“The Question is Strategy”

There seems to be a meme floating around right now that NRA is sitting out of fights. The big one appearing today in the Wall Street Journal, quoting from some of our leaders in the movement, and from Josh Horwitz, all along similar lines that NRA is, “no longer absolutely the 800-pound gorilla.” I worry when our people and their people start singing the same tune. But I think this pretty much says it all:

The NRA’s political action committee has taken in $10.25 million for the 2010 elections, and ranks sixth in terms of receipts among all federally registered PACs, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks Federal Election Commission disclosures. The NRA’s total revenue, including member dues, investment income and contributions, rose to $307 million in 2009, from $268 million a year earlier.

If the fragmentation is hurting NRA, they are laughing all the way to the bank. You want to know why no one is touching the gun issue on the Democratic side? That part I bolded. In D.C. money talks and bullshit walks (though in DC the you call the walking bullshit Congressman or Senator), and NRA is sitting on a boatload of money for the 2010 elections. That’s going to do more for the movement, in terms of achieving goals than a lot of the other activity you see going on.

That said, I’m not opposed to other groups joining in the fray. If Dudley Brown wants to form a PAC, more power to him. Forming a PAC is an example of engaging seriously in the issue. But it takes more than forming a PAC to fund one. GOA, for example, has a Political Action Committee, but currently has a balance of less than 30,000 dollars, and spent less than 140,000 dollars in the 2008 election cycle.

What I’d really like to understand from Marbut, Brown, and many of NRA’s detractors, is in what world is it a successful strategy to downplay the role of the one organization who spent more than 11 million dollars on the 2008 election. If MSSA and NAGR’s messaging were really that compelling or effective, they’d be able to raise serious money. But why can’t they? Back to the article:

But Ben Cannon, 29, of Healdsburg, Calif., a founding member of the board of Calguns Inc., an Internet-based organization founded in 2002, said some younger gun owners felt that because the NRA must cater to all gun owners, it didn’t embrace their own interests enough.

I think that one statement sums up why NRA shouldn’t be the only game in town, but also explains why it’s the biggest and most important. If you want gun rights to win, it has to be a big enough tent to attract the kind of PAC funding, membership numbers, and support that NRA can attract. Any effective side organization is going to understand and work within that reality. My problem with guys like Dudley Brown, Larry Pratt, and Gary Marbut is that they want to replace the big tent strategy of the NRA with a smaller tent that’s more emotionally satisfying because in the small tent you don’t have to compromise or coalition build as much. You can revel in your purity, and not have to dirty your hands with the unsatisfying work of trying to bring 70 and 80% allies along with you.

I look at younger, more professional groups like Calguns, which have formed a viable organization and strategy as a stark contrast to the ridiculous “no compromise” gun rights groups of the past. Calguns has not sought to displace the big tent, but to find a role within it. It’s never seemed to me to be smart strategy to purposefully make the movement smaller by not only trying to displace the big tent strategy, but by trying to burn down the big tent and everyone in it.

4 thoughts on ““The Question is Strategy””

  1. Most of these negative comments are coming from gun controllers (who want to believe it) and the state firearms freedom act folks (who want to motivate NRA to throw their weight into the movement).

    I am very supportive of the state freedom acts … but we all need to remember that it’s the National Rifle Association. The onus is on the state rifle organizations as to whether they will throw in with the state’s powers folks.

  2. I personally know 18-20 NRA members and of those people only ONE, me, is a member of another gun org. that gun org. is GOA. I donate money to both but NRA gets the bulk of my donations and thats not gonna change anytime soon.

  3. JD?
    You are dead right. There is nothing stopping people from joining more than one organization. I meet many people who do not know about, or have never heard of, FOAC here in PA.
    I am a member of multiple orgs. Membership is generally less than a day out shooting.
    Sebastian is right in that some people just never get it. They are blinded by their vision of the way it is. I recommend to all those type people to get elected to something, walk door to door, make phone calls and learn the process. Idealistic views are respected but not enacted generally.

    1. I suspect part of the reason you run into people who have never heard of FOAC is because they don’t cover much outside of the western corners of the state.

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