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.

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Maybe The NRA Isn’t So Crazy After All.

Along with fundraising appeals from Kamala, Bernie and the Wilderness Fund, yesterday’s mail also included a lovely letter from Wayne-o asking me to join a very exclusive NRA club – the Golden Eagles.  In fact, I have been pre-selected for membership by the NRA Honors Committee, and all I have to do is send back my acceptance form and I’m in. It’s really a great honor and I can’t turn them down.

Oh, I forgot. I also have to send a check or credit card payment for $250.

Now considering the fact that yesterday I walked into Dick’s and Titleist has the nerve to want almost $500 for a new driver which won’t get my tee shot any further down the fairway than the driver I have been using for the last ten years, I can hardly be upset that the boys from Fairfax want half that much to induct me into the Golden Eagles club.

But what I found most interesting about this appeal was how it seems to me that the Fairfax bunch may have actually decided to go back to being what they have always been before a combination of phony Trump flattery, candy-ass video personalities and cockamamie marketing schemes got them to briefly lose their minds.

Let’s start with Trump. No other Presidential candidate had ever made gun ‘rights’ the centerpiece of a national campaign. Schmuck-o Trump never made a speech without reminding everyone that he was infatuated with guns. Now the fact that he never even owned a gun or used a gun – so what?

As for NRA-TV, it was one thing to have bores like Grant Stinchfield droning on and on about the Socialist threat to gun ‘rights,’ but spicing up the video airwaves with Colion Noir prancing around or Dana Loesch giving us the tough, ‘f-me’ look? If that was the best idea cooked up by Ackerman-McQueen to promote gun sales, the agency should have been canned long before they got into a fight with the NRA Home Office over who was going to pay Wayne-o’s clothing bills.

The dumbest move made in Fairfax was when they tried to replace their traditional training approach (and the 100,000+ certified instructors) with an online training and insurance program which went nowhere fast. The trainers (I having been one of them) were the organization’s shock troops. Most trainers engaged in little actual training activities, but they were always the roots which held the grass together and could be counted on to show up in large and noisy numbers every time gun ‘rights’ faced any kind of threat.

Here’s where things stand now. Trump has stopped pushing the 2nd Amendment at his Nuremburg rallies; NRA-TV is temporarily shut down (although you can watch reruns which are even more boring than the original shows) and last month Wayne-o sent out a letter to all the trainers telling them that he was grateful for their continued support.  This was the very first communication I ever received from the NRA which didn’t ask me to respond by enclosing a credit card number or a check.

When the annual meeting turned into an exercise in the veritable sh*t hitting the veritable fan, I assumed the NRA would respond by ramping up the volume, becoming even more extreme and using the bad news about its management practices as proof that the anti-gun campaign had reached a new and dangerous pitch. But it’s pretty tough to accuse someone like Ollie North of being opposed to private ownership of guns.

On the other hand, North and his supporters may have done the NRA a great service because perhaps without realizing it, their attacks have forced Wayne-o and the remaining leadership to stop pretending that every anti-NRA message is somehow the handiwork of Mike Blomberg, George Soros and their Socialist pals. Nothing would make me happier than to see the NRA get back to its traditional role as a supporter of using guns the way they should be used.

In Virginia The Gun Guys Won With Or Without The NRA.

              If I had a nickel for everyone who has predicted the demise of the NRA since the national meeting back in April, I wouldn’t have to go out today and watch a bunch of cops try to hit the broad side of the barn with the guns they haven’t cleaned since the last time they tried to punch some holes through the broad side of the barn. And until last week, between closing down their video network and stumbling through a lawsuit against their own advertising agency, there was every good reason to believe that Wayne-o and the boys from Fairfax were just hanging onto the ropes, if not down for the count.

That was then, this is now. And now happens to be what took place at the State House in Richmond, VA where America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ demonstrated that any thoughts about their impending demise might be a bit immature.

              Let’s not forget that in June there was a really bad mass shooting at Virginia Beach. And let’s also not forget that it wasn’t all that hard for gun-control groups to show up at Richmond in force because Virginia’s capitol city is less than 100 miles from Washington, D.C. But what we also shouldn’t forget is that once you leave the affluent, liberal-minded DC suburbs of Virginia and travel through the hinterland, you’re in the old South, and the old South still has folks who own lots of guns.

              The gun-control proposals promoted by a Democratic Governor who is up for re-election, included the usual comprehensive background checks and regulating assault rifles and hi-cap mags, along with a law that would have re-instated a 30-day waiting period between the purchase of handguns. And while the Democrats control the Executive Mansion at the moment, the legislature is still in GOP hands. Which means that Governor Northam’s proposals went nowhere fast.  Zilch. Finished.

            The NRA‘s strategy to defeat the gun bill was the group’s usual concoction of anti-crime rhetoric combined with support for 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ Here was their post-session statement: “We commend the House and Senate Republican leadership for renewing the focus on putting violent criminals behind bars and a much needed refocus on mental health initiatives.  The discussion before the Virginia Crime Commission should focus on solutions that provide strong due process and put a stop to the continued politicization of law-abiding individual’s constitutional rights.”

In other words, gun violence is caused by criminals and nuts, not by lawful gun owners exercising their Constitutional ‘rights.’ And this happens to be a very powerful argument, given the fact that a majority of Americans not only believe that violent crime is always and has always been on the rise, but that having access to a gun is a foolproof solution to the problem of crime.

Yesterday I was up in New Hampshire and drove through Swanzey, which is one of those old, red-brick factory towns which saw its best years sometime before World War II. The local propane dealer had a sign offering a starting salary of $55,000 for someone to make home deliveries – you can rent a nice, one-bedroom in the next town for $700 a month.

These are the kind of guys who can and do walk into a gun shop any time they want, plunk down five or six hundred bucks and walk out with another gun. And while they may have heard something about problems at the NRA with Wayne-o outfitting himself at Zegna or Chris Cox opening his own lobbying firm, it’s my friends in Gun-control Nation who pay attention to such headlines; those gun guys couldn’t care less.

On the other hand, those gun guys vote and they have actually met their local government reps at the annual Knights of Columbus bar-b-que or at the gun show held up the road every few months. Until and unless my friends in Gun-control Nation figure out how to communicate with those guys, what happened in Richmond last week will continue to happen in other places as well.

How Did NRA-TV Get Undone?

              Poor Dana Loesch. America’s home school queen and one of the country’s foremost practitioners of the art of armed, self-defense, all of a sudden finds herself unemployed. For that matter, she’ll be lining up for unemployment benefits with all the other media luminaries who have spent the last few years gracing the digital portals of NRA-TV, because NRA-TV is finished and dead.

              Of course you can watch some reruns any time you want and see Colion Noir prancing around some shooting range or Grant Stinchfield bemoaning the continued downward slide of America into a socialist mess. You can even find some old videos starring Oliver North pretending to kn ow something about guns. Remember him?

              Until all the sturm und drang broke out between the boys in Fairfax and their advertising agency, Ackerman-McQueen, I didn’t know that Dana wasn’t employed by the NRA.  The press release that came from Wayne LaPierre defined her role like this: “Dana Loesch, the conservative leader, online pioneer and nationally syndicated radio host, will serve as a major national spokesperson for the National Rifle Association. NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre named Loesch as a Special Assistant to his office for Public Communication, with direct attributable authority on NRA matters.”

              Now this statement doesn’t actually say that her salary was being paid by the NRA. But it was obviously written to give that impression, okay?  And this impression, it turns out, was a lie. Because Dana and all the other talking heads on NRA-TV were employees of Ackerman-McQueen, which happens to be suing the NRA to recover the monies they need to compensate these employees for acting jobs which will now not get done.

              All of this raises an interesting question about the past relationship between the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, namely, which organization was the dog and which was the tail. Did the video messaging reflect what the NRA leadership wanted its members to see and hear, or was the content of NRA-TV determined by what the folks at Ackerman-McQueen thought was the best way to sell the NRA?  The answer to this question isn’t just an issue of nuance because either the membership belongs to an organization which controls its own affairs, or the organization itself has become a subsidiary to an advertising agency who viewed America’s ‘first civil-rights organization’ as just another product to be marketed and sold.

              Either way, some of the information coming out from this imbroglio makes me begin to think that maybe, just maybe the boys in Fairfax may be hanging onto the ropes.  Last week I mentioned that monthly visits to the NRA-TV website had dropped from 370,000 in February to 210,000 in May, a decline in viewership of nearly 50 percent. But an even more ominous statistic is that the number of unique visitors to the video channel in January was only 49,000; in other words, NRA-TV hasn’t even been attracting one percent of the organization’s membership – a pretty pathetic state of affairs.

              The NRA has always presented itself as the only group out there which stands between law-abiding gun owners and the anti-gun hordes. And whenever the hordes put one of their own into the White House, the NRA ramps up its messaging to underscore the ‘threat’ to our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But that’s a pretty tough sell when, to everyone’s astonishment, the tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue turned out to be a guy who basically ran an entire national campaign on his love of guns. And when this guy turns around and invites Wayne-o to the White House for the Easter Egg hunt, it gets pretty hard to convince anyone that their guns are about to be taken away.

              It’s been more than forty years since the NRA stopped promoting sports shooting and  began pushing a more extreme messaging which became the staple content for NRA-TV. But maybe this  reflected the degree to which the NRA had become the tail wagged by a dog named Ackerman-McQueen. To quote Queen Elizabeth and Tony Montana: “Every dog has his day.”

Will The NRA Survive?

              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.    

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.

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,

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.     

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.

Don’t Worry – The NRA Isn’t Losing Any Sleep Over ‘Fix NICS.’

Want to start your day off with a good laugh? Take a look at Wayne-o LaPierre blasting off into outer space in 2016 with a video message about the FBI-NICS background check system which came out two years before last week’s Fix-NICS bill was introduced by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), a long-time ‘enemy’ of the 2nd Amendment and John Cornyn (R-TX), one of the NRA’s best friends.

wayne              Everyone loves this bill.  The NRA and the NSSF jumped on board; ditto Gabby Giffords and Everytown – Moms.  Well, almost everyone. The group which claims it’s the only group standing between freedom and fascism, a.k.a. Gun Owners of America, told its members to demand that we stop trying to ‘fix an unconstitutional system’ because background checks of any kind are an ‘infringement on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

But back to Wayne-o patting himself on the back for being a champion of FBI-NICS.  Ultimately the NRA had no choice but to support the Brady bill because the idea of an instant background check enjoyed wide public support back then, just as an extension of background checks to secondary transfers appears to enjoy the same degree of public support now.  But as a detailed report from the Brady Campaign points out, the moment that the Brady bill became law, the NRA began attacking its constitutional validity even before the system went online.

So when Wayne-o states that the NRA has ‘fought for 20 years’ to put the records of persons adjudicated to be mentally incompetent into the NICS system, what he should have said is that America’s oldest civil-rights organization has fought to keep the FBI-NICS system as far away from being an effective tool for reducing gun violence as it can. But when you watch this video and the phrase ‘the truth about background checks’ flashes across the screen, you can be sure that ol’ Wayne is getting ready to blast off into outer space.

But now that Congress appears ready to do exactly what the NRA claims should have always been done, namely, to make sure that the data sent to NICS really includes the names of every individual whose background, under current law, does not allow them to own a gun, what should the boys from Fairfax be doing to prove their commitment to 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ Because if this bill gets a positive vote and the Trumpster signs it into law, the NRA’s rationale for not expanding background checks to secondary sales disappears.

I’m not saying that the process of widening background check procedures to go beyond over-the-counter sales would be a walk in the park or a day at the beach. But the good news is that the NRA has been forced to support the idea that only ‘law-abiding citizens’ should be able to own guns. And if NICS is fixed to everyone’s satisfaction in a way that really prevents the criminals, the drug abusers and the mentally ill from walking into a gun shop and buying a gun, the idea that private gun transfers requiring background checks is a violation of the 2nd Amendment wouldn’t pass muster in any court.

When all is said and done, the NRA’s opposition to background checks boils down to one, simple thing; namely, that government regulation of the gun industry is a bad and unnecessary thing. In that respect, the gun industry’s opposition to regulation is no different from every other industry – banks, financial services, energy, you-name-it – who want to lessen the regulatory burden because one way or another, regulations drive up costs.

The NRA, the 2nd-Amendment Foundation, Sean Hannity and every other pro-gun noisemaker can talk about gun ownership as a Constitutional ‘right’ all they want. But it’s simply a convenient catch-phrase for obscuring a basic truth. And that truth happens to be the unalterable fact that if someone aims a loaded gun at themselves or someone else and then pulls the trigger, the damage can be immense.  And only government has the resources and the authority to prevent such acts from taking place.