I Renewed My NRA Membership Today

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

So I renewed my NRA membership today.  Regular readers know that I had struggled with this issue, and in fact had begun asking salient questions around four months ago.  Brave warriors of the NRA did yeoman’s work trying to defend the NRA’s unofficial endorsement of Harry Reid, but in the end there was no excuse worthy of the argument.  To have sold out the honorable reputation of the NRA for Harry Reid’s having thrown a few dollars at the Clark County Shooting Park while ignoring the fact that he gave us SCOTUS justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor is petty and embarrassing.

So what changed my mind?  Well, there are good winds blowing, at least for the moment.

President Barack Obama’s op-ed column in the March 13 Arizona Daily Star invited all sides of the gun-control debate to a series of meetings in Washington.

Two problems: The President invited the NRA to the summits — which declined to attend — but neglected to extend invitations to other influential Second Amendment advocacy groups, such as the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA).

CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb said it was odd that the CCRKBA, nor its sister organization, the SAF, were invited to the meetings — especially since it was the SAF’s Supreme Court challenged that resulted last summer’s McDonald v. City of Chicago ruling that solidified the Second Amendment’s protection of an individual civil right.

The NRA declined the invitation but responded to Obama’s op-ed with an open letter on March 15 by Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legal Action Chris Cox. The letter said Obama says one thing (i.e. the Second Amendment guarantees a person to bear arms) and acts another way (i.e. setting in place regulations restricting gun rights), and ripped his administration for being “under a cloud for allegedly encouraging violations of federal law.”

“We suggest that you bring an immediate stop to BATFE’s ‘Fast and Furious’ operation, in which an unknown number of illegal firearm transactions were detected – and then encouraged to fruition by your BATFE, which allegedly decided to let thousands of firearms ‘walk’ across the border and into the hands of murderous drug cartels,” the letter alleges. “One federal officer has recently been killed and no one can predict what mayhem will still ensue.  Despite the protests of gun dealers who wished to terminate these transactions, your Administration reportedly encouraged violations of federal firearms laws…”

Gottlieb, on the other hand, said he would love to speak with Obama during the meetings, which began on March 15 at the White House and will continue through the end of the month. He “would be eager to talk with the White House, especially about the ‘Project Gunrunner’ and ‘Fast and Furious’ scandals, where federal agents helped facilitate gun sales to suspected gunrunners,” he wrote in CCRKBA’s response to the President’s op-ed.

As Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea noted in his March 15 column on examiner.com, the ways the NRA, SAF, and CCRKBA — and other Second Amendment advocacy groups — reacted demonstrates “that the ‘gun lobby’ is not the monolith the media often portrays it to be.”

But Blogosphere Buzz Examiner Bill Belew in his March 16 column asks if the NRA, SAF, and CCRKBA aren’t going to the President’s gun summits, what pro-Second Amendment groups are?

Analysis & Commentary

This is a strong statement by the NRA against Obama’s “summit,” and Chris Cox made an equally strong statement against the proposed recapitulation of the ban on high capacity magazines.  In seventh grade I had a teacher who posed the following dilemma to us.  Six of us are on a life boat, and there is no hope of immediate rescue.  Five can be kept alive if they vote and decide on who gets to be the one who is killed as food for others.  Then there were five who were starving, and the five turned into four, and so on.  You get the picture.

All manner of compromise, argumentation and judgment of worth occurred over the next hour.  When it came my turn to talk (after I was called upon), I refused to play and said that “It’s the devil’s game, and I won’t play the devil’s game.  God is sovereign, and if He decides that today is a good day for me to die, then I die.  There are worse things than dying, such as dying and then facing your maker having just been guilty of murder.  So I won’t play your dumb-ass game.”

It was a hard year for me, and the teacher and I had many run-ins, but I didn’t compromise.  Compromise is usually thought of in today’s culture, with it’s lack of moral foundation, as the “art of politics,” or some such inanity. Rather than being artful, it’s what gave us the massive debt our country now faces.  Compromise gave us a country addicted to social programs and redistribution of wealth, and compromise gave us an out-of-control ATF (who also wants to ban the import of things such as Saiga shotguns, something I’ll be weighing in on shortly).

But compromise is the devil’s game, and he wants more than anything for us to play it.  Compromise is even more effective than a frontal assault, because it masks true intentions and buries real circumstances in a subterfuge of details, codes, argument and hand-shaking.

Wayne LaPierre held strong on Obama’s compromise summit, and since there is no reason to trust that Obama wants anything more than to solicit the NRA’s support on stricter gun control and thus undermine any objections to his nefarious plans, there was no reason to go at all.

But what about Second Amendment Foundation and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms?  The NRA is the most powerful lobby on earth, and there is no reason that it should kowtow to anyone who is aiming for the dissolution of gun ownership rights.  The temptation is always there, but the NRA shouldn’t succumb to it.  Similarly, it’s a dastardly road, this quest to be important, significant or big.

I understand the desire of the SAF and the CCRKBA to be involved and even invoked when firearms rights are discussed.  But when the desire for significance overwhelms good judgment and causes a pro-second amendment foundation to want to meet with an enemy of the second amendment, that foundation has lost its focus as much as the foundation that stands firm now against Obama but abdicates its responsibilities later when enough money is floated, or in other words, when Harry Reid starts another shooting park to get the NRA endorsement.  I love my RRA Elite Car A4 and my Springfield Armory XDm .45, and I use them for personal and family defense (and recently put 400 rounds down range to practice for the day I hope will never come).  But I’ll find another place to shoot rather than take a handout from someone who eventually wants to take the guns away.  It’s called having values.

Compromise is the devil’s game.  It’s for people who have no values.  I have renewed by NRA membership for another year, and I’ll be watching them to see if we have any more compromises.  I can always terminate my membership in a year.

UPDATE: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link!



  • Lina Invere

    The SAF does two important things as far as I can tell: help fund many of the best lawsuits and hold an annual gun rights conference. Last year’s was held in San Francisco, this year in Chicago.

    Those two choices were not by accident, e.g. Google around for the display ads they bought last year that horrified the locals. I wouldn’t assume at all that Gottlieb wants to attend Obama’s shindig to “compromise”; its a safe bet that figurative bomb throwing as indicated by his comments would be his agenda.

    I will say that the actions of the NRA after their post-Virginia Tech “Veterans Disarmament Act” compromise with Carolyn McCarthy got pulled back from the brink at the last minute (no thanks to them) have been pretty much entirely positive, much to my surprise. But it’s too soon to assume they won’t backslide sooner or later, certainly not with the same “Winning Team” calling the shots as it were.

  • Rob Crawford

    “The NRA is the most powerful lobby on earth…”

    Meh. They’re pikers compared to the NEA, AARP, Hollywood, and various “farm” groups.

  • John Cooper

    Sorry, but I won’t be renewing my NRA membership. Not only did they endorse Reid, but they endorsed the democrat candidate for U.S. congress and state senate where I live. There’s no such thing as a Democrat who believes in the RKBA.

  • Ed

    The NRA (of which I am a Life Member) believes that they can accomplish more through compromise than by drawing a Line in the Sand. They are the ones who brought us the Gun Control Act of 1966, the (now expired) Assault Weapons Ban, the Brady Law, etc.

    The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) , Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) , and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA) (of which I am a Life Member) are examples of No Compromise Second Amendment organizations.

    It should be of no surprise to anyone that the anti-gun Obama administration would want to build a compromise that the NRA might support but would be entirely unwilling to even consider anything that SAF, JPFO, CCRKBA, etc. might have to say.

    I think that you can reasonably assume that when new regulations/restrictions are announced the Obama administration will say that these regulations/restrictions were crafted with the support of stakeholders in the firearms community.

  • http://www.kennelson.com Ken Nelson

    I, too, have had concerns about the NRA’s political operations.

    But… they are more than just politics. I hope they right that ship, but their work in the shooting safety, on shooting sports, shooting education, and range operations is needed and top notch.

    My son turned 14 yesterday and his birthday present from Mom and me was an NRA Life Membership.

  • Lina Invere

    Ed: For whatever reasons they did not support the “Assault Weapons” ban, that is to my knowledge the first time they ever “drew a line in the sand” and refused to “compromise” on a major Federal anti-gun law (from the NFA of ’34 through their beloved NICS in the Brady Bill).

    John Cooper and others: Reid has “felt the heat and seen the light” and has been pro-gun as of late (for example, inserting a couple of pro-gun provisions in Obamacare). I can’t say anything about your local politicians, but I can say that at the Congressional level, minus the 2010 freshmen there are probably only two truly pro-RKBA ones (Ron Paul and Tom Coburn); otherwise there is also “no such thing as a Republican who believes in the RKBA”. At best they simply don’t care about us or our issues and wish we and they would stop making their lives more difficult (or complicated or whatever).

    All you have to do is to compare the output of pro-RKBA legislation in the 2009-10 session when the Dems controlled everything vs. the average output when Republicans had more control (although never a Senate supermajority). We got more results from terrified Democrats than Republicans who take us for granted after election day.

  • http://www.Dumbplumber.blogspot.com Terry Briggs

    My non-renewal of my NRA membership was for a far more fundamental reason. I signed up originally to help out the NRA financially. However, they spent far more than I gave them on postage and my valuable time deleting their fundraising emails. They became a money begging machine.

  • Lina Invere

    Terry Briggs: Indeed; in something akin to regulatory capture, the NRA is run first and foremost for the benefit of Ackerman McQueen, its PR etc. firm. It’s also clear that if you just do a basic membership to the SAF they’ll spend far more money than what you send them per year. (And they’re hardly alone in the general non-profit field, e.g. I’ve observed this of Food For the Poor after giving them a single $25 donation after the Haitian earthquake based on a now obviously incorrect recommendation).

    It might be worth it for the NRA just so that they can maintain their claim of representing a lot of us; otherwise you’re going to have to donate enough to get beyond the drag of their money making side ventures.

  • Rich

    I am a NRA life member from 1975 and annual before that. Two years ago I gave my wife and life membership and my 15yo daughter on last year. Mostly to boost numbers but also because overall the NRA does good work. I have in the past stuffed all their money raising material into an envelope and sent it back to them saying send to me once a year and maybe you will get something, you send too much on begging.
    I mostly donate locally to second amendment organizations

  • Rich

    sorry about the typo’s :)

  • Brock Manson

    Anyone who says they don’t believe in compromise but continues to support the NRA is completely missing the definition of the word “compromise,” apparently.

    The NRA’s position being questionable goes far beyond Sen. Reid. Why have they stood so firmly against Constitutional Carry for so many years, only now to supposedly support it? What about Project Gestapo?

    To Terry Briggs; I agree that they waste money, but it ain’t on mailings (email or direct mail) — look into how much they spend taking politicians on hunting trips to Africa and flying around in private Lear Jets. That was one of the main reasons I stopped trusting them clear back in 1995 (among others — I saw first-hand how they treated people who shot those “scary, black rifles”).

    Lina, can I ask, regarding your statement about the SAF “they’ll spend far more money than what you send them…” Based on….what? Don’t get me wrong, The McDonald case was obviously a landmark, but other than hiring a super-duper, kick-a$$ lawyer…. Where has their money gone? I’m not denying it, I’m simply asking because I don’t know.

    @Brock_Manson on Twitter

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Brock, I had actually considered that objection to my argument (not just from the perspective of this article, but renewal of my membership as well, from a personal standpoint) and found that objection uncompelling. Note, your objection doesn’t offend me – I had in fact aimed that objection directly at myself before I ever sent them my money.

    I have renewed my membership, and if I see something that causes me to believe that they are slipping into their compromising ways again, I can always terminate next year. You are the one who is in fact missing the point. I won’t hold them to past errors in judgment if they will wisely use my money in the future. If they return to the pig trough again, I’ll cut my ties.

  • Lina Invere

    Brock, I sent the SAF $15 for a one year membership 4 years ago and while it’s tapered off I’m still receiving snail mail begging letters. It is my guess, but one I’m pretty confident of, that their snail mail expenses for me in that first and only year of membership were well more than the $15 I sent them. I didn’t renew because I’m not in a position to donate enough to provide a surplus after these snail mail expenses.

    As for your “where does their money go?” questions, the best answer is to look at the required 990 forms they’ve submitted to the IRS. Try e.g. the form at this site, enter in “Second Amendment Foundation” and Washington State; you’ll find the forms for 2002-9. They have spent serious money on lawsuits, especially after the Heller decision of course.

  • http://dannytheman-dannytheman.blogspot.com/ Dannytheman

    There are easy ways to stop getting mail, go to the website and sign up to not get any more mail. Easy to do, you can also always call and request it stop. I happen to be a happy member, that acknowledges I don’t agree with everything, but that’s why I pay them to study stuff.
    I also don’t go back and forth every year, if I feel they let me down. We need to be in for the long haul, not short term. I think Wayne and Chris are doing a fairly good job. Membership is up, we have been winning and winning more often. Seems like people are now jumping on the bandwagon, which I am OK with.
    4.5+million people truly should be 15 million at 25 bucks a year for some.

  • Gaston

    In the non-profit community, the NRA is viewed as the best fund raising machine and the role model that every other one of them aspires to. To me it seems to be more of a business than leader. I spend my money on my local Second Amendment organization (the VCDL). They are local and I can see for myself how they change the Law.

  • mockmook

    Why is not going to a meeting/summit and advocating for gun rights a good idea?

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Because going to a meeting where your enemy wants nothing more than the dissolution of your views and undermining of your rights, and where your mere presence will lend credibility to your opponent as having “compromised” with you, if a very, very bad idea. Your false presupposition is that you will argue the current administration into respecting the Second Amendment.

  • http://www.davidcodrea.com David Codrea

    SAF did not ask to be included in order to compromise. I”m the one who suggested to Alan that he should attend, not to compromise, but to exploit. It was not based on their desire to be significant, and anyone suggesting that is engaged in baseless public speculation that is unmerited, unfair, and insulting.

    Here’s PART of what I wrote to Gottlieb on Mar. 15:

    “http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/us/politics/15guns.html?_r=2
    “On Tuesday, officials at the Justice Department will meet with gun control advocates in the first of what will be a series of meetings over the next two weeks with people on different sides of the issue…”

    “Will CCRKBA be attending any of these meetings? If so, it would be a perfect opportunity to craft a statement for the public and media that any talks on further gun controls are pointless until we get to the bottom of Project Gunwalker and find out how our own government allowed potentially thousands of firearms to be sold to criminals on both sides of the Mexican border.

    “If you’re not planning on sending a rep, I ask you to reconsider–and if you are planning to, I urge you to use Gunwalker to shift the focus completely away from more gun control and entirely on ATF corruption. We don’t often get handed media opportunities like this.”

    I asked to attend as well. Why?

    Because: http://www.examiner.com/gun-rights-in-national/two-more-invitation-requests-for-obama-s-common-ground-gun-summit

    Personally, I think NRA blew an opportunity.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    David, I appreciate your writings on second amendment rights, but I couldn’t disagree more with your views. Of course, you could probably already tell that based on what I wrote. It’s more effective to let Obama have no one to talk to than to give credibility to his ridiculous summit. I also disagree that any “statement” crafted and released at or after such a summit would be worthwhile or effective. It could only sound like sour grapes. No, the way to achieve our aims is to be uncompromising, and the best way to show this is to let Obama talk to himself. Don’t lend the credibility of any organization to his efforts.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    David, after thinking about this article and what you said in your comment, I think there needs to be a clarification. If you have construed what I wrote to suggest that I think that SAF or CCRKBA would have compromised their core principles, that would be wrong. I don’t believe that, and didn’t write that.

    What I do hold is, as I have said just above, that their mere presence would have unwittingly abetted the enemy and could have done no good whatsoever. On this view I won’t compromise.

  • http://www.davidcodrea.com David Codrea

    Doing exactly what I recommend–identifying opportunities where others see nothing and then banging pots and pans–is the reason why you even know about the Gunwalker story in the first place.

  • Lina Inverse

    David and Herschel: Given their stature, I think it would have been a mistake for the NRA to have attended for the reason Herschel cites. But given that just about every “outsider” to our issue thinks the “gun lobby” (including manufacturers!) is the NRA, I think the SAF/CCRKBA could have attended with minimal damage to our cause purely from their attendance, and given their approach to these sorts of things they might have achieved something at net positive. Certainly the small fry like them can and do take risks the NRA can’t. So I think this is a debatable point.

    On the other hand, given that Obama characteristically agreed to accept a transparency award only if given in secret, one wonders if they could have achieved anything … and we can be pretty sure for that reason Team Obama would never invite them. Only the NRA would have been useful for the political cover.

  • http://www.foodforthepoor.org Megan@FFP

    Lina,

    I’m sorry you were not satisfied with your experience with Food For The Poor.

    In order to inform the public of the current conditions the poor are struggling with and to retain accountability, we periodically mail informational literature to our supporters. However, more than 96 percent of all donations to Food For The Poor go directly to programs that support the poor (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3714) – fundraising expenses account for only 2.3 percent of our budget. On average, we spend $0.02 to raise every $1. According to Charity Navigator, we are more financially efficient than the American Red Cross, World Vision, the American Cancer Society, March of Times and many other top-notch charities.

    Without donors like you, we would not have been able to send more than 1,459 tractor-trailer loads of food, water, medicine and other lifesaving relief aid valued at more than $205 million to Haiti during the year following the earthquake. You have also funded the post-earthquake construction of 1,900 homes for displaced Haitian families. We are extremely grateful for our donors’ support. They are saving lives.

    I encourage you to visit the financial section of our website, http://www.foodforthepoor.org/about/finances/, to learn more about how we spend donors’ money. You can also contact me at meganw@foodforthepoor.org to ask a question or to request for your name to be removed from our mailing lists.

    Sincerely,
    Megan@FFP

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This article is filed under the category(s) Federal Firearms Laws,National Rifle Association,Second Amendment and was published April 3rd, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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