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 eventsâ€™ 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.
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.