knew was going to be given to someone else, he had committed what we call a ‘straw sale.’

              Abramski didn’t lie on the 4473 because he was going to sell the gun to a ‘street thug.’ He lied to save himself the cost of shipping the gun to a dealer in another state.

              The real problem with gun laws, and this is probably true of the legal system in general, is that you can’t write a law that compensates for stupidity, and there’s plenty of stupidity floating around the NRA.

Bloomberg-Watts Vs. LaPierre Isn’t A Fair Fight.

              I went to my first NRA show in 1980. It was held in Philadelphia (of all places) and featured an appearance by a Presidential candidate named Ronald Reagan. I don’t recall his speech attracting much attention, I also don’t recall that there were any vendors promoting ‘tactical’ products or any of the other crap which currently provides the gun industry with its marketing mantra about how and why guns are needed for personal defense.

              That was then, this is now. The last time I went to the NRA, which was the 2014 Indianapolis gathering, you would have thought we were one step away from having to defend ourselves from an ISIS invasion or from a complete and total disarming of the American population, or both. No matter where you looked, there was endless signage exhorting everyone to prove their patriotism by making sure that liberals, gun-grabbers and all sorts of other left-wing radicals (including the African-born occupant of the White House) would never get a chance to take away ‘our’ guns.

              At some point during the Indianapolis hoopla I wandered into the business meeting where the now-deposed head of the NRA-ILA, Chris Cox, was giving a speech. And here was the sentence that I remember most of all: “The 5 million members of the NRA will not allow Michael Bloomberg to lie his way, buy his way, or bully his way into taking away our Second Amendment rights!” The reason I remember this line was because the week prior to the show, the New York Times carried an article which claimed that Mayor Mike had decided to ante up $50 million to promote gun-control programs, chiefly through investing in the growth of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded by Shannon Watts.

              Yesterday the Washington Post took some time out from celebrating the doomed Presidency of Schmuck-o Trump to interview Shannon Watts, the headline reading: “The NRA is weaker than they’ve ever been.” Which, if anything, is something of an understatement given what has happened to the boys in Fairfax over the last couple of years. America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ has gone from getting the red-carpet treatment at the White House to shutting down its media channel, losing Board members and spending what little dough it has in the  bank account to defend itself from legal threats all over the place. You think the investigation into the NRA‘s non-profit status being conducted by the state whose Governor wrote the infamous Clinton plan to regulate the gun industry isn’t a serious threat?  Think again.

              In the olden days, the only reason the NRA was considered such a powerful force was that the other side, the gun-control side, didn’t have any kind of financial or organizational clout. But once Mayor Mike decided to move into the business of growing a gun-control movement, I knew that the NRA‘s dominance in the public discussion about guns would quickly come to an end. And I didn’t have to be any kind of self-appointed genius to figure that one out. I simply made a quick comparison between the achievements and experiences of Mike Bloomberg versus Wayne LaPierre.

              Mike Bloomberg took a $10 million partnership payment from Salomon Brothers in 1981 and created an international media company which today has locations worldwide, employs more than 20,000 and may have annual revenues in excess of $10 billion bucks. He’s probably worth more than $50 billion, which makes Wayne-o’s alleged financial excesses look like chump change.

On the other hand, Wayne LaPierre has never worked in the private sector and his experience in building any kind of organization adds up to zilch.  When he took over the NRA in 1991, he pushed the membership from 2.5 to 3.5 million; in the process he entirely used up the organization’s financial reserves. So much for Wayne-o’s business acumen.

If the NRA stops trying to lead the alt-right and goes back to representing the legitimate needs of hunters and sport shooters, this would be a very good thing. Going up against Shannon and Mike is something they better avoid.

Think The NRA Throws So Much Money Around? Think Again.

              The mail today included a new and interesting messaging resource for the gun debate, namely, a printed newsletter, The Brady Report, published by our friends at the Brady Campaign. It’s a glossy, four-page document containing brief stories about how the Brady organization is coming down hard on Gun-nut Nation as we gear up for next year’s national campaign. 

              I get almost daily mailings from the NRA, along with a clothing catalog and requests for money from Wayne-o who seems to think that the stink which came out of the stories about his financial flim-flams are a thing of the past. But this is the first time I have ever received a printed communication from the good guys on the other side.

              What caught my eye about the Brady newsletter, however, was a comment from Kris Brown, the President of Brady, who said this: “the gun industry has been making massive donations to their political defenders, making it nearly impossible to pass sensible, lifesaving measures or even to hold manufacturers accountable and put unscrupulous dealers out of business.”

              I’ve been hearing about these ‘massive donations’ made by the gun industry to their political friends for lo, these many years. With all due respect to our friends at Brady and in particular to a dedicated and committed activist like Kris Brown, I’m just not sure this so-called ‘massive’ financial support for pro-gun members of Congress is really all that massive or makes all that much difference at all.

              In 2018, the average cost of a Congressional campaign was $1.5 million for a House seat, more than $5 million for a statewide race. According to Open Secrets, the NRA gave a total of just under $700,000  to all GOP Congressional candidates, which means that, on average, each member of the red team got $2,500 bucks. That’s less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the money needed to run a Congressional campaign. Some of the key GOP leadership in both houses got more – Cruz (R-TX) gets $9,900, Scalise (R-LA) gets $5,450, but most of the spear-carriers are given a whole, big two grand for their campaigns.

              As for the gun manufacturers themselves, companies like Smith & Wesson, Glock and Sig don’t have a PAC.  In fact, even though they benefit from the lobbying done on their behalf by the NRA, in the greater scheme of things they don’t give zilch. The NRA‘s lobbying arm, NRA-ILA, gets its money from the same nickel-and-dime donations the NRA receives from its four million or five million or whatever number of members the organization claims to have.

              Let me make one point very clear, okay?  If the NRA were to close down tomorrow it would make no difference to me.  In fact, they would probably first try to sell off all their nice embossed polo shirts and I’d jump at the opportunity to buy a couple of their shirts at half price. But the argument they make about being the ‘first line of defense’ for the 2nd Amendment has about as much reality behind it as the argument made by Brady and other gun-control groups who claim they are the ‘last line of defense’ against the all-powerful NRA.

              The reason most red-state politicians vote pro-gun is because they represent constituents for whom owning a gun is no different than owning any other basic consumer item found around the house. The average gun owner who walks into my gun shop to buy another gun puts about as much psychic concern into that decision as he puts into deciding which lottery ticket to buy when he stops at the mini-mart for coffee on his way to work.

              Until and unless the gun-control movement confronts the fact that gun nuts don’t think of their guns as ‘weapons of war,’ or ‘threats to public health’ or any other fearsome sobriquet used to describe what is, to them,  just another adult toy, there won’t be the slightest chance that the gun industry will actually have to start putting its money where its mouth is to continue keeping America awash in gun.

Is Concealed-Carry Good Or Bad?

              Last week when I was at the gun show, I overheard a conversation between three gents standing in line at the Dunkin’ Donuts kiosk, which was the most popular booth at the show. The topic being discussed in very serious tones was this: If you could only keep one handgun to carry around for self-defense, which gun would it be?

              Now readers of this column may find such a discussion ridiculous, stupid, or worse, but what do you want three guys on Social Security to talk about – the national debt? I mean, what could be more important to the future of American civilization than whether I should be walking around with a Sig, a Springfield or a Glock?

              The truth is that most, if not nearly all the 15 to 20 million Americans who go to the trouble of getting a concealed-carry (CCW) permit rarely, if ever actually carry a gun. First of all, you don’t need to carry a gun because it’s not as if you will ever find yourself in a situation where the gun would make the difference between getting or not getting hurt. Second, the gun is heavy and unless it’s kept concealed you’re going to wind up in the back of the patrol car with your gun comfortably resting on the front seat. Third and most important, sooner or later you’ll put the gun on the floor so that you’re more comfortable while you take a dump, and the gun will somehow not go back into the holster while you hitch up your pants.

              There isn’t a single boy in the United States who by the age of twelve hasn’t seen hundreds of bad guys being shot in video games, movies or TV.  If anything makes America exceptional, it’s how we have created a culture which celebrates ‘virtuous violence’ with the use of a gun. How many states now have stand-your ground laws?  Try thirty-three.

              Notwithstanding the sanctimonious and holier-than-thou preaching of so-called gun experts like David Hemenway and John Donahue, the fact is that gun owners with concealed-carry licenses are not only extremely law-abiding, but rarely, if ever, engage in unlawful or dangerous behavior with their guns. The last time I checked, the Violence Policy Center has still been unable to identify more than 600 CCW-licensed individuals who committed a fatal gun assault over the last 12 years.  Fifteen million people have CCW, less than 50 commit a fatal gun assault every year and that makes CCW-holders a threat to community safety?  Give me a break.

              On the other hand, anyone who thinks that these law-abiding armed citizens constitute the frontline of defense against all those street ‘thugs’ is also just blowing smoke.  Sure, every once in a while someone pulls a gun out from underneath the counter and plans to rob the mini-mart go awry. But the NRA has never been able to validate such acts of civilian bravery more than 50 times a year.  The bottom line is that the notion that we are becoming a nation of armed citizens basically gets down to the old guys who were amusing themselves talking about their favorite handgun while standing on the Dunkin’ Donuts line.

              What motivated me to write this column was an exchange between Corey Booker and Meghan McCain on The View, in which Meghan claimed that her brother would never give up his guns if Booker became President in 2021 and instituted a gun buyback plan. If the government repurchased all AR rifles there would be plenty of black guns that wouldn’t get turned in. But such a buyback would also result in no more new assault rifles being made or sold.

              Now if someone would finally be honest enough to admit that by repurchasing all guns which really cause gun violence (i.e., handguns) then maybe, just maybe we could end gun violence once and for all.  But if we did that, what would those guys waiting for their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee have to talk about?  The national debt?

The NRA Might Be Down, But They’re Not Out.

              There was a surprise for me in my mailbox yesterday, namely, the November issue of American Rifleman, which happens to be the premier publication of the NRA.  The reason I was surprised was that back in April, a detailed story by Mike Spies that was carried in The New Yorker and The Trace provoked an avalanche of criticism about America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ which made it appear that the pro-gun group was headed for a quick demise.

              Not only did the NRA find itself being attacked for shabby bookkeeping, sweetheart business dealings and all kinds of other nefarious deeds, but for the first time in more than 40 years, an attempt was made to jettison the leadership and bring in an entirely new management group. The effort collapsed when it turned out that the chief promoter of this coup d’etat, Oliver North, was himself profiting from an inside deal with the NRA‘s advertising agency which led to the NRA giving the boot both to North and to the advertising agency as well.

              Despite this reprieve, the news for the NRA kept getting worse and worse, with simultaneous investigations being carried out by the New York State Attorney General (the NRA is incorporated in New York as a not-for-profit corporation) along with an investigation by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) about the alleged connections between the NRA and Maria Butina, the so-called Russian ‘spy.’ The latter effort resulted Wyden’s report which didn’t show any unlawful NRA activity at all; the former investigation will shlep on until even the cows in all those upstate New York counties come home.

              What really got things going, however, was that more than 80 people were killed and injured in two mass shootings which occurred in just two days. The shooting in El Paso on August 3 took 22 lives and injured 24 more; the next day a shooting in Dayton resulted in another 10 killed and 27 injured. That’s quite a score.

              Whenever there is a mass shooting two things occur: 1). There is an immediate spike in media coverage and public concern about the event; 2). The gun-control narrative to define these shootings invariably finds some way or another to blame the NRA. Either the NRA is guilty of preventing laws that would curb the violence, or the NRA promotes armed, self-defense which is just another way to spread the idea that guns are good, gun-grabbers are bad.

              After all the sturm und drang about guns after those mass shootings, the whole issue of gun control has once again gone back to where it always sits; namely, nobody really cares about it at all. The keywords ‘gun violence’ spiked to four times the usual level of Google searches during the week of August 4 -10; it’s now back to just about the lowest level recorded this year. As for the Presidential candidates, they went through their usual talking-points about guns during their last debate, but the fact that gun control is no longer a toxic issue for Democrats is old news.

              On the other hand, getting back to my beloved American Rifleman, the issue contains the usual mélange of reviews of new guns and shooting products and a great article on the M1903-A1 Springfield that was our sniper rifle in World War II. But the issue also contains a lengthy op-ed by Wayne-o, which can be seen on the NRA website, a commentary about the ‘future of the NRA.”

              Compared to the NRA’s messaging over the last few years, Wayne-o’s commentary is actually pretty tame stuff. Gone is the bombast of video performers like Colion Noir, gone is the racially-tinged stupidities of Dana Loesch, gone is the attempt to make the NRA a leading voice for the alt-right. If anything, the tone and content of Wayne-o’s spiel reminds me of what I heard when I went to NRA shows in 1980 and 1981.

              This change in NRA communication strategy actually seems to be working quite well. From April through June the NRA website registered around 500,000 visits each month. The total for September was 1,750,000 – that’s right, more than three times as many visits as when things were going to Hell.

              To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the NRA‘s death may be greatly exaggerated.

Want Another Quid Pro Quo About Arms? Try Trump And The NRA.

Last week the White House announced that it was going to release details of a new gun bill ‘very soon.’ Instead, we now learn that Trump had a meeting with Wayne-o and asked him for support against a possible impeachment in return for not pushing any new legislation about guns. Isn’t this kind of quid-pro-quo exactly what Trump did with the President of Ukraine? After all, Trump tried to extort a promise from Zelensky to dig up dirt on Biden in exchange for a shipment of guns.

The White House, of course, denied that any such discussion between Trump and the NRA took place. But this report was filed by Maggie Haberman and she has never been accused of writing a story which turned out not to be true.

It’s one thing, however, to try and enlist the head of another nation-state to help your political campaign. It’s another to ask a tin-horn nobody like Wayne Lapierre to save the ship of state. After all, if the NRA is keeping itself afloat by borrowing against the life-insurance policies of its executive staff, how much clout does America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ wield these days?

Which brings us to the report just issued by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on the NRA and the Russian ‘spy’ affair. I am still convinced, and I have seen nothing to convince me otherwise, that the Russian ‘spy’ in this case, Maria Butina, was just a dopey kid running around on behalf of the Russian company, Izhmash, which makes the original AK-47 and has been trying to get a toe-hold into the American gun market for the last ten years. The American gun market is worth millions because the gun is the non plus ultra assault rifle of all time.

Wyden’s report, however, covers new territory and contains information which, if true, could really put the final ka-bosh on Wayne-o and the NRA. The 77-page report goes into great detail about a 2015 trip to Russia by several NRA Board members, including Pete Brownell, whose company makes and sells all kinds of accessories for small-arms, although the outfit does not, as has been alleged at various times, actually manufacture guns. Nevertheless, where there’s a civilian gun market, there’s a demand for gun parts, accessories and all kinds of other gun-related junk, and during the Russian trip Brownell evidently had meetings with various Russian businessmen to discuss possible commercial relationships between Russia and the USA.

Here’s what the Wyden report is all about: “The minority staff investigation confirms that members of the NRA delegation participated in the Moscow trip primarily or solely for the purpose of advancing personal business interests, rather than advancing the NRA’s tax-exempt purpose.” The whole point of holding a tax-exempt status requires the tax-exempt organization (read: NRA) to refrain from engaging in the sort of business activities which might result in personal gain for a company owned or operated by a member of the tax-exempt organization’s Board. Brownell was Vice President of the NRA when he went to Russia in 2015 (he has subsequently resigned.) Several other NRA members were specifically designated as representing the NRA on this trip, and they also met with Russian business counterparts involved in the manufacture and sale of small arms.

I think the Wyden report is much ado about nothing and is only getting some traction because it’s easy right now to dump on the NRA. Many non-profit organizations have business big-shots on their Boards and many of these big shots find it convenient, from a business perspective, to promote their own business interests while, at the same time, helping the non-profit achieve its organizational goals. The report could not cite a single instance in which any blabbing between NRA officials and anyone in Russia resulted in an exchange of money, goods or anything else.

But we’re not talking about just any non-profit, we’re talking about the organization whose support of Donald Trump is considered by many to have been what allowed El Shlump-o to grab the 2016 brass ring. Now that it’s pay-back time in DC, what otherwise might have simply been seen as ‘boys being boys’ could turn into the issue which brings the NRA curtain down.

Thanks to Tom Johnson for tipping us off about the Wyden report.

What Are You Doing on September 25th?

Even if you have something else to do, you might think of coming to DC next week to participate in a national demonstration aimed at getting Congress to pass some rather obvious laws that will reduce gun violence. The laws are such draconian measures as expanding background checks, banning assault rifles, you know, all those terrible infringements on our beloved 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Except the only ‘right’ protected by the 2nd Amendment in its current (2008) iteration is to keep a handgun in your home.

That being said, I guarantee you that in the morning’s Judiciary Committee hearing on banning assault rifles, virtually every member of the NRA – oops! – I mean the GOP, will make an impassioned plea to forestall any and all attempts to regulate anything having to do with guns. And what they will all say, because they’ve all said it so many times that they know the script by heart, is that they simply cannot allow a bunch liberal, do-goods from around the country to pressure them into backing down from their sacred duty to protect Constitutional guarantees.

And these do-gooders, incidentally, will represent various organizations from all over the place, and they will get together on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building at 1 P.M. This is hardly the first time that folks have come together in DC to ask Congress to do something, anything about gun violence and it won’t be the last. The simple fact is that most GOP politicians still feel they can respond to gun violence by voicing their thoughts and prayers whenever a particularly nasty shooting takes place. As my grandfather used to say, they’re basically a bunch of “dem fools.”

Incidentally, one of the largest contingents is coming to DC from the Windy City led by Father Pfleger and his Saint Sabina group. The buses they are renting for this trip don’t come cheap, and if you want to help them out you can make a donation right here. You know the old line: Money Talks, Bulls**t Walks.” We’ll hear enough bulls**t from the minority members of the House Judiciary Committee next week, okay?

Let’s get it on, folks. Let’s keep Congress on their toes. Let’s show up in DC next week and get this thing done!