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Ask Our NRA Lobbyist

On Friday we had some interesting comments in my thread about Castle Doctrine being dead. I spent a few hours at the end of the day on Friday and on Sunday talking to some folks at NRA about how they could communicate better with opinion leaders in this issue. Not wanting to just hurl criticism, I offered to do a Q&A session with John Hohenwarter, NRA’s Pennsylvania Liaison, and they agreed.

The way is will work is I’ll open the comments for readers to ask questions, and I’ll compile the best ones, add a few of my own if need be, and send them to John. My only request is to keep the questions limited towards issues we’re facing in Pennsylvania, rather than federal or general issues. Other than that, the field of questions is wide open. I’ll let this thread go for a few days before compiling the questions.

90 Responses to “Ask Our NRA Lobbyist”

  1. John:

    A few simple questions:

    – Why did you actively push so hard to amend HB1926 with the Alloway Amendment, instead of working for HB40 to be considered, especially when it was very unlikely at the time that the House would reconvene to vote for concurrence?

    – More generally, why does it seem the NRA is more interested in working against state-level 2A organizations than working with them?

  2. tsafa says:

    First question… Is the Bill Really Dead?

    Second… How did it get that way?

    Third… What’s the next move for Pro Gun Rights in PA?

    Fourth… a lot of people worked hard and spent making phone call, writing letters, traveling to promote this bill. Where they just wasting their time and money? How do you expect to mobilize them again in the future if they feel their efforts were sabotaged from withing the pro-gun movement?

  3. gnbrotz says:

    Why is the NRA so absent and silent on the overwhelming number of preemption violations in PA? There have been *dozens* of violations documented, and I’d wager hundreds more yet to be discover because the info isn’t available online.

    Almost two years ago I called your number John, to personally alert you to these situations (making the assumption that you were completely unaware) and simply asked for input and advice on how to address them. I never received a return call, and an NRA presence has been conspicuously absent, even when our grassroots efforts without the NRA garner significant media coverage. I can no longer accept that the NRA is unaware of these things occurring, so I must conclude that they feel they have ‘bigger fish to fry’.

  4. Dannytheman says:

    Question 1) What is your professional opinion of the FOAC?
    Question 2) Does the FOAC and it’s members make your job harder or easier?
    Question 3) Do you believe the elected officials and their staffers should only talk/believe paid lobbyists?
    Question 4) What would you do differently now that, in hindsight, we may have lost this chance for the passage of Castle Doctrine this year?

  5. guest says:

    Some of these questions are leading questions or downright conclusions. It would be nice if posters would actually ask questions instead of leading (do you still beat your wife) or offering conclusions.
    i.e.
    “ChamberedRound Said,
    – More generally, why does it seem the NRA is more interested in working against state-level 2A organizations than working with them?”
    and:
    “tsafa Said,
    How do you expect to mobilize them again in the future if they feel their efforts were sabotaged from withing the pro-gun movement?”
    *****
    I’d like to hear the answers to Dannytheman’s questions; they appear thoughtful to me.

    BTW, John H. was around in a different [non-NRA] capacity when FOAC went up against the NRA back in 1995 when FOAC unsuccessfully fought the act that brought mandatory issuance of licenses to carry to Philadelphia. Maybe he will recall the same bitter and dishonest NRA bashing by sore losers that went on back then.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Don’t worry about how they ask the question. I’ll take care of framing it correct when when they are sent. I’m mostly trying to get a sense of what people are concerned about.

  7. Sebastian says:

    gnbrotz:

    That’s not really John’s area. Preemption is already law. Enforcing it would be more a question for one of NRA’s attorneys. NRA has been involved in court fights over preemption in Pennsylvania, and has several cases currently pending.

  8. guest says:

    OK, not only won’t I “worry” about posters’ questions, I also won’t worry about the way you changed your post.

    “The way is will work is I’ll open the comments for readers to ask questions, and I’ll compile the best ones, add a few of my own if need be, and send them to John. ”

    becomes:

    “Don’t worry about how they ask the question. I’ll take care of framing it correct when when they are sent.”

    BTW, since leading questions, conclusions, rhetorical questions, etc. are not actually questions, what is it you are going to frame?

  9. gnbrotz says:

    Castle Doctrine is already law too, yet preemption and Castle Doctrine were both the subject of proposed legislation to strengthen the measures in our favor during the last legislative session. Where was NRA involvement on the proposed change in preemption legislation?

    I still don’t think it’s too much to expect a return call saying “that’s not my area” and pointing me in the right direction. After all, that was the whole point of the call in the first place.

  10. Sebastian says:

    guest:

    What I mean is if 20 people ask the same question in a different way, I’m going to come up with one version of that question rather than sending the same question 20 different ways. I also want to keep the number of questions down to a manageable number.

  11. Sebastian says:

    greg:

    OK… I didn’t realize you were talking about Metcalfe’s bill.

  12. PennsyPlinker says:

    Why did the NRA not support FOAC and local gun owners in their work to get Castle Doctrine passed?

  13. O. Rly says:

    What will the NRA do to shed its image as an anti-gun organization, having brought us the Pennsylvania UFA in the 1920s and the federal NFA in the 1930s — will it be sponsoring a constitutional carry bill any time soon, or throw its weight behind a Firearms Freedom Act (that includes silencers, machineguns, and an AG to protect us)?

  14. tsafa says:

    I agree that we need to start moving against the ban on the new manufacture of automatic rifles for sale to in the civilian market. The NRA needs to start talking about it so that the idea starts spreading. It might take a while… but you have to start pushing the idea now. The focus should be to reaching out to hunters and non-gun owners and educating them. The anti-gunners keep painting us as gun-nuts. We have to convince non-gun owners otherwise. We have to make them see that any gun control is and attack against liberty.

  15. Sebastian says:

    That’s a federal issue. There’s no PA law standing in the way of new MGs.

  16. tsafa says:

    Would you also mind putting some pressure on Corbett to destroy the illegal gun data base (registry) in PA. This would be a very simple action that he can do on his own… on the first day in office. It would go a long way toward thanking the people who voted for him.

  17. tsafa says:

    Thanks for response on MG ban.

  18. Sebastian says:

    Not a bad question, just one you’d want to ask one of their federal lobbyists.

  19. tsafa says:

    From what I have been told, in order to get a Tax Stamp for a MG or sound suppressor you have to get an approval from the local PA sheriff. People tell me that if the sheriff can refuse approval for any reason or no reason at all. That part is a PA issue. The tax stamp should be a “shall issue” item too. We need to prevent the local authorities from imposing their own political wills.

  20. Sebastian says:

    You mean shall sign like they have in Tennessee? My understanding though is that most Sherrifs will sign form 4.

  21. Sebastian says:

    Actually, there’s a constitutional challenge on the TN law. I would imagine NRA might want to see how that plays out before pushing it in other states.

  22. tsafa says:

    “most Sherrifs will sign form 4.” Key word there is “Most”. If you a person has a clean record, the sheriff should be “required”… or it should not even have to go through the Sheriff at all. A Federal background check by the FFL should be adequate. When laws like the MG ban were enacted back in 1986 the ability to do reliable instant back ground checks did not exist. Today instant background check should mean instant sale and transfer of a MG or suppressor to any lawful citizen.

  23. Sebastian says:

    I agree with you, but last time I talked someone about this issue, I was told that not only are the votes in Congress not there to repeal the MG ban, but that it would potentially open the door to new restrictions that don’t exist currently if the issue were even brought up. Talk to even pro-gun politicians, a lot of them draw the line at machine guns. There has to be a cultural shift before MGs are going to be on the table.

  24. tsafa says:

    I agree with you that their is not enough support for a repeal of the MG ban currently… that is is why we need to start a long term education campaign to bring hunters and non-gun owners to our side. Back in the 1970’s only 50% of the voting population supported the individual right to own firearms. Today that support for gun rights is up to 80%. That success is from the NRA’s and other groups efforts to reach out to non-gun owners. The non-gun owners are the key to expanding our gun rights. We need to win their hearts and minds. Its a long term effort so that the MG gun can might be lifted 10 or 20 years from now.

    In the short term, we can address my concern in post # 16. Corbett, who was supported by the NRA, will be in a position to kill the illegal gun data base in PA on his own. This is an illegal data base that barely squeezes by as legitimate because not every gun is in there. In ordering the destruction of the Data Base, Corbet will be following the the law.

  25. guest,

    I agree that my 2nd question is leading, so I’ll retract it. I’ll restate my first question here, and add a few new ones:

    – Why did you actively push so hard to amend HB1926 with the Alloway Amendment, instead of working for HB40 to be considered, especially when it was very unlikely at the time that the House would reconvene to vote for concurrence?

    – Does the NRA have any official policy on how relationships with state organizations are managed, how legislative strategy is formulated, etc? If not, who can be contacted to discuss concerns about such a lack of policy?

    – How much “command authority” is given to the lobbyist by the NRA in regards to strategy and decision making? Are state level organizations actively involved in such decision making?

    – Is the NRA state liason the only point of contact for currently enrolled and active NRA members to have their questions and concerns regarding state issues addressed?

  26. tsafa says:

    “I’m mostly trying to get a sense of what people are concerned about.”

    To answer this question… I am concerned that if I ever legally defend myself… I will be sued into bankruptcy. We need laws that will prevent criminals or their families from suing their victims because they defended themselves. A civil defense is very expensive. I would like such suits thrown out of court immediately.

  27. Sebastian says:

    CR:

    I don’t believe there is such a policy. My understanding is that policy for a given state is pretty much in the hands of the state liaison almost exclusively. The great difficulty in having a fixed policy is that every state is different, and the activists in every state are different. Also, what do you do when there’s irreconcilable differences in what NRA and a state group think the strategy should be? There are some things that can’t really be done by consensus. We should strive for consensus, but that’s not always going to be achievable.

  28. FWIW Sebastian, I find that position extremely dangerous for the RKBA movement as a whole. It’s especially concerning when the NRA, as in John’s case, has a single man lobbying in six states. That, coupled with their giving the liaisons the authority to act autonomously, means that a single man has the power to direct and steer legislative efforts not just for one state, but for an entire geographic region of the country. Given how our country was founded, and the NRA being such a sentinel of American History, one has to believe the NRA would see the danger in putting too much power in the hands of a single person.

    Note also that your answer doesn’t address my questions regarding NRA strategic planning, the involvement of state organizations, etc. so I’d still like to see that question given its due. FWIW, I’m having a hard time believing that the NRA allows John to run amok and do whatever he pleases with no direction from them; someone has to be issuing marching orders.

    This begs other questions, a bit of a derivative to the last question in my previous post:

    – Who is John’s boss at the NRA, and more generally, who at the NRA guarantees the liaisons are lobbying in accordance with the organization’s strategy/policy/etc.?

    – If the NRA gives their liaisons that degree of autonomy, how are said bosses made aware of the progress (or lack thereof) of the liaisons? Again, I have to believe these guys must perform according to some level of metrics so the organization’s management can determine if they’re doing a good job or not.

    – Who can NRA members in good standing contact when such an individual appears to be acting in opposition to the organization’s stated goals?

  29. Sebastian says:

    Randy Kozuch is the director of state and local affairs at NRA, and is the person that directs all the State Liaisons. If you look, you’ll notice what their overall legislative priorities are in the states, such as Castle Doctrine, The Parking Lot Laws, Campus Carry, Restaurant Carry, etc. Obviously Castle Doctrine is their immediate priority in PA at the moment.

    I don’t know for sure how much autonomy their Liaisons get, but my impression is that it’s quite a bit. I think whether they are doing a good job or not is pretty clear based on whether they can keep the agenda moving in the legislature. I would imagine you’d have to give pretty wide leeway to your man (or woman, in many cases) on the ground in a particular state, because he or she is going to have a better read on the legislature than someone who spends most of their time in Fairfax.

  30. Ed says:

    Will the NRA-ILA begin to work cooperatively with FOAC and other gun rights groups in Pennsylvania and other states?

    Will we be treated by the NRA like Grass Roots North Carolina and the Illinois State Rifle Association and need to depend on the Second Amendment Foundation and Alan Gura to advance the cause of gun owners?

    I am an NRA Endowment Life Member who believes that organizations like Pennsylvania’s Firearms Owners Against Crime (http://www.foac-pac.org), GRNC (http://www.grnc.org), Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (http://www.rmgo.org), Wyoming Gun Owners Assoication (http://wyominggunowners.org), etc. are doing all the heavy lifting while the NRA sits in the shadows to swoop in to take credit for work thet did not have the balls to take on themselves. Can you please address this concern.

  31. Sebastian says:

    I would also say that an overarching policy concern that NRA needs to coordinate with state groups on strategy is more a Randy Kozuch or Chris Cox level issue than with an individual liaison.

  32. Sebastian says:

    doing all the heavy lifting while the NRA sits in the shadows to swoop in to take credit for work thet did not have the balls to take on themselves. Can you please address this concern.

    That’s a carefully crafted and false meme by some of those groups you mention supporting. Most of those groups do not have the numbers to have much real influence in a legislature. That might not be what you want to hear, but that’s reality.

  33. tsafa says:

    Is the NRA understaffed?

    If so they need to reach out to the members. They should ask for people to contribute time rather then money if that is what they are short on. Especially on local issues where the people are close to the legislature.

    The NRA may want to request resumes from its remembers for volunteer service. We have many competent lawyers, accountants, doctors and businessmen in our ranks who can give added credibility to the cause. People will generally be more reluctant to send even small amounts of money but will generously contribute entire weekends to the cause. It would form tighter bonds within the organization as members actually meet each other.

  34. Sebastian says:

    Let me just emphasize some there, before someone reads that as me implying something about FOAC.

  35. Sebastian says:

    tsafa:

    I’ve been reaching out to members this entire election season trying to get them to do just that. All I heard back, except from Adam Z, was crickets. They have programs that address exactly this, which are readily accessible from their web site.

  36. Ed says:

    Sebastian said, “That’s a carefully crafted and false meme by some of those groups you mention supporting. Most of those groups do not have the numbers to have much real influence in a legislature. That might not be what you want to hear, but that’s reality.”

    On a state level the groups I have mentioned have been in the trenches day in day out fighting for rights in they respective states.

    Where as the NRA-ILA’s staff must multi-task and handle mulitple states.

    Why does the NRA not spend a few less dollars on election campaign ads and hire a dedicated NRA-ILA staffer to assign to in each state capitol and work in coordination with the state based gun rights groups?

  37. Sebastian says:

    Ed:

    How many of them have access to legislators, and to what extend? How much money and votes are they bringing to the table to coerce/frighten legislatures into voting with them? When you look into a lot of these groups, the answer is not much.

    I’m not saying NRA shouldn’t work with state level groups. That job you describe is actually that which the state liaison is supposed to serve. But the problem comes about when the state group wants NRA to do X, and NRA disagrees. Who wins that argument? The answer is NRA usually does, and that pisses a lot of state level groups off. But who says a state level group with 10,000 members or 30,000 members in a given state should win over the one that has 250,000 members?

  38. Ed says:

    Sebastian,

    Yes the NRA may have more warm bodies than the state group in any given state, but when you peel the onion which group has a higher percentage of members who are active in being rights activists?

    I think a group like FOAC could to very well to raise it’s visibility with NRA Annual Meeting being in Pittsburgh in 2011. Setup a booth, press the flesh and sign up more members.

    They could also raise visibilty to the less tech savvy gun owners in Penneylvania with a full page ad in next year’s “Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest”, “Pennsylvania Game News”, etc.

    2011 would perfect timing for a group like FOAC to do an awareness campaign, in coordination with the NRA Annual Meeting, to havest some new members from the NRA’s pool of members in Pennsylvania.

  39. Sebastian, I appreciate your answer on the issue of autonomy, but it still leaves with with a bit of concern that so many people’s rights at the state level are being managed by so few at the NRA. Especially when it doesn’t have to be that way, if the NRA would just involve aforementioned state-level organizations.

  40. Sebastian says:

    Ideally, what do you think the involvement should look like?

  41. PennsyPlinker says:

    Okay, I am getting confused reading all this here. Is Sebastian answering these questions himself, or is he speaking for John? In other words, is John giving the answers at this point and Sebastian posting them under his name, or what?

  42. Sebastian says:

    I’m answering questions as me. I have not yet sent anything to John Hohenwarter.

  43. PennsyPlinker says:

    Thank you for the clarification. Going back to the “warm body” thing, yeah, the NRA may claim a majority of members, but how many of them even know or care what is going on? I have talked to guys who say all they need to do is vote and pay their dues, and the NRA takes care of everything else. That is hardly being informed, much less involved. In the case of lobbying, if even two people show up in Harrisburg as citizens of the state where we live, that is twice the number of people the NRA is putting on the ground. Sure, they have money, and lots of PR, but WE LIVE HERE. This is our home, and this stuff is more important that the next election, or political points. It is the quality of our lives we are discussing here.

    The NRA isn’t organizing the 2A rallies, or getting people to come to the capitol building and walk the halls as citizens. It is the grassroots people of FOAC.

  44. Sebastian says:

    If we’re all doing the right things in our local communities, what goes on in the Capitol will largely take care of itself. It’s important to visit the Capitol once in a while, just to understand how everything works, but the base political support for gun rights is built from the local precinct or ward on up. And NRA does have a program for that, which is chronically short of volunteers.

  45. Sebastian says:

    I shouldn’t say takes care of itself, but if the local pols have a local base of support for gun rights (and also against gun control), it makes John and Kim’s job at the Capitol much easier.

  46. PennsyPlinker says:

    Sebastian, I have to say (write), this sounds an awful lot like “Stay and home and be a good boy. Don’t step out of line, and don’t get in anyone’s way.”

    We live in an alleged constitutional republic. We elect representatives to voice our concerns in the legislature. We have the freedom and the right to approach those representatives at their place of work, whether it be a local office or in the center of the universe. I for one did not sign my representation rights over to John Hohenwarter when I sent my money in to the NRA. No one on the face of this planet determines what is best for me other than me myself. That is the freedom we were born with, and which so many of us are trying to preserve.

    If I do not feel I am being adequately represented by either my elected rep or senator, OR by a paid lobbyist of an organization to which I belong, I am going to question it. I will question it here, there, or anywhere. I can’t help but get the feeling that I am supposed to learn my place, and leave the heavy lifting to people who know better. I am not convinced yet that they do. I am not a serf yet, I am still a citizen.

  47. Sebastian says:

    I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to Harrisburg. People are saying NRA members are not interested in serious activism. I’m pointing out that NRA has a program for that which works at the local level, broken down by congressional district in each state. The purpose of their grassroots program is to build local support for pro-gun candidates in each of those respective districts.

    What I’m saying is that NRA has programs to influence Harrisburg, but they don’t take the same form as what Metcalfe and Kim organize each year. That’s fine. I think the rally is beneficial. But don’t act like NRA is missing in action when it comes to trying to build a political constituency for gun rights. That’s done with the recognition that all politics is local.

  48. PennsyPlinker says:

    “But don’t act like NRA is missing in action when it comes to trying to build a political constituency for gun rights. That’s done with the recognition that all politics is local.”

    This is the first I have ever heard of the NRA working at the local level, and I pay attention to stuff – most of the time anyway. While I have gotten more letters than I can recall from Wayne telling me my guns rights are in danger if I don’t send more money right away, I cannot recall a single letter telling me how I can get involved on a local level to ensure my gun rights stay intact, much less advance them. So assuming this is accurate, how does the NRA, with all their advertising might, make this known to the rank and file?

  49. Sebastian says:

    Actually, that they don’t do more to promote their volunteer program is a particular pet peeve of mine, but most every district has a volunteer coordinator, who’s job it is to round up volunteers for local NRA endorsed campaigns and get them the help they need around election time. I am the EVC for PA-08, and my co-blogger is the EVC for PA-13. We also have a good relationship with the EVC for PA-06 and PA-07. The EVC for PA-19 is a fellow blogger and also a commenter on here.

    You can see a list for the whole state here. We do have a few districts in PA that still need coordinators.

  50. PennsyPlinker says:

    Well there you have it. They have a system that they do not utilize, or at least, do not utilize well. When others get involved in the process, there does not seem to be anyone interested in making this system known. When we start working on our own, we are made to feel like a bunch of parochial hicks when it comes to the ins and outs of state level politics.

    Maybe that is not the intent, but it is certainly the perception, at least in my case. My money is certainly welcome, but no one really needs my presence, especially if I am in the process of upsetting the apple cart with my demands for unfettered rights. I am feeling very disenfranchised right about now with this whole thing. Many of us have worked very hard to bring CD to pass, and it sure looks like it was torpedoed by the very people who are supposed to be helping us out.

  51. Sebastian says:

    Every election year magazine has information on the cover for how to get involved. There also information a few clicks off of ILA’s main site. It’s not that they don’t promote it at all that’s my concern, is that they are doing a poor job of engaging members to get them to volunteer. The reasons for that aren’t sinister, and they’ve tried things in the past to promote the program more thoroughly, but so far no one has found a formula that works as well as I think it could work.

  52. tsafa says:

    I would recommend that the NRA advertise its volunteer program in its monthly publications and mailings. I think it will come across better to the members then “send money”. People like choices and there are two choices here.

    Choice # 1 – People will actually volunteer.
    Choice # 2- People will think “I’m too busy… I just send a check”.

    So asking for people to contribute time may get some people more involved… or it will come across as a more effective way to ask for money to continue fighting for gun rights.

    The most important thing that volunteers can do is show up and show their faces and let non-gun owners know who they are. Talk to them in calmly and educate them. Show the world that we are patriot citizens and not “gun nut anarchistic”. This is much more effective when those volunteers are women and older Americans. You don’t want loudmouth volunteers jumping up and down screaming for more gun rights… wrong image.

    I happen to be a Certified NRA Instructor. The NRA has some great training courses. What is missing from the courses is a brochure of how gun owners should speak to non-gun owners and bring them over to our side.

  53. tsafa says:

    Sorry for bad grammar. I wish I had an edit button here.

  54. Sebastian says:

    I’m not liable to second guess them for fundraising. Fundraising is an art form. One that was perfected, actually, by a guy known as Alan Gottlieb, who’s organization you may have heard of. It’s not an area I would consider I have any expertise on.

  55. Sebastian says:

    We’re not grammar nazis here. It’s hard typing to get it right. Fingers do funny things.

  56. PennsyPlinker says:

    Okay, so once a year they put a notice on the magazine cover. Really, that is about it. How many members do you think cruise the ILA site? But I can promise you this, if I send in my membership dues for next year, I am pretty much guaranteed that I will get another letter within a few weeks asking me to re-up yet again, just because “my gun rights are in more danger than they have ever been in the past”. Do you have any idea how many times I have read that line over Wayne’s signature? So if they can generate thousands of letters to beg for more money, why not a few telling us how important it is to get involved on a local level, and providing the direction we need to start that involvement? I don’t think they really want that.

    They put their money where their priorities are, and it is very plain to see that getting people involved at the individual level is not a priority. I am just making an objective observation. They want to put their money where they can buy influence with politicians. In that way they are no different than any other lobbying group in Washington, Harrisburg, or anyplace else they choose to be. My problem is that I am getting the distinct impression that their best interests do NOT align with my best interests, or the interests of those of us who actually believe in the Constitutions of the US and PA. I believe that the NRA has come to the point where they are more interested in preserving the NRA than in anything else.

    A long time ago, as a boy, I read a sci fi short story, The Sumerian Oath. http://www.pjfarmer.com/ss.htm Doctors had a secret society. The big secret, of course, was that doctors caused disease, in order that they could treat it. The NRA, I believe, is more interested in keeping the controversy alive, because if they were to actually solve the problems they purport to solve, there would be no need for the NRA, and Wayne and all his buddies would be out looking for another cause to champion.

    I don’t even need to resort to sci fi to make my case either. We all are familiar with government agencies that spend all their money on wasteful stuff just to make sure they get it again next year. And what about trial lawyers who continually cry out about the dangers inherent in any manufactured product? Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson? These are all examples of people creating their own work. I think the NRA is the same in that regard.

  57. Sebastian says:

    How many other organizations are you a member of? They all raise money, and if they aren’t, they aren’t doing enough. They all do it pretty much using the same techniques.

    I talk to staff at NRA on a pretty regular basis. I’m not going to tell you there are no bozos that work at NRA. I will not say they all do their jobs wonderfully and with masterful competence. But there are many good people there that are doing a good job for considerably worse pay than they could get from the for-profit sector. The organization is far from perfect, but we’d be screwed without them. I fully believe that.

  58. PennsyPlinker says:

    I belong to several organizations, and donate to a number of charities on a regular basis. While they are often persistent, not too many resort to scare mongering.

    I do not doubt that there are a lot of good people who work at the NRA. I am beginning to doubt very much that those at the helm are in that group. Cold and calculating are what I would say. And if we are going to say what we fully believe, then I fully believe that they should get out of our way here in PA instead of “helping” us the way they have been.

    I am a certified instructor. I called the credentials office yesterday to ask them to rescind my credentials, since I was given to understand by someone else that I was not supposed to criticize the NRA as an instructor. I couldn’t even get someone to answer the phone. My training counselor asked me to wait on that until he could get me a definitive answer.

    I think their training programs have a lot of value, and I write that as a very well known and highly paid instructor in my own field. I do this on the side. But, if I am not allowed to be critical of the political garbage, they can have their credentials right now, and I am paid up for the next three years. Fighting for our rights necessitates getting involved in politics, but it does not necessarily mean becoming a political creature.

    We homeschooled our children for 16 years. We were associated with a group who started out fighting for the rights of homeschoolers all over the state. They developed an industry guiding families through the maze of laws and requirements. A number of years ago, the very things they had fought against came up for a change in the legislature. All of a sudden, we found them fighting AGAINST us! Why? If the law changed, there was no need for their services. So, they became the very thing they fought against in order to feather their own nest. I charge the NRA with the very same behavior. They want to make sure the controversy goes on for a good long time, for it is in that controversy that they find their justification for existence, and their job security. This may not be a popular view, and I may very well be labeled a crackpot. But, I have seen it happen in other organizations, and I am not often wrong about things like this.

  59. tsafa says:

    “but we’d be screwed without them. I fully believe that.”

    I agree 100% that he NRA has been essential in the fight for gun rights. I spoke a guy down in Australia where they had all their guns confiscated and I asked him how they let that happen. He told me lack of organization on the part of gun owners.

    I am also a member of GOA and SAF. I believe that Gun Rights are too important to just entrust to any one group. The SAF has done an amazing job at the Supreme Court. Gura knows how to win cases. The NRA has done a good job on Capital Hill. It is easy to see the NRA’s effectiveness by how hard anti-gun politicians hate them and have even tried to gag them with attacks on freedom of speech.

    The NRA has been very successful in bringing over “on the fence” politicians to vote our way. These things do not happen on their own. Someone has to push or those politicians would have voted the other way gain the favor anti-gun right groups. All that said… there is plenty of room for improvement. A lot of good suggestions have been made here in this blog that I hope will be passed up the chain.

    There are enough people that have formed the impression that the NRA is a business only out to make money, that the developing bad image warrants attention. I do not believe this… but I do believe the NRA should NOT ignore this. I have heard it said by enough people that it is a growing image problem. The organization should seek ways to remind its members that this cause is much more then just a business.

    The suggestion I made earlier of asking of “Volunteer Service” first and money second would go a long way toward image repair with the people who doubt the sincerity of the NRA to put Gun Rights before money.

  60. Sebastian says:

    I also fully believe if NRA “got out of our way” and retreated from PA, we’d very quickly turn into New Jersey. Dedicated activists can make up for a lot, but New Jersey is full of dedicated activists that can’t get anywhere because they just don’t have the numbers backing them up.

  61. PennsyPlinker says:

    Sebastian, I can appreciate your argument, but if we extrapolate that, then why are states like NJ, NY, MD, MA, etc, so repressive when it comes to gun rights if it is the NRA that holds the antis at bay? I am not saying the organization is totally worthless. I am saying they are not always what they represent themselves to be.

  62. Sebastian said:
    “Ideally, what do you think the involvement should look like?”

    At the very least, the NRA should do more to recognize the legitimacy of grassroots organizations at the state level. The impression I get is similar to Pennsy’s post above: the NRA sees the average state citizen, and state-level activist with an air of condescension, as if to say, “We’re the experts, let us handle it, we’ll call the in the amateurs when we need you”. Sure, there are some organizations that are nothing more than letterhead. But in the case of the ACSL/FOAC, they are relatively active, have a good member network, regularly get volunteers to attend lobbying sessions in Harrisburg, get engaged in discussion with Senators and Reps, etc. They should be given their due, and some respect.

    Once the NRA does that, then Randy Kozuch should require the liaisons to actively engage in periodic planning meetings with the leadership of said state-level organizations, like Kim Stolfer for example. Involve them in decision-making, share with them NRA’s plans, and enhance or modify those plans based on feedback from the state organizations vis-a-vis their leadership. Even if the state-level groups don’t fully agree with the NRA’s plan, by involving them they’re given a stake, and were at least given a fair say in how the NRA plans to operate in their home state. Furthermore, such planning would align the interests the two groups, and would make them more effective at getting the word out, and mobilizing people to push legislators to act on our collective behalf.

    Sebastian said:
    “I’m not saying people shouldn’t go to Harrisburg. People are saying NRA members are not interested in serious activism.”

    FWIW I never said this. However, while I believe the NRA is interested in serious activism, from their actions I’m starting to thing they’re more interested in serious activism FOR THEMSELVES than they are for the greater cause of 2A rights. They have a plan that works FOR THEMSELVES, but I’m not convinced it’s working for us.

    PennsyPlinker said:
    “A long time ago, as a boy, I read a sci fi short story, The Sumerian Oath. http://www.pjfarmer.com/ss.htm Doctors had a secret society. The big secret, of course, was that doctors caused disease, in order that they could treat it. The NRA, I believe, is more interested in keeping the controversy alive, because if they were to actually solve the problems they purport to solve, there would be no need for the NRA, and Wayne and all his buddies would be out looking for another cause to champion.”

    I don’t believe this would actually happen if we were to “win the fight” to our favor. However, I do believe the NRA is afraid it MIGHT happen, which is why our rights have “never been in greater danger” or however they put it.

    Sebastian said:
    “The organization is far from perfect, but we’d be screwed without them. I fully believe that.”

    At the federal level, I agree. At the state level, not so much. Let’s be honest, their involvement in PA issues in general has been light, which was a problem to begin with. All this time they’ve been content to let FOAC do the heavy lifting. FOAC has been pushing Castle Doctrine for SIX YEARS, and it wasn’t until this year, after the FOAC did all the work to make it a possibility, that the NRA swooped in. However, when they did get involved, the perception is that it had a net negative effect. I’d like to see NRA get more involved, but not if they’re not willing to work with those who are doing the most work at the state level. Hell, for CD being a priority, I don’t understand how six years of seeing this legislation stonewalled didn’t light a fire under them before now.

    PennsyPlinker said:
    “Sebastian, I can appreciate your argument, but if we extrapolate that, then why are states like NJ, NY, MD, MA, etc, so repressive when it comes to gun rights if it is the NRA that holds the antis at bay? I am not saying the organization is totally worthless. I am saying they are not always what they represent themselves to be.”

    Agreed. It’s not the NRA’s presence, or lack thereof, that makes PA, NJ, etc. the way it is. It’s the combination of the NRA, the grassroots at the state level, and the people who fund, volunteer, lobby, and fulfill their obligations as responsible citizens. The NRA would do well to remember that.

  63. Tim says:

    Addressing the question about machine guns and the statement that it is a Federal issue…

    The question is actually very much a State issue in that it was regarding a “Firearms Freedom Act” similar to those passed in MT, TN, and 5 or 6 other states. The problem with those states’ FFAs (not sure if it is all of them, but at least a few) is that they specifically exclude machine guns. The question asked by O. Rly (and I would also like to have answered) was: Will the NRA throw it’s weight behind a Pennsylvania Firearms Freedom Act that specifically includes the manufacture of machine guns?

    Since the underlying purpose of the FFAs is to pick a fight with the Feds (i.e. exercise state’s rights) , what better way than for a State to say “We are going to allow our resident manufacturers to make machine guns, and we dare you to come in and try to stop us.”?

  64. Sebastian says:

    The Firearms Freedom bills are a waste of time because of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. It’s not going to keep you out of federal prison.

  65. O. Rly says:

    What does the Supremacy Clause have to do with FFAs? Only supreme are “the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof”.

    My question is less about why the NRA might not be promoting specific legislation but rather generally what the NRA will do to shed its antigun image, and promoting constitutional carry would help to repair the damage caused by bringing us the UFA, an FFA would help repair the NFA, etc. They were only examples.

    Maybe I’ll be told the NRA is doing nothing at all to drop that image.

  66. Sebastian says:

    People who think NRA is anti-gun are delusional.

  67. O. Rly says:

    >>People who think NRA is anti-gun are delusional.
    Instead of making that declaration, why don’t you recharacterize what the NRA bringing us the UFA and NFA could mean, if not that they were not an anti-gun organization. Sebastian, I understand you are somewhat well-acquainted with the NRA — do you really not know the involvement of the then-NRA-president in moving forward the UFA and NFA?

    So my question will again be, “what will the NRA do in PA to shed its anti-gun image?”

  68. Sebastian says:

    Yes, I am aware of this history. It was almost 80 years ago at this point. It is not at all relevant to the organization as it stands today. The modern NRA came into being in 1977, under Harlan Carter and Neil Knox, in what is known as the “Cincinnati Revolt.” That’s where the NRA we all know today really started. What preceded it was a very different organization. It was, really, a quasi-government organization.

    And as it was even then, the original NFA was meant to include all handguns, and would have effectively covered most semi-automatic rifles on the market today as well. NRA’s involvement was mostly redefining the machine gun language so it only actually covered machine guns. DC’s definition of machine gun, which is any firearm capable of holding more than twelve rounds, was copied from the Uniform Firearms Act, which was what we would call today “Model Legislation.” Pennsylvania, around the same time, adopted something called the Uniform Firearms Act, but only adopted parts of it. The entire thing was actually quite radical, and no one adopted the whole thing. The NFA was based on the UFA, loosely, but NRA actually is the reason handguns as a whole were not covered, and the reason we don’t now have a federal definition of machine gun that looks like DCs.

  69. PennsyPlinker says:

    Sebastian, I have to say, if you are going to begin character assassination by accusing people of being “delusional”, then you are losing the battle here. There are some very definite reasons why some of us are beginning to think the NRA is anti gun, and we are not crackpot nut jobs. I, for one, am a very stable citizen, married for 27 years, three kids, a good career, church member, etc. My criminal rap sheet extends to two speeding tickets, one in 1983, and one in 1998.

    There have been some very harsh accusations leveled at the NRA, and by some pretty heavy hitters. They are either true or they are not. It is yes or no, on or off, black or white. Instead of calling names, perhaps you could refute some of those accusations, or even better, all of them. The letter to Ted Nugent from the JPFO is damning if true. One person over on PAFOA tried to dismiss it as “old news”. But the fact remains, there does not seem to be any refutation of the items listed. Are the JPFO people delusional? Or do their accusations carry some weight?

    Secondly, is John Hohenwarter going to address anything mentioned in this blog, or is he hoping it will all go away? I am not going away, at least not by choice. I want to read what he has to say. I want to know why he is not helping us out to the very best of his ability, and bringing the full weight of the NRA to bear on legislation that benefits us all. For the time I have spent in Harrisburg, writing letters, making phone calls, etc, I feel like I have been bent over and screwed by the NRA and their efforts through Hohenwarter to make sure this legislation did not pass. But I am still waiting to hear his side of the story before I pass final judgment. Is his side going to come?

  70. Sebastian says:

    I’ve spent quite a lot of time getting to know people at NRA. I would not suggest that I think everyone employed or close to the organization is supremely competent and dedicated beyond belief to the cause. But I have never met anyone at NRA I would classify as “anti-gun.” That’s an insult to the many people who put in long hours for NRA’s shitty pay, and it tends to piss me off when I hear it. I apologize for merely being insulting. I usually strive to be better than that.

  71. Sebastian says:

    As to the other question, I am no fan of either Ted Nugent or Aaron Zelman, so I don’t really have a dog in that fight.

  72. PennsyPlinker says:

    Sebastian, you are deflecting the discussion. My question is, however poorly framed, “Is there any truth to the charges that NRA backed legislation has the effect of being anti gun?” Your response is that the people you know who work there aren’t anti gun. That is a non sequitur. Regardless of the attitude of anyone, NRA member or not, these issues can be addressed in an objective way. Aaron Zelman did that in his letter to Ted Nugent. What he wrote is either true or false. It has nothing to do with the people you know, or the general system of belief of those working at the NRA.

    It also has nothing to do with the character or motives of the two men mentioned above. I don’t know Mr. Zelman, and I have never cared for Ted Nugent’s music or attitude. I am grateful for his pro gun stance, but I doubt we would see eye to eye on much beyond that. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is the net effect the NRA has on gun legislation. Either they are helping us or they are not. And part of determining that is looking at the legislation they have helped bring into being, as well as their methodology in working on legislation now in progress.

  73. Sebastian says:

    There is nothing I am going to say that’s going to convince you NRA is a positive influence on our gun rights. Nothing. So what’s the point? If I tell you they got Constitutional Carry through Arizona (I’ve talked to the lobbyist), you’ll deny it. If I tell you they passed shall-issue in Iowa (talked to that lobbyist too), you’ll tell me they scuttled constitutional carry because they oppose it. If I tell you they got a partial repeal of GCA ’68 provisions passed in 1986, you’ll remind me an anti-gun Congressman from New Jersey put a machine gun ban on it. If I tell you they fought the Brady Act for ten years, you’ll blame them for the fact that it passed eventually, only without the permanent waiting period and with an instant background check. If I tell you they worked to get us National Park Carry, you’ll deny it. I guess it was just a miracle of God, also that we went from almost no states with concealed carry in 1986 to all but two 20 years later.

  74. PennsyPlinker says:

    Okay, so now you are going to engage in hyperbole. I have not written that the NRA is full of anti gunners, and I have not written that they do no good. I have written that there are problems, and that some of them are very serious, but you do not seem to be willing to look at them face on and address them, or even entertain the possibility that they might exist.

    I am trying to get to the bottom of certain accusations made regarding the NRA in general, and John Hohenwarter in particular, specifically regarding his actions during the Castle Doctrine battle in Harrisburg. You are all over the map, and now you can apparently read my mind as to what I will write in the future, even though I haven’t really written anything like that in the past.

    I am an enthusiastic NRA instructor. I think their educational programs are great. I would like to see the political arm of the organization run as pro gun as the educational arm, but I don’t see that happening. I am waiting for some authoritative answers, but you are getting all emotional on me, and dodging my questions like a pinball in an old time pinball machine. This is your place and you can do as you see fit, but I resent the accusation that I will only find fault no matter what you write. The fact of the matter is you have not yet written anything substantive on the issue at hand, and Mr. Hohenwarter has not yet appeared to address any of the issues several people have put before him. I am beginning to doubt the sincerity of this whole affair here.

  75. Marilyn says:

    To Sebastian:
    I have been following this thread and am wondering when can we expect a response from John on these questions? You mentioned a few days and since the 8th- it is now the 12th -Have you presented the questions to John yet?

  76. Sebastian says:

    Because of the scheduled vote on Monday, I’ve told NRA it’s fine if we wait until after then. There will be more to this story if there’s a vote on Monday.

  77. Sebastian says:

    Pennsyplinker:

    I was not intending to read your mind, I was generalizing based on experience that those who want to hate NRA are going to keep doing so no matter what the evidence, or no matter how intense the argument. If that generalization does not apply to you individually, then I apologize.

  78. IronSight says:

    My questions are as follows;

    Considering Pennsylvania is a huge target for anti-gun proponents from surrounding States, why does the NRA not have a lobbyist dedicated to PA and PA alone?

    Secondly, along the same lines, if the NRA were to create a dedicated lobbying post for Pennsylvania, would John Hohenwarter volunteer for the position or would he focus on the other States he currently works in instead?

    Thanks,

    Dave

  79. PennsyPlinker says:

    Thank you Sebastian. It does not apply to me. I would like to think that the NRA is on our side, but the evidence of that right now is pretty sparse. I would like to see what the rationale is for some of their decisions. I am a dues paying member, so I think I have that right. I also do not mind being proved wrong, if that is the case. But I am still waiting on proof. I will be glad to wait until Monday.

  80. Sebastian says:

    IronSight:

    Not bad questions. Whether NRA deserves a single liaison is a good one, but it’s also one that is out of John Hohenwarter’s hands. There are very few states have have a dedicated liaison, and most of those that do have liaisons that are contractors rather than NRA employees. Illinois comes to mind in that regard. Does John have too many states? I don’t know. But it’s certainly a legitimate question.

  81. Sebastian says:

    I may see what I can do after this to interview more people at NRA, if they’ll agree to it. A lot of these questions are good, they just aren’t something that’s really John’s area.

  82. IronSight says:

    I have no doubt the decision wouldn’t be his to make, but I would certainly like to hear his opinion on the matter.

    When I beat the NRA in meeting with Representative Kessler on the Oley Township gun ban this year I seriously started wondering if he’s simply spread too thin over too many States.

  83. B2Luv2Hunt says:

    It would be nice to hear from other members of the NRA organization. It seems in our area they raise money. They did nothing when preemption violations were being fought. They said they supported the change but not in public. No one from the NRA went to any meetings. We got alot of support from the FOAC and Kim Stolfer was even at one of the council meetings. My wife and I are NRA members and hunters. We continue to be members due to the National level. Not so much the state and local. We are hearing the same thing over and over,” I am a hunter and support the 2nd amendment BUT.”

    • Bitter says:

      Remind me again who is actually suing cities for preemption violations? Oh yeah, NRA. And who is paying for those lawsuits on behalf of gun owners? Oh yeah, NRA. And who has sent out alerts to their members in cities where this is up for public debate? Oh, what do you know, NRA has been working on that as well.

  84. Sebastian says:

    When we had a lost and stolen bill come up in Radnor, there were several people there because of the NRA alert on the topic, and most of them were residents, which helps.

  85. B2Luv2Hunt says:

    Well they were not in our area. They were not at Mill Hall, Lock Haven, Flemington or Jersey Shore. We got the issue in the papers. Never heard a thing from the NRA.

  86. tsafa says:

    I have a few suggestions as an NRA member. First, on the nra.org page please replace Wayne La Pierre’s face with maybe images of families shooting together. I think Wayne is a patriot and works hard for gun rights, but unless he is running for President of the United States, his face does not need to be everywhere. He always has a look that appears very scary to non-gun owners. Non-gun owners are people we want to attract, not scare.

    Instead of a weekly progun rights message from Wayne, how about a weekly gun rights message from regular Joe Smoh. I would suggest the NRA scan various forums and post intelligent posts that people make. It makes a statement that the NRA is listening to gun owners in general. Wayne can make his statement on the second page.

    The NRA needs a National news section and a local news section on website broken down by state. It will give people a reason to check the NRA website on a more regular basis for news.

    Point her is that Gun Owners are not sheep that will blindly follow the Shepard. They don’t fall for advertising gimicks.

  87. Sebastian says:

    NRA’s website is an abomination. Unfortunately there are structural reasons (none of them good) for why that’s the case. The best bet for news is to hit the nraila.org web site.

    NRA really needs a unified web presence. But for internal political reasons, that’s going to be hard to accomplish.

  88. Sebastian says:

    Interview is posted here for those of you who have been waiting.

  89. tsafa says:

    I think Governor Rendel has made it plainly clear in his speech about just how effective the NRA has been.

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