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NRA’s Grading Mistakes

I recognize that NRA is a large organization. Whether it’s trying to balance the demands of more than 4 million members or even just trying to find consensus among the many divisions, it’s not exactly a small or easy operation. Even as large as it is, many employees carry more than their weight. The average gun owner isn’t keeping up with what’s happening in their own state, much less keep up with legislative happenings in multiple states. During an election year, there are hundreds of races to track in each state. With that kind of workload, mistakes happen. However, the response to those mistakes is not always what it should be – and that’s a problem.

From the Topeka Capital-Journal:

As a longtime member of the National Rifle Association and a concealed-carry permit holder, Rep. John Grange was surprised to see a card from the NRA asking members to vote for his opponent, Rep. Forrest Knox, in their state Senate primary.

Grange was even more surprised to see one of the reasons.

The card claimed that Grange “refused to answer” the NRA’s candidate questionnaire, which the card said is “often a sign of indifference, if not outright hostility, to the rights of gun owners and sportsmen.”

According to the article, Rep. Grange did complete the questionnaire and mailed it nearly two weeks before the stated deadline. NRA did post his A- rating on the PVF website, but he called to get a correction to the postcard which was obviously misleading. He was refused.

Grange said he was “really upset and crushed” that the NRA refused to send another card setting the record straight.

“They’ve lost my membership,” Grange said. “I’ll never renew.”

NRA better hope this guy has no future in politics – ever. It sounds like they have not only lost a member, but an ally. I doubt he would go anti-gun, but it would be perfectly reasonable for him to refuse to do any favors.

Before I jump on this too much, I do have a few things to add. One, I don’t follow Kansas politics to know if there’s some key reason why NRA would want to keep the attention focused on Rep. Knox and not concern itself with the blowback from screwing over an A- sitting lawmaker. Two, what I do know about Kansas politics is that I’ve been told there are massive divisions within the state GOP, so that may be key to inaction in this case. Three, I don’t know specifics of their histories on the issue, only that NRA currently has both candidates fairly well rated.

Now, on to my issues with this situation.

One, NRA owes local members answers on its decision to endorse. I don’t know what factors went in to deciding to endorse in a primary where there is no incumbent to the seat and the two candidates are A- and A+ rated. It’s not like there’s a clear anti-gun vote on the line here. Regardless, it doesn’t seem wise simply because of what is at risk – especially when the article cites the Senate as the road block for key legislation. They should answer questions from members in the district about why the endorsement was issued. If one candidate was truly worth the risk of pissing off the other faction of the GOP, then they should be able to say why that is the case.

Two, NRA screwed up a mailing that may not have been wise in the first place. Historically, NRA hasn’t mailed postcards for every endorsement. Why do it for a primary endorsement when both candidates are reasonably well rated? It’s a state senate race. Even if Rep. Grange had not returned the questionnaire, surely he had a voting record having been in office for seven years. The point is that saying he had no grade or did not ever respond to them, while adding in a jab that it might mean he’s really anti-gun, seems quite disingenuous. It seems they should eat the cost of another postcard mailing even if the endorsement stands.

Why should they correct the record? Because apparently this isn’t the only instance of this type of mistake in the state this year.

Regardless of the issues on the questionnaire, Grange was intensely disappointed at the NRA telling its members he refused to fill one out. He said he had heard the same thing happened to Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, though Longbine couldn’t be reached Tuesday to confirm or deny it.

If this did happen in another district, they need to make sure that organization’s reputation for actually helping pro-gun lawmakers remains intact. Too many mistakes without a reasonable resolution won’t exactly send the message that NRA will make sure members know who to turn out for come election day. Even worse, it will breed distrust among NRA members who happen to support the candidates getting the shaft. If they follow Rep. Grange’s lead, it won’t just be about the lost members. There is a good chance they will speak out against the organization to other candidates for office.

Hopefully, Kansas Republicans – politicians and voters – will feel like mistakes are addressed in a reasonable and timely way. Like I said, there is likely more to the story than what the press is reporting, but that doesn’t mean that NRA needs to risk burning bridges because of silly mistakes that have fairly simple solutions. We have enough enemies of the Second Amendment without getting folks who are with us on most of the issues to walk away from the table.

12 Responses to “NRA’s Grading Mistakes”

  1. Andy B. says:

    “. . .that doesn’t mean that NRA needs to risk burning bridges because of silly mistakes that have fairly simple solutions. . .”

    It has been my observation (and therefore my opinion) that, perhaps because it is (or regards itself) as “too busy,” that the NRA will just use its power to steamroller small-fry allies who are disagreeing with it, rather than making so much as a gesture at negotiating some common ground; or, their idea of negotiation is “We are going to have our way, but we’ll be willing to let you ride along and take some credit if you’ll behave yourself.” It is the arrogance of power. I believe Sebastian has some knowledge of the history of passage of “Act 17 of 1995” in Pennsylvania, and how that came to pass, and I think that story was chocabloc with examples of what I’m saying. And, to a great extent it was the story behind the war against “The Winning Team” at the end of the 1990s. I can think of one NRA Board Member from Pennsylvania, who was on the wrong side of that effort, and has since left the field of the RKBA battle completely, partly as a result of that.

    The good and bad news about that is, that it doesn’t result in future enemies of the RKBA (good); but it almost always results in implacable, lifelong enemies of the NRA (bad?), who never forgive being steamrollered. They may be insignificant and ignorable little people, but for whatever value their resources and support may have had, they’re lost from NRA’s fight.

  2. Perry Noid says:

    There is an alternate explanation: The NRA has been penetrated by an enemy operative, who hopes to sow dissension in the ranks. Or maybe it is some psychopath who will muck things up just because he is bored.

    Once is a happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.

    • Andy B. says:

      “Once is a happenstance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

      I have frequently been accused of being one of your relatives, Perry Noid, (including Skit Zophrenia) so I can’t believe I’m saying this, but only late in life am I coming to appreciate the boundless power of human stupidity.

    • Bitter says:

      If enemy action means endorsing more A+ rated candidates, well, let’s just say that your theory doesn’t add up to hurting the pro-gun cause.

      Is it a problem? Yes. Is electing more pro-gun lawmakers the sign of “enemy action”? No.

    • Harold says:

      Note also that we only have a politician’s word that he did send in his survey….

      • Bitter says:

        If a politician feels they need the boost from a group, they are usually on top of getting it back in. After our local state rep was told that he lost votes because he didn’t closely monitor his campaign manager who claimed he sent it in – but couldn’t give specifics – he absolutely made sure it was returned for the next campaign.

        One would assume that a GOP primary in Kansas would be a motivator for a politician to make sure he knew what was going on with key endorsement groups. Also, this doesn’t appear to be the only case of mishaps in Kansas according to the article.

        • Harold says:

          Agreed, but it’s hard for me to balance the probabilities of a politician making a mistake and the NRA making a mistake, each are entirely probable. The real question of course is why the is NRA digging in afterwords, you would think they’d work with him, unless he’s dealing with them in bad faith. For that matter, did they try to follow up before sending out the mailing?

          Then we could extend “Perry Noid’s” theory to the politician’s campaign staff, Kansas politics has been much more interesting as of late with their first election ever of a conservative governor.

          • Bitter says:

            Trust me, screwing up grades isn’t a rare occurrence at NRA. That doesn’t make them evil, it is just a reflection on the fact that you have relatively few people handling many states and often hundreds of races all at the same time. Whether they deserve to be admonished for it depends on how they handle it when they realize they made a mistake.

            I have personally brought to their attention two mistakes, each in different states. They both harmed pro-gun candidate initially, but they resolved the issues in a reasonable and timely manner. To the best of my knowledge, neither candidate held any type of grudge against NRA because they were willing to step up to make amends for their error.

            Everyone makes mistakes, and no one commenting here would be immune if they had the same kind of work in front of them. It is the follow-up that matters, and that is what the candidate seems to be rightly upset by if his account is true.

    • Jake says:

      True, but always keep in mind Hanlon’s Razor: “Never ascribe to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

  3. Todd says:

    NRA typically give a “?” to those that they don;t get a response from. that ? is explained in the political preferance chart as having refused to answer the survey. so it would seem very possible, that the standard fill in the blank postcard format had that language in it based upon the orginal grade of a ?.

    • Bitter says:

      But do you think that a currently sitting lawmaker who has been in the House since 2005 is honestly represented by claiming that they never heard from him? Consider that his 2010 grade was an A+.

  4. Aaron says:

    I can’t speak for his opponent, but last legislative session Rep. Knox introduced a bill to force government buildings to either allow concealed carry or provide armed security and metal detectors. Forest Knox will be my new state senator; Jeff Longbine was my previous senator and I didn’t particularly care for him. While I don’t agee with the tactic, if this was anything more than an accident, I do like the results.

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