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Let’s Dispel Another Myth

In the comments on my post earlier:

While I’m sure GOA doesn’t spend as much money as the NRA I’m equally certain they don’t spend it on such things as headquarters buildings, airfare for nearly a hundred directors to annual meetings or exorbitant salaries for their own pet poiliticians — which is all LaPierre and Cox are.

For comparison, NRA’s form 990s is here.  NRA spends 1.3% of it’s annual operating budget on executive compensation.  GOA’s executive compensation accounts for 11.5% of its total operating budget, and Larry pays himself a salary or 33.6k a year the GOA Foundation as well, which NRA does not do.  True, Wayne and his buddies make a lot more than Larry and his buddies, but NRA is a much larger organization.  How many CEO’s of 332 million dollar a year companies can you name that make less than a million a year?  Wayne does not make substantively more than the CEO of the small biotech company I work for, and we have yet to make a profit.  Chris Cox could make a hell of a lot more money working on K street.  James Baker left ILA to start his own K street lobby firm. As for fancy buildings, NRA spends 2% of its annual expenses for office space.  GOA spends 7.6% of it’s annual expenses on office space.

But let’s not stop there.  We can also examine the Form 990 of GOA Foundation, and examine the Form 990 of NRA Foundation.  Ignoring for the moment I had to up my upload limits just to fit NRA Foundation’s Form 990 on the server, which do you think looks like it’s doing more to advance the cause?  NRA Foundation’s executive compensation is a big fat zero.  All the NRA Foundation officers are uncompensated.  Just look at the list of grants paid out by NRA Foundation.  To 4H clubs, to JROTC, to shooting clubs, Boy Scout Troops, the list goes on.  They paid 15.2 million dollars in grants to do things like help raise new generations of shooters.  I could write for twenty pages about all the things NRA Foundation does.

GOA Foundation, in comparison, spends 11% of its total expenses paying Larry Pratt.  Totals paid out were 149 thousand dollars for “Research, publish and distribute numerous books, monographs, issue briefs, auto and video tapes, and other educational materials relating to firearms rights.”  In 2007, 114,000 was paid out by their legal defense program.

Like I said before, none of the things GOA are doing are worthless endeavors, but we should be serious about which organization is making the greater contribution to the cause of the Second Amendment, and keeping our shooting culture alive and well.  I would not, on my own initiative, compare GOA to NRA, because I think there is no comparison between the two that is fair.  They each have different roles to play.  But GOA makes a regular habit of claiming to be an equal or better than NRA.  When you look at the matter seriously, that’s a laughable assertion.

28 Responses to “Let’s Dispel Another Myth”

  1. Achilles says:

    I’m sure you’re going to take a lot of heat about this, Sebastian, but it needed to be said.

    We may not agree with everything the NRA does (I certainly don’t), but we’d be screwed without it. If you’re not at least paying installments on a Life Membership, you’re not serious about RKBA.

  2. Allen says:

    Wow, thanks Sebastian. You never hear that side of the story. I wonder how the JPFO stacks up to the GOA and the NRA.

    I’m sure they’re quite smaller than both, but I’d wager they lean closer to the NRA than the GOA in their stewardship of money.

  3. Sebastian says:

    JPFO is a 501(3)(c), so they are more comparable to the NRA and GOA Foundation. I’ve never looked at their Form 990, because I don’t often notice JPFO attacking other gun groups.

  4. MicroBalrog says:

    The fact the GOA is too small means only it should be bigger.

    That said:

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v42/allanea/Photos/nra.jpg

    When is the NRA going to even TRY to accomplish this?

  5. Scott says:

    BRIAN: Brothers! Brothers! We should be struggling together!
    FRANCIS: We are! Ohh.
    BRIAN: We mustn’t fight each other! Surely we should be united against the common enemy!
    EVERYONE: The Judean People’s Front?!
    BRIAN: No, no! The Romans!
    EVERYONE: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yes.

  6. Sebastian says:

    The votes have never been there for a repeal of the 1986 ban. There’s not even a politician in Washington wiling to introduce it. We lost on the MG issue in 1934, unfortunately. It’s a long way back to there, if we ever get there at all.

  7. MicroBalrog says:

    >There’s not even a politician in Washington wiling to introduce it. <

    Really? Not even one of the GOA A-rated types?

    “It’s a long way back to there, if we ever get there at all.”

    ‘We must learn to walk before we learn to run’ is not an excuse for lying down and not walking, is it?

  8. Sebastian says:

    If one of GOA’s A-rated politicians is willing to introduce it, why haven’t they introduced it?

  9. Sebastian says:

    I think that kind of proves my point, really. I mean, you can’t say that GOA “has no equal” and then bitch that NRA doesn’t want to die on the hill of getting Hughes removed. If GOA “has no equal” why isn’t Hughes gone by now? Why do I still have to worry about how many foreign parts I put in my AK? Why can’t I get a brand new IMI Tavor?

  10. Allen says:

    Agreed. One of the crazier things to come down the pipeline is the ridiculous ban on importation of certain firearms and the barrels of firearms (i.e. 922c regulations).

  11. MicroBalrog says:

    Actually, the GOA has stood behind the Second Amendment Restoration Act (google it!) every time it is submitted. That they’re not strong enough to make it happen is not their fault.

  12. Jdude says:

    “That they’re not strong enough to make it happen is not their fault.”

    Who’s fault is it then?

  13. Sebastian says:

    The Second Amendment Restoration Act is more than one bill, depending on what Congress you’re speaking of, and which representatives. Paul’s bill, that he introduces in every Congress but has not introduced in this one, had not even a single cosponsor sign on to it. You mean to tell me with all the influence GOA claims they can’t even get one other Congressman to sign onto Ron Paul’s bill?

    What you’re going to say, I’m sure, is that it’s NRA’s fault for not pushing the bill. But here’s the rub. Even NRA could not get this pull through Congress, and even if they could twist a few Congressmen’s arms to get them to cosponsor the legislation, they’d quickly lose friends because no one wants to cosponsor a bill that’s not going anywhere.

    As a contrast, NRA’s bill in the 110th Congress to reform ATF, HR4900, was introduced by Steve King of Iowa, and had 224 cosponsors. That’s a bill that had a chance.

  14. Philbert says:

    If I’m reading this right, the NRA’s total revenue for 2007 was $332 million, the total expenditure was $196 million, and the total spent on fundraising was $26 million.

    So fundraising accounted for 13% of NRA spending and 8% of NRA income.

    That’s on the high side compared to most non-political nonprofits I donate to, I don’t know how other political orgs shape up. Still, I think even that figure would raise some eyebrows among the NRA detractors who claim that all the NRA does is send requests for money.

  15. Sebastian says:

    NRA’s problem is that they raise money in small increments, people donating 25 or 30 dollars at a time, which will raise their fund raising cost dramatically. The problem isn’t unique to NRA either. If you look at GOA’s form 990, they spend 16% of their total expenses on fundraising, which is even higher than NRA.

    I think NRA’s fund raising methods do a lot to drive membership away. They need to seek out larger donors, and not rely so much on the many small donations. Fortunately, they have been moving in this direction, and building an endowment to fund ongoing operations.

  16. MicroBalrog says:

    “Who’s fault is it then?”

    Why does it have to be a “fault” of anybody? They don’t have enough members.

    “You mean to tell me with all the influence GOA claims they can’t even get one other Congressman to sign onto Ron Paul’s bill? “

    Actually, I never claimed GOA has a lot of influence. Which means we should work for it to have more influence.

    This is the whole issue, isn’t it? The GOA is more aggressive but it has little influence, the NRA has lots of influence, but is not very aggressive. And as far as I know, there’s very little change the NRA will change its ways in the near future.

  17. Sebastian says:

    This is the whole issue, isn’t it? The GOA is more aggressive but it has little influence, the NRA has lots of influence, but is not very aggressive. And as far as I know, there’s very little change the NRA will change its ways in the near future.

    The problem is, GOA really isn’t aggressive. It just talks a tough game. But that’s all they really have when it comes to influencing politicians. It’s easy to suggest you’ll always fight when all you do is issue harshly worded press releases.

    If GOA were to suddenly find itself with more influence, say it got all of NRA’s members, either two things would happen. It would either evolve to look a lot like NRA, or it would ensure that all those 4 million members had almost no voice, because no politician wants to work with a group that doesn’t acknowledge what’s possible, and what isn’t.

    It would be nice to get rid of all the federal gun control, but it ain’t going to happen, and neither NRA nor GOA has the clout to accomplish that right now. The difference is, NRA understands that, and works within the confines of its political power. GOA realizes they can promote themselves, by trying to pretend that they actually have that power, and sell it as if they would win, if they could just get the big bad weak NRA out of the way.

    It is one of the biggest deceptions ever sold to the gun owning public.

  18. MicroBalrog says:

    What is this with “get rid of all the federal gun control”?

    Are the only two options we have to either move at the NRA’s horridly slow excrutiating pace of a paralyzed snail OR go in for some insane up-or-down vote on all the Federal gun laws at once? Is that it?

  19. Sebastian says:

    The Second Amendment Restoration Act that you touted, essentially got rid of all the federal gun control. That’s what the bill did.

    The pace NRA is moving at is the pace politics moves at. What do you think you can get passed in Nancy Pelosi’s Congress? And then get Obama to sign? We’re going to be exceedingly lucky to hold our ground in this political climate, and yet we may actually make some minor progress with DC gun rights. NRA moves at a glacial pace because it’s a lot of work to get anything passed through the legislative process. It sucks, but that’s just how it is. It took our opponents 60 years to get where they got. It will likely take us as long to undo it.

  20. MicroBalrog says:

    “The Second Amendment Restoration Act that you touted, essentially got rid of all the federal gun control. That’s what the bill did.”

    Have you actually read the Act?

    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-h1096/show

    Here’s a summary. Would it make machineguns legal? Would it make SBRs legal to buy over the counter? How does this repeal all Federal gun law?

    The other guys have gotten to where they are in several fell swoops – NFA-34, GCA-68, Brady Bill, and some other amendments/bills they’ve slipped in over the years (I love machineguns, but for most people Hughes was relatively minor because they were already rather difficult to get). Why can’t we land strikes of this magnitude too?

  21. Sebastian says:

    You’re right on the bill. My apologies. I seem to recall that Paul introduced a bill with the same title that did essentially repeal pretty much all the federal gun laws in one of the Congresses, but I can’t remember which one off hand.

    But they didn’t really win in several large swoops, though it does seem that way. State level gun controls started as early as 1911. There was an effort prior to 1934 to pass analogues to Sullivan. Even after NFA, there was the Federal Firearms Act in 1938.

    I’ll be honest, we’re probably not going to roll it all back. But we, at least, have rolled back most of the laws that popped up in the 20th century banning the carry of concealed weapons. We made sure the assault weapons ban died, and got a least one major chip out of GCA 68 passed.

    There’s still a lot of work to do, but wishing it would happen faster isn’t going to make it happen faster. The only way it’s going to happen faster is bringing more people into the fight in a serious way. We have to be willing to do the work to defeat anti-gun politicians, and support pro-gun politicians, and we can only do that with numbers. Numbers that GOA doesn’t have, and even NRA could use a lot more of.

  22. JD says:

    It would be nice to get rid of all the federal gun control, but it ain’t going to happen, and neither NRA nor GOA has the clout to accomplish that right now. The difference is, NRA understands that, and works within the confines of its political power. GOA realizes they can promote themselves, by trying to pretend that they actually have that power, and sell it as if they would win, if they could just get the big bad weak NRA out of the way.
    It is one of the biggest deceptions ever sold to the gun owning public.

    Thanks Sebastian, for telling it exactly how it is. I’m going to forward this to a few of my fellow gun owning friends. I just couldn’t get my point across to them as well you did in this post.

  23. Ken says:

    I think NRA’s fund raising methods do a lot to drive membership away. They need to seek out larger donors, and not rely so much on the many small donations. Fortunately, they have been moving in this direction, and building an endowment to fund ongoing operations.

    I dunno, Sebastian. There’s no harm in looking for large donors, but I think “astroturf” is one of the more potent arguments NRA has against the antis. NRA, any time it likes, can say, “Here’s evidence of our grassroots support. Where’s yours?”

    Now, in an era where politicians are more or less openly bought, or at least increasingly indifferent both to where the money’s coming from and the opinions of the folks back home, I grant that the argument loses force.

  24. Sebastian says:

    Ken:

    That doesn’t mean NRA wouldn’t seek out members. NRA needs members. It would mean they don’t have to beg for money as much as they do, which drives a lot of people away.

  25. Bitter says:

    There’s no harm in looking for large donors, but I think “astroturf” is one of the more potent arguments NRA has against the antis.

    Explain to me how donors who can make large donations equals astroturf. Would you argue that if a pro-gun person of means is willing to donate $1,000,000 to advance the cause, they should really only give $1,000 instead because it looks more grassroots that way? Should NRA, and by default, the rest of us as gun owners, be happy we’re missing out on an additional $999,000 for creating new shooting programs or giving to pro-gun politicians or reaching gun rights supporting voters because we get to hold some moral high ground?

    I understand what you’re trying to argue, but I don’t think that we should look at the significance of grassroots in terms of a dollar value. Don’t discredit the work to reach wealthy pro-gun donors.

    Besides, our large donors are demanding for results that reflect our grassroots. If you look up the larger donor programs at NRA right now, you’d find things like the Gregory Match.

    Joe and Cindy Gregory, Co-Chairs of the NRA Ring of Freedom National Advisory Council have generously offered a matching gift opportunity to the NRA of $3 million. If the NRA raises $6 million in outright gifts and pledges of $25,000 or more, by May 19, 2009, the Gregorys will donate an astounding matching gift of $3 million.

    Does raising 240 $25k+ donations reflect a sign of grassroots support? I would say so. I know I’m more than happy to count the wealthy among our grassroots. I think that’s part of what makes our movement great.

    Last year, NRA was working with August Busch III to do a donor match program that could include everyone.

    Busch, of Anheuser-Busch brewery fame, offers this simple challenge to shooting enthusiasts: for every $2 that’s donated or pledged toward YHEC by the end of 2008, he will contribute $1 — up to a maximum of $250,000. Busch plans to raise a total of $750,000 to support YHEC, NRA’s oldest continuously operated program.

    Does reaching out to him to support the Youth Hunter Education Challenge reflect a lack of grassroots? Sure, he’s a high dollar donor, but he asked NRA to prove its grassroots support in order to get the larger donation.

    At this point, everyone knows and understands that we have real grassroots. Yes, we need to flex that muscle periodically to remind folks on Capitol Hill and in our communities that we’re around. But, I don’t see how looking at whether an organization does outreach to the wealthy is a measure of whether we’re still grassroots or not.

  26. Ken says:

    Here’s how: De-emphasizing small fundraising will reduce the number of small contributors. Period. Yes, it hacks people off, but it is necessary and it works. If I were a Laird of Fairfax, I would seek large donors but I wouldn’t change a thing otherwise. It ain’t broke, not from that point of view.

  27. Sebastian says:

    I don’t think there’s any danger of NRA halting solicitations for small donations, but how many people do you hear complain that NRA asks for money too often? It’s probably the most common complaint I hear.

  28. Anonymous Coward says:

    Look, the GOA’s purpose in existence is to take the extreme on the gun control issue and thus slide the debate farther in that direction. The GOA exists to light a fire under the NRA and keep things moving, every movement needs its threepers, every Sierra Club needs its Earth First!.

    This is a simple fact of life, also, we need to donate to BOTH organizations when we can. The NRA does very good advocacy work and even better education work. The GOA is aggressive and pushes through things like Heller (which I have to point out the NRA was too scared to do at first).

    In short, lets stop fighting between the groups. THEY NEED EACH OTHER. Without the NRA, most people would view gun advocacy as kind of crazy, without the GOA, a lot less would actually get done. If anything, we should form slightly more extreme GOA-like orgs, that are even more pro-gun than the GOA to draw the public discourse ever so slightly more towards freedom.

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