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Gander Mountain’s Opposition to Gun Owners

There’s a question over whether Gander Mountain’s position of banning NRA-ILA’s grassroots events from their property is simply an issue of not getting involved in politics. There are a few fundamental issues with viewing it through such a simple lens.

1) Gander Mountain’s business model requires the freedom to own and use firearms. They have no doubt profited off of the more than 100,000 concealed carry license holders in Wisconsin that NRA-ILA fought to promote. They will take the money of gun owners and run, laughing all the way to the bank, but they are unwilling to even allow NRA members to meet on their property to discuss the political process that leads to these kinds of changes. They are an inherently political business by the decision of what they sell and how they market.

2) An early blogger who raised the argument against NRA to Gander Mountain that they should stay out of politics is, in fact, a political blog working to defeat Scott Walker. The blogger brags that this is what he told Gander Mountain:

The events’ focus was to train pro-walker [sic] supporters in the art of deception and propaganda in order to build support for Governor Scott Walker. … When Politiscoop contacted Gander Mountain in both Eau Claire and Wausau, Wisconsin, managers were quick to inform us that the company was unaware of what the focus of the meetings were when they were scheduled by the NRA. It wasn’t until citizens opposing Scott Walker inundated the company with phone calls and emails, demanding they cancel the event.

Really? In fact, they repost Democratic Party press releases calling for Republicans to condemn those affiliated with NRA, but provide no other points of view. That’s hardly unbiased and non-political.

3) The event that Gander Mountain banned is actually about civic engagement. Yup, that’s right. It’s not directly about Scott Walker. If you’ve ever attended a grassroots workshop hosted by NRA, then you’ll know they focus on several issues:

  • Registering Voters: This is especially targeted in helping hunters and gun owners register to vote.
  • Communicating with Other Gun Owners: This is the most political element in that it teaches NRA members who want to know how to talk to other gun owners about politics how to approach the issue and why it’s relevant to their interests.
  • Being an Effective Advocate for the Second Amendment: The lessons NRA members learn about different methods of reaching non-NRA members with messages about politics or the general issue of gun ownership aren’t about any specific candidate. It’s about being a generally effective communicator so gun owners can articulate to everyone from their local lawmakers to Aunt Bertha why their sport and rights are important to them.
  • How Elections are Won: This is a broader spectrum message that isn’t specifically cited for one race because it’s a broad message across the board. Whether it’s a right to hunt amendment or a candidate, it applies. In St. Louis, many of the details NRA-ILA staffers shared focused on why younger voters made a difference for Barack Obama’s election. That certainly isn’t a pro-Scott Walker message. That’s simply a statement of electoral trends and facts.
That’s the larger lesson plan of the event that Gander Mountain chose to ban from their facilities. In other words, the events focus on teaching gun owners how to be involved in their communities and encourage civic involvement. What I would like to know is how Gander Mountain decided that such messages were negative things.

4) The blogger mentioned above also targeted a conference center that was rented by NRA-ILA to host an event. They tried to attack the center as taking a position on the Walker election, but the conference center remained firm in noting that NRA-ILA rented the room the same way that advocates on any side of the aisle may do. They noted that their business is about renting rooms, and that’s exactly what they did.**

To me, attacking a business for even accepting business from NRA members seems to go along with a trend in trying to dehumanize political opponents. Consider a Twitter debate recently where an anti-gun advocate argued that unless you agreed with her position on details of gun control policy, you could not be considered an educated person. (I would point you to the conversation, but she blocked every pro-gun person & deleted all of the related tweets.) I asked her if she actually believed that my college degree did not count as an education despite the fact that it is from one of the top liberal arts schools in the country, and she said it did not unless I agree with her to support gun bans of her choosing. To her, I was not a person worthy of acknowledging as a potential equal simply because we did not agree on a matter of political policy.

In this case of Gander Mountain, the company is responding to a blog and activists who aren’t actually arguing for the company to stay out of politics. They are working with a group of political activists who believe that NRA members shouldn’t even be allowed to talk about political issues or even civic engagement because of our belief in the Second Amendment.

**However, Stadium View Banquet Hall & Conference Center did end up revealing details of NRA’s contract to the Walker opponents, so I personally would avoid them for blabbing client details to strangers. Either that or demand a confidentiality clause in their contract since it seems highly inappropriate to discuss those kinds of details with anyone not affiliated with the rental agreement. It’s a highly unprofessional move and simply speaks to their lack of skills as a venue operator, not anything political.

27 Responses to “Gander Mountain’s Opposition to Gun Owners”

  1. Stephen says:

    An interesting thing … the last couple of times I’ve been here the advertising banner on your site has been:

    “It’s time to show Scott Walker the door. Donate $5 now”

    I don’t imagine you choose what cycles through your ads, and I don’t care personally … but it is interesting …

  2. Gerald says:

    Alienating your customer base at the demands of those who will probably never shop in your store. Way to go Gander Mountain.

    • Rydak says:

      This pretty much sums up the entire deal honestly..

    • Tam says:

      Well…

      Yes and no. There are plenty of crunchy outdoorsy types who shop there that don’t care about firearms, and many AFL-CIO anti-Walker Fudds, too.

  3. Karl says:

    There’s another possibility. I have NO doubt that most of the callers to Gander are anti-gun to a signifigant degree.

    HOWEVER.

    Gander Mountain’s customer base is almost entirely comprised of hunters, and there’s a lot of opposition by hunters to Walker’s appointment of Dr. James Kroll to oversee state deer management policy in light of his well known opposition to public game management (1). Views that coincide with DNR secretary Cathy Stepp who is also in favor of selling public lands (2).

    In that light, it’s not unreasonable for hunters who are used to the Wisconsin model of public land use vs. the Texas model of private game farms to be anti-Walker and not want thier hunting supply source to support him or at the very least stay out of it altogether.

    (1) http://www.ultimateoutdoorsradio.com/public-game-management-is-the-last-bastion-of-communism/outdoor-news/

    (2) http://www.thecountrytoday.com/front_page/article_8552b7a2-20de-11e1-ba61-0019bb2963f4.html

    • Harold says:

      Ummm, I’d like to see more than a few cherry picked quotes in the first article, it could be an example of ransom note quoting. It could well be accurate, but many hit pieces are written like it.

      As for the 2nd item, you have mischaracterized what it says, it’s only talking about rationalizing the DNRs operations and holdings and selling land where it makes sense. In that article she’s certainly not calling for mass sales of state land or anything directly related to hunting, unless I skimmed it too quickly WRT to the latter.

    • Zermoid says:

      I wouldn’t say that their customer base is mostly hunters, they do alot of sales to fishermen, hikers and campers too, who may not be hunters. But I do agree hunters are a large part of their income, as guns and ammo are more expensive than most other equipment for outdoor activities.

  4. Karl says:

    Also, I believe your third point is incorrect. The NRA does do a lot of civic engagement events with the emphasis you outlined, but according to article you linked to in your previous post (1), the focus on the Gander Mountain events was specifically for supporting Walker. And that’s where the problem lies.

    Being pro-Gun and anti-Walker aren’t mutually exclusive. Gander Mountain realizes that, and like all companies wants to focus on their core business and not politics.

    (1) http://www.myfoxwausau.com/story/18509220/nra-events-supporting-gov-walker-cancelled-at-gander-mountain

    • St Mark says:

      Being pro-Gun and anti-Walker aren’t mutually exclusive, like you said, but I got a feeling [not fact, just feeling, like yours] that pro-Gun and pro-Walker are not mutually exclusive either. Just because some anti-Walker folks happen to be pro-gun, doesn’t mean the people asking Gander to kick NRA out were themselves pro guns.

      In fact, the anti-Walker blogger and activists in this situation appeared to be anti-gunners.

      And honestly, if Gander is trying to appeal to the anti-Walker but pro-gun group, instead of going for the pro-gun and pro-Walker, that goes to show how smart their business decisions are.

      It doesn’t take someone with a Harvard degree to understand Gander made a political decision here. They have all the rights to do that.

      I am sure the pro-gun, anti-Walker hunters will carry them through, and if there are so many of them, what’s the worry.

      • steve says:

        They absolutely have the right to do it… just as people have a right to economically punish or reward them for their decisions.

        Their problem is that more people will see this as an anti-NRA thing and a cowardly or leaning left action than will see this as staying politically neutral. And mostly what they’ve done is show the left and anti-gunners that they can and will be pushed around. They’ve set themselves up to bullied from this point forward, even at to the financial detriment of their company. In as much as they are willing to do that, then they actually deserve it and whatever the repercussions are from their actions.

  5. Ken says:

    The evil anti-gun coward behind this demonic stunt is Paul I. Tascoupe. More personal details when I get them.

    These are the same subhuman trash who celebrated their ill-gotten victory in 2008 by setting Sarah Palin’s church on fire. Payback is a bitch.

  6. Roberta X says:

    E-mail sent. Dammit. I liked the local Gander Mountain. Well, too bad; they backed the wrong horse.

    Note that is a screamin’-Dem part of the country, so it may play well enough up there; it’s not like none of those folks hunt. Gonna hurt Gander Mountain elsewhere, though.

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  8. JustinC says:

    What’s Gander Mountain?

    • Zermoid says:

      You’re Joking, right?

      • Alpheus says:

        I think it’s a fair question. I never heard of Gander Mountain until now, and I figured that it was some sort of “local” thing. Now that I’ve seen Harold’s Wikipedia link, I see there are no stores in Utah (or about twenty-six other states); there are stores in New York, but since I was more focused on graduate studies than on outdoorsie things while I was there, I can see why I’ve never noticed a store.

        For what it’s worth, though, I think Harold’s response is a fair answer to the question. :-)

        • Harold says:

          Thank you.

          I only knew about them because my father’s two major types of recreation are hunting and fishing. They have no footprint in Missouri, and competitor Cabela’s (which my father prefers to Gander Mountain, that’s where we get our boots nowadays) only has stores in the St. Louis area, Kansas City, Kansas and one to come in Rodgers, Arkansas (NW corner), I presume because Bass Pro Shops has the middle of the state pretty well locked up (their home is Springfield, Missouri, 70 miles NE of Joplin on I-44).

          Those chains, plus I guess Academy Sports are the big ones in the nation; the latter is big in the south east. Cabela’s is conspicuously absent there, Gander Mountain has only a couple of stores in Alabama and Mississippi each, Bass Pro has more there as you’d expect due to their starting location.

          Academy Sports has a pretty big store in Joplin; now that they’re rebuilt I realize just how big the store was and is, the tornado one year minus one day ago actually flattened perhaps half the store (but fortunately not a lot of clothing and blankets and stuff, which they handed out freely to survivors), including the firearms area which was against the wall closest to the center.

          That led to one of the few amusing anecdotes of the day, a looter was picking up loose guns on the street or wherever saying something to the effect of “finders, keepers” and a guy from the store told him to stop or he’d kill him. Which was followed immediately by a cop saying something to the effect of “And if he doesn’t, I will.” Whatever the occasion, we have little patience for that sort of thing here.

  9. Dannytheman says:

    I have a couple questions and I admit to being a bit lazy. Was this an individual store decision, or did the corporate VP’s get involved and now shut down all Ganders from accepting meetings for the NRA.

    If this was an individual stores decision and was made by their General Manager, I might be more forgiving. I would expect a PR repair story to come out from Gander to make all aware of someones poor decision. Before I send a nasty letter I like to know all the facts. Has there been any response from Gander in regards to this. They are big enough to have a PR specialist.

    I will do some searches. IF this was a corporate decision, they are just plain stupid.

  10. RRangel says:

    As if we don’t know who Scott Walker’s opposition is. As well as the below the belt political stunts they’re involved in. Even the tone toward the NRA at the blog gives you a clue. Claiming that the NRA takes part in “deception and propaganda” as if Constitutional rights rely on the very tactics employed by those opposing Scott Walker. It’s not very hard to miss.

    • Harold says:

      Well, the NRA certainly engages in “propaganda”; to quote Wikipedia:

      Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position….

      As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda….

      While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples, propaganda in its original sense was neutral, and could refer to uses that were generally benign or innocuous, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to the police, among others.

      As long as the NRA isn’t engaging in deception, and as you allude to, it doesn’t have to, its propaganda is perfectly fine. It wouldn’t be doing its job, the NRA proper in e.g. gun safety, the NRA ILA et. al. in electioneering, unless it did so.

      • steve says:

        Propaganda, public relations, political statement, etc… it’s all the same thing and a matter of terminology. Claiming someone uses propaganda is also propaganda. White House Press Secretaries are in fact Ministers of Propaganda. Corporate PR departments and firms are essentially propaganda departments.

        It was a perfectly accepted and widely respected term until Hitler started using it, and he pretty much messed it up for everyone.

        I have no problem with propaganda. What I have a problem with are spins and outright lies posing as propaganda.

  11. Chas says:

    Markie Marxist sez: “Maybe my commie compadres at Gander Mountain could shift their customer base to Brady Campaign contributors! Gander could sell them, uh . . . Well, I’m sure that they buy things, so Gander could sell them whatever they buy! Maybe, uh, pillows? Yeah! Everybody buys pillows! They could change their name to ‘Pillow Mountain’!”

    • Alpheus says:

      Stalin Statist sez: “Yeah! And if they start selling pillows, they might even get to keep their name! Maybe call themselves ‘Gander Down Mountain’ instead. Gander down is used in pillows, after all!”

  12. Sage Thrasher says:

    This post highlights a good example of why companies should be careful not to instantly react to every kneejerk email campaign. Starbuck’s example in ignoring the anti-open carry people is a good example of how to step back and look at the big picture. That said, Gander Mountain’s response is also a good example of why the NRA would do well to emulate the SAF’s approach to nonpartisanship. There are a lot of gun owners who are not Republicans or even conservatives. When Wayne LaPierre goes to a venue like CPAC and talks about gun ownership as a “conservative value,” he is effectively telling a large segment of the population–even a large segment of the gun owning population–not to bother supporting the NRA’s efforts. I really wish he would rethink things like that. Also, love him or hate him, most observers would probably admit Scott Walker is not the poster child for bipartisanship. Not everything needs to be broken into left/right extremism, and some things suffer when they are. I’d argue gun rights is one of those things.

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