Is NRA’s Messaging Getting too Doctrinaire Conservative?


I know I promised everyone some posts this weekend, but I had some beautiful-weather-induced writer’s block and just didn’t get it out. But now it’s been long enough since Annual Meeting that is now or never, and it’s time to address some remaining issues. I’ve been having a post running around in my head since I read this article by Charles C.W. Cooke in National Review talking about NRA possibly becoming a victim of its own success, but I haven’t been able to quite figure out how to pull all my thoughts together.  Cooke’s entire article is well worth your time, but allow me to quote the part that I wish to discuss in the remainder of this post:

The National Rifle Association is successful because it is popular, because its members are highly engaged, because it is defending a right that is enumerated in the nation’s founding document and a tradition that is cherished by members of both major political parties, because its opponents routinely embarrass themselves with their hysteria and with their lack of rudimentary knowledge about the topic at hand, and, most of all, because it is a single-issue organization that maintains its focus. But this year’s conference was not particularly focused; indeed, at times it was almost indistinguishable from the Republican National Convention.

I’ve always given NRA a good bit of leeway when it comes to putting on Annual Meeting because they are constantly driven to bring more and more people out to the show in order to keep setting records, and a lot of people are drawn in by the speakers. Whatever the downsides to NRA’s strategy, it’s hard to argue that they are failing. Houston will be a tough number to top, but since I’ve been going to Annual Meeting, since about 2007 or so, the trend has been nothing but upwards. The first year I went, to St. Louis in 2007, the attendance number was a record, at 64,000 and change. If NRA drew that number today, all the media headlines would be how the organization is losing influence, and how it’s members are losing interest. So I understand the pressure to keep the message appealing to as large an audience as possible.

But there is taking it too far, and losing your focus. I get that NRA can’t really control what Sarah Palin is going to say when she gets up on stage, but can you tell me what it has to do with gun rights enough to retweet it from official NRA social media? I’m also concerned about Tam’s post, who notes:

Hey, you coming down to the show?” I asked the waiter at my local hipster in-town brewpub. I knew he liked guns; he’d just gotten his first AR-15 and often helped man a table at the big Indy 1500 fun shows.

“Nah,” he replied, “I’m not an NRA member. I’m pro gun, but I’m a liberal,” as though setting foot on the convention floor to look at Aimpoint scopes and the Magpul bus would be like signing on to support everything from the invasion of Iraq to HJR-3.

But Tam isn’t the only one. There’s also  this article in the TimesHerald-Record, that while a bit ignorant guns, and the gun issue, isn’t someone who I think is reflexively on the other side, because her son is a gun person:

And then stuff like last week’s big NRA annual meeting in Indianapolis and Sarah Palin’s speech about Mama Grizzlies and “clownish little kumbaya-humming, fairytale-inhaling liberals” and how we should baptize terrorists by water boarding and that gun-free zones in places like schools are “stupid on steroids.”

The crowd loved her. But I have to wonder how many people, and for how long, will continue to go for that sort of shtick. It always seems to me to be so angry, us-versus-them, and so suspicious of anything or anyone that doesn’t conform to a narrow definition of “American.”

If we’re going to have long term security for this issue, it needs to be bipartisan. I believe the Republican Party may enjoy some short-term success over the next several years, if only because of overreach by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. But over the long-term, if the Republicans do not adjust their own message to be more palatable to younger voters, demographics will turn to the Democratic Party into the dominant party. And then what? Any strategy for preserving gun rights has to recognize that there are a lot of gun people out there who are not doctrinaire conservatives, and even liberals. I’m always surprised by how many liberal gun owners read this site.

While I recognize that the gun issue can’t stand on its own, without being part of a broader coalition, I also recognize that if you lash yourself too strongly to one ship, you’re going to be SOL if it sinks. For starters, I think it’s time to recognize that Sarah Palin is washed up; she’s a has been. But that’s just for starters. There’s a lot of people very strongly associated with NRA who I think have diminishing utility as the face of the organization.

That said, there’s a lot NRA is doing right on this front, such as cultivating speakers and spokespeople for the organization that aren’t Wayne, and don’t fit most people’s stereotypes of NRA. See this video:

Not many stereotypes on parade there, and it’s a really well-done video. But just one problem; could someone explain to me what it has to do with the Second Amendment? This was NRA’s big video this year, and they were promoting the hell out of it. But I actually liked this one much better:

I fear NRA is lashing itself too strongly to a sinking ship (the GOP coalition as it is currently composed), and broadening its message too far beyond the Second Amendment. While this might help getting more doctrinaire conservatives on board, it’s not helping cultivate the next generation of NRA members, who are going to be far less conservative (in the sense we understand the term today) than those that came before them.

69 thoughts on “Is NRA’s Messaging Getting too Doctrinaire Conservative?”

  1. I agree completely.

    I wish the Second Ammendment was totally bipartisan.

    Unfortunately, the Democratic Party still has gun bans in their platform, and their Judges hate the Second.

    I’ve always like Palin previously, but her “baptism” comment is loathsomely sacriligous.

    1. There are plenty of pronunciation dems__they are just loathe to align themselves publicly with the nra

    2. I agree that the Democratic Party is a problem, so I’m not about giving them a pass. I will usually argue with people who say “The NRA should endorse more Democrats.” Well, OK, then the Democrats need to run more pro-gun politicians.

      But I also think NRA needs to be careful not to get too cozy with the nuttier members of the right-coalition.

      1. When the NRA gives Mitt Romney a high passing grade, and Russ Feingold a D at his best shows that the problem isn’t that the parties have a monolithic stance, but that the NRA is more interested in promoting a particular party than it is in actually protecting gun rights.

        Until they become more objective, they will continue to alienate those who support the 2A, but can’t support the other positions of the Republican party.

        1. NRA didn’t give Romney a grade in 2012. They endorsed him (with no grade)because they knew they would have a better shot with him than with Obama who would be free to attack the Second Amendment in his second term. I don’t care for many of Romney’s positions, and on the 2A he is far from perfect, but I think we’d be in a better position with a Romney at the helm than Obama.

          In the past, NRA has featured numerous progun Dems at their convention. However, the reality is progun Dems (at least in Congress or on the national stage) are nearly extinct. NRA endorsed dozens of progun Dems for Congress in 2010, most of whom lost as a result of obamacare. However, they still support hundreds, if not more, of Dems in state legislatures around the counry.

        2. “the NRA is more interested in promoting a particular party than it is in actually protecting gun rights.
          Until they become more objective, they will continue to alienate those who support the 2A, but can’t support the other positions of the Republican party.”

          The problem is that there have been too many instances where Democrats have played themselves up as “pro-gun” to get elected, and then when the cards actually come down they’ve gone back on their campaign promises to vote the party line.

          If Democrats want to be taken seriously when they run as being in favor of the RKBA, they need to actually follow through on those campaign promises when it matters most.

        3. NRA ratings are very much in comparison to other strong candidates in a particular race, and wholly so for endorsements.

          Plus, your characterization of Feingold’s NRA rating isn’t wholly accurate.

          Feingold got an F rating in 1998. He got a D rating in 2004. He got a C rating in 2010. The reason he got better ratings each election cycle was because the NRA found his record better and better each time on guns. Period.

          The NRA also takes into account the political facts in play in paticular races — frankly, someone who would be rated an NRA A candidate from Alaska could not even get elected in Massachusettes. (Note, the AWB that Romney signed was widely considered an improvement over what the Democrats were ready to steamroller through the legistlature at the time – the bill Romney got behind and signed, bad as it was, kept things from getting even worse.

          That’s called “politics”, friend.

          Sometimes the choice isn’t between a medium rare New York strip served by topless waitresses or a crap sandwich, but between a crap sandwich, and a double crap sandwich. No, romney wasn’t really pro-2nd Amendment. . . but he was smart enough to realize that the difference between what politics in Massachusettes require and what politics on a national scale rquire, and unlike a real anti-gun guy, he really doesn’t care about the issue — I’ll take blind indifference any day over active malevolence.)

  2. Yep – It takes 2 to politicize an issue. I wish the Dems and Republicans were both competing for the Pro-Second Amendment vote. The Democrats have decided that they can pick up more votes on the other side of the issue. While they might tolerate an occasional pro-gun member, their agenda is now virulently anti-gun.

    1. I had a whole rant in my head about Franklin Graham, but I a) had already talked about that topic, and b) couldn’t figure out how to work it in without making the post needlessly long and wandering over too many subjects. I’ll just say that someone at NRA fucked up big time in inviting him without vetting his views on the issue first.

      1. Well, bashing people who agree with us on guns but not on other stuff (e.g. Palin) and ignoring those who are conservative but pro gun control (e.g. Graham) would seem to contradict the whole point of your post.

  3. Excellent post.

    I’m neither liberal nor conservative, although I’m often labeled one or the other depending on the topic. As I see it, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are under a slow, ongoing, powerful attack from the powers that be, and those powers are on both the right and the left. The bigwigs don’t care about social issues – they use social issues to keep us divided and harping at each other while the Constitution is made increasingly irrelevant.

    The NRA’s legislative lobbying arm should be about the 2nd Amendment and Constitution, especially since the other amendments will erode faster once the 2nd has fallen. No reason to make it about R vs D, C vs L, gay vs anti-gay, Evangelical Christian vs. Others, etc.

    Easier to bring more folks to the 2nd Amendment if we aren’t bundling it with rigidly far right social conservatism. I really like what the NRA is doing with the Commentators, and I hope we see more with that and less of the divisive distractions that play into the antis hands.

  4. Not only are they getting a little to tied to the GOP, but they are failing to give enough prominence to people like Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke who *really gets it*. Yes, I know he did a speech, but I stumbled on this video completely by accident:

    Way better than either of the above videos.

    According to the video, he’s a Democrat. I wish he would do speaking engagements in places like MD so people had an alternate perspective.

    He is, IMO a significantly better ambassador for the NRA than WLP.

    1. NRA has always been willing to highlight pro-gun Dems at their Annual Meeting. The problem is they are an endangered species these days.

  5. A big part of the problem is that there are no prominent Democrats that are pro-2A and pro civil rights for gun owners. The Democrat party has become very monolithic and intolerant of any dissension to the party line. The Democrat Party is almost Stalinist in its tolerance of dissent and top-down definition of its positions and demanded obedience to them.

    Does anyone doubt that if Reid or Pelosi demanded a yea-vote on a complete gun ban, that a “pro-gun Democrat” would vote with the party? Despite his/her previous views and promises? Has Harry Reid helped us out in a clear public manner in the last 5 years? How many “pro-gun democrat” senators voted for the sure-loser Toomey-Manchin closure vote? Even though they knew it was going to lose?

    If you can find a Democrat that will consistently vote for and publically support gun rights against their own party, consider supporting them. Because the Democrat Party will not.

        1. Milton Friedman would argue that this is precisely the point. If we can convince them that the we represent the will of the people, then we don’t need to vote them out of office.

        2. Agreed, given that Manchin-Toomey quickly turned into a rotting albatross for the sponsors, and the GOP alternative amendments not so much. . .

          If there was a significant number of pro-Second Amendment Democrat Senators, they would have passed the good stuff even over reid’s objections. But they didn’t, because they only pretend to be pro-Second Amendment enough to get re-elected.

          The GOP certainly isn’t a pro-Second Amendment party. . . but the Democrats have certainly made their party an actively anti-Second Amendment party on the national level.

          If “pro-gun” Dem politicians want to convince anyone they are actually pro-Second amendment, they need to vote for House and Senate leadership that will not actively stand in the way of pro-Second Amendment legislation. If the problem is that Democratic leadership “must” be from the liberal wing of the party to ensure idealogical consistancy against the evil heartless GOP millionaires, they can vote some of these mythological “pro-gun” liberals into leadership positions (not Harry Reid, who has made his true feelings on the Second Amendment patently clear).

          Oh, you mean there actually aren’t any pro-gun liberals capable of getting support in either house of Congress? This is my shocked face. . .

          The Democrats have made gun control versus gun rights a single party issue, by their own choice. This is bad for gun rights in general, because that means it’s realistically “the GOP or the highway” for pro-gun types since even a “pro-gun” Congresscritter will just party-line vote for the most horrific antigun judicial and executive appointees, will not actually buck the party line to any great extent in supporting pro-gun legislation, and will offer at best half-hearted resistance to antigun legislation lest they be hounded out of office by being primaried. (Remember how the Dems drove Lieberman – their own VP candidate just previously – out of their party over a disagreement on one issue. . . Joe Lieberman was the liebral’s liberal, but unfortunately is an honorable man – so they got rid of him.)

          Note that it is possible to be a GOP politician in good standing and be pro-immigration amnesty, pro-gay rights, pro-abortion, anti-war, and at least mildly anti-gun. There is no corresponding tolerance of divergent opinions in the Dems.

        3. WHile I prefer “Pro-Gun”, I’ll take “terrified of getting beaten at the next election” over anti-gun any day (and twice on sunday!)

  6. Think about it. Look at the polls. 30 pct of dems, like me, support gun rights. But they are basically homeless on the issue. The nra has made support synonymous with tea party b values and dems look at you with suspicion. I will say that these dems tend to be less one issue voters.

    1. I will say that these dems tend to be less one issue voters.

      I think that’s likely the case, otherwise I think they’d be supporting Republicans. Maybe they’d be amenable to supporting Republicans that aren’t the current batch.

      I think the country is hungry for a populist leader, for all the thrills and horrors that would entail. It could come from either party, or a third party, but I think it’s coming, and neither the Progressives nor the Doctrinaire Conservatives are going to be very happy about it.

      1. “Maybe they’d be amenable to supporting Republicans that aren’t the current batch.”

        First, the labels Dem and Rep are very state specific. Chris Christie, Tom Ridge, Tom Corbett, are Democrats in Texas and Georgia. In Maryland on the other hand, someone who supports the – god forbid – death penalty is looked upon as a rabid teahadist in some circles. Who is “they”

        All elections are about who is the least crazy and who will F-up the least. The current crop of Ayn Rand Ted Cruz Republicans is very scary to pro-business Republicans, who would rather have Billary than Cruz. Bush ticked off a lot of small government fiscal conservatives by blowing out the budget and spending oodles on pointless wars.

        You’ll see a gradual turnaround, but it will be driven by governors who get broad support like Jindal and Haley. it will be driven by people looking to broaden the base not shut down the govt to make a pointless mess. Remember, Alabama and much of the South used to be all Democrat, until it wasn’t. Inner cities and minorities are mostly Democrat, but I think Detroit is a wake up call. The Democrats were in circular firing squad mode after Reagan, like the GOP is now.

    2. It’s not so much that the NRA has made support with gun rights synonymous with the “TEA Party”.

      The Democrat leadership has wholly abandoned gun rights and made the party actively anti-gun. Any vote for a Democrat for a national office is now a vote to appoint the most radically anti-gun judges and executive branch officers, and to at least tacitly support blocking pro-gun legislation while smoothing the way for anti-gun legislation. Because the national and Congressional leadership of the Dems are so virulently antigun.

      That kind of leaves “gun rights” supporters out in the cold if they don’t team with the GOP on a national level.

      Claiming to be “pro-gun” and voting for any Democratic federal office candidate, no matter how pro-gun that particular Democratic politician may personally be, means that you are voting for antigun policies.

      If you’re honestly pro-gun, but honestly feel the Democratic Party is your idealogical home, better take back your party from the anti-rights lunatic bigots.

    3. Beatbox,

      Not sure if you said you were an NRA member or not, but if you are, then you know that pretty much all of the mailers received from the NRA are either requests for funds, updates on state and local legislation, or offers for Insurance/VISA cards. They *NEVER* send anything not gun or NRA related. Sign up for the TEA Party alerts, and you’ll see the difference is night and day. If anything, it’s the TEA Party that has an issue with SoCon overrepresentation.

      If you can pick up a copy of any of their magazines, you’ll see nothing there beyond firearms/2nd Amendment related items, veering into 1st Amendment items when the two converge.

      I can’t speak for the annual meeting, but I can tell you that the dearth of Liberal voices in NRA circles is much more a case of lack of participation by those people than by NRA exclusion.

      I’ve said it to libertarians (like myself) for years – Get in the Republican Party, co opt it and reduce the SoCon side while amping up the liberty and fiscal Conservative angles. You need to do something similar with the NRA, with the added bonus that you only have to attenuate the generally less prominent SoCon side of things. They’re already aligned with you on the 2nd Amendment side, but you need to make your voices heard alongside us.

      And if you want to hear less of the “Kenyan Communist” stuff, then perhaps laying off the “Repugs hate gays and poor people” shtick might go along way to engendering some civility.

      In the final analysis, with only 30% of Dems being pro-gun, you need to do a whole lot more in bringing your OWN side into this issue. You’ll see the Democratic Party changing if you do that.

  7. Most of the bottles are at the state level, so why doesn’t the nra reward state politicians with a national stage? I mentioned phelps before. The truth is, the nra made a decision several years ago to focus on the tea party to mine new members. IMHO it was a short sighted position. Get a few drinks into your nra contacts, they will admit as much.

  8. Our system is a naturally two-party one. A third party usually hands the victory to the opponents of the party from which it split, and in the end, either melts away or the party it split from did, leaving us with two.

    Politicians’ key motivation is self-preservation in office, and one way they do this is gerrymandering, so that most House districts are locked into D or R unless or until an incumbent is caught in bed with a corpse or a barnyard animal, or is indicted in October. Same true in states for Senate — some States are D or R and that is that. Therefore the pols that develop seniority (and drive legislation) tend to be from monolithic jurisdictions and for them, extremism in the pursuit of careerism is no vice. The pols from swing states never develop seniority, because of wave elections that flush them out periodically.

    Most of the pols are on one side or another out of self-interest, not principle. Mentally healthy people do not run for office. Many of the pols that run on one side or another are nothing but selfinterested sociopaths, and choose the side that will give them power (examples: Charlie Crist, Arlen Specter, Angus King, any number of old Southern Ds turned Rs).

    John Dingell, who now sings in the Choir Invisible, was one of the last of the pro-gun Dems. But even he caved to his party on things like Brady and Schumer-Manchin-Toomey (let’s give credit to the guy who really wrote it, as well as his two lickspittles).

  9. Hey folks – for those readers who are liberal, I’d like to invite you to join The Liberal Gun Club. We’re still a growing group and would love to have you check us out. I don’t speak for the group, I’m just a member, but what makes us special? Fundamentally, we’re liberals who love guns, love shooting, and love the 2nd Amendment. Unlike the NRA, we don’t slather conservative ideology all over the issue of gun rights (I take issue with the idea that it’s just messaging) and we’re going to be strong in states where the NRA is weak. Come over, check out our forums, and even volunteer – you can have a big impact. We welcome all political viewpoints, except for Troll-o-crat. :)

    1. @tincankilla, in all friendliness – I think it’s great that there are organizations to collect those turned off by the NRA, but I wish folks who are aligned on 2A would also join the NRA and help focus it on RKBA only.

      I need to learn more about LGC, but so far my limited exposure (the talking points page) gives me pause. Would they have supported Manchin-Toomey? By what legal rationale do they advocate mandatory testing for concealed carry? Is Social Security Disability status really something that should prevent firearms ownership?

      More broadly, is LGC more than a clubhouse and actually a political organizing group like the NRA? What record does it have for results? Such immediate questions make me worry about representing LGC as a true alternative to the NRA, problems aside. If not a true alternative, perhaps it would be best for LGC to direct its energy into being a caucus within the NRA.

      1. Hi Steve – I agree with your concern with RKBA first and foremost and I can tell you with a degree of certainty that there are definitely a significant number of my fellow members who are NRA members. I am not, however, and I’d be very hesitant to join as a caucus, as I don’t see a path to making the NRA less ideologically conservative after I write that big lifetime membership check. (And by ideologically conservative I mean the stuff-outside-of-gun-rights, including messaging, rhetoric, board members, and membership demographics).

        To address specific concerns: the talking points page is there to answer a few questions from the perspective of the longest standing members. Those points don’t represent our positions because we don’t have a political arm yet. We’re working on it, though, as we see ourselves as the best hope for gun rights in a place like CA, where just mentioning the NRA will end conversations *because* of the NRA’s widely recognized conservative bent. So yeah – I suppose that for now the LGC is a clubhouse of mostly liberal gun lovers that has only been around for a couple years, run by volunteers with jobs, and sussing out our political strategy and ideological rationale. Because of that, thoughtful and friendly people of all stripes are always welcome.

        [Finally, to answer your questions about policy from my personal perspective, since we have no official platform: Manchin-Toomey? no, as the entire 2013 initiative was built on opportunism, cowardice, and lies. Testing for CCW? I support testing in one’s legal responsibilities and consequences, not in weapon handling. SS Disability? Yes, insofar as the disability is a mental one of certain categories that would make a person morally or rationally deficient.]

        1. Tincankilla —

          You know, it was the membership revolt that changed the NRA’s focus on Fudd guns for hunting and back to hard core Second Amendment protections.

          They did it at the Annual Meeting. Of course, you have to be a Lifetime memeber, or at least an Annual member with five continuous years paid membership to have that kind of voice. . .

          You want to change the NRA? Join the NRA and use your voice.

          1. I’m no expert in NRA internal politics, but my understanding is that the post-revolt leadership changed the rules to lock in their dominance. also, i’ll consider joining once the org starts turning around, takes the Nuge out of leadership, etc. i’m perfectly content not being a member of the NRA. the LGC is still small, but we have a unique advantage to help advance gun rights where the NRA has no power.

            1. tincankilla,

              Get a membership, get in there, AND VOTE HIM OUT. How else could you expect to change things?

              1. honestly, i expect to change things by helping a boutique organization operate in states where the NRA is politically toothless. i appreciate the NRA for its strenght, blemishes and all, though we could certainly put a portion of Wayne’s $2M salary to better work.

                1. Then your expectation is as naïve as the libertarians believing they really can be a viable 3rd party. The NRA is what you’ve got. It’s all your GOING to get. It’ll never be the organization you need until you start making it into that organization. And you can’t do that if you’re only pressing your palms against the front window. Won’t happen.

                  Now, if you think you can build something in the Blue States, by all means try. But the antis have succeeded in reducing our numbers that you’ll likely find you can’t support such an organization. You’d be MUCH better serving the cause by doing something about getting new shooters onboard and getting better Dems elected. Maybe then you’ll have fertile ground for a new gun-rights group.

                  But not until then. You have groundwork you need to do first.

                2. Umm, those groups already exist.

                  IGOLD in Illinois, CALGUNS in Cali, ANJRPC, NYSRPA, etc. Many are related with NRA as state affiliates. NYSRPA is a million times more effective than LiberalGunClub will be.

                  If you care about actually making headway on the issue, you’d support both your state level organization, which exists right now, today, doing good work and “Liberal Gun Club” in hopes that in the future it might also be viable, if that floats your boat. You might even send a big $10 check to NRA for an affiliate membership. You do realize that the dues going to NRA do not fund the ILA, and primarily go to the education/sporting side of the house, right?

                  Membership in these organizations is not mutually exclusive, and then can all help.

                  Ultimately, when I hear, “Well, I support the 2A, but…” I am prepared for a bullshit alert. Oh, you support the 2A, but you don’t support the most effective single-issue organizations, you’re not bringing new shooters into the fold by teaching safety classes, you don’t vote the issue, you’re not going to rallies or pubic meetings, and you’re not financially supporting effective lawsuits or lobbying? Ok, copy. So you don’t actually support the 2A in any tangible manner. It just makes you emotionally feel good to say so and post about it on the internet in some forum few people read.

                  You’re the “free rider” problem.

                  1. just to clarify the conversation: my initial post remains an invitation to come check out the LGC, esp if you’re a liberal like me. in all politeness, nothing y’all are writing hasn’t been expressed already in all sorts of various forums where other posters insist that the NRA is the only way. (you guys are more polite and well-reasoned, though.) As I’m just a member of the LGC and this isn’t the forum to debate the merits of strategy, effectiveness, etc., I simply invite you to check us out and pitch in if you like being part of grassroots orgs.

                    1. Please explain to me how LGC is a “grassroots organization.”

                      You had about 1200 folks a year or two ago as dues paying members. There is no visible mechanism for members to have a say in governance or the board membership. There’s few if any events or outreach efforts scheduled. There’s no competition or instructor certification program.

                      The only good thing I see about LGC is that you can get positive PR because the media likes you. The downside is that in the past, at least, the LGC has advocated for magazine capacity restrictions, UBCs, and other gun control bullshit. And, that whole “continuously voting for gun control advocating politicians while refusing to meaningful engage in the political process (for example, primarying the crap out of anti-gunners in blue states)” thing gets old.

                      My whole point is that membership is not monogamy. You can send money to LGC and prattle around on their forums and do some meetups and give media statements with your LGC hat on, and then also support IGOLD and be an NRA certified instructor. Unless, of course, LGC has some thing about punishing members who engage in BadThink or something weird like that.

                      Until you guys figure out how to be effective, I guess I’ll just say “you’re welcome.” I stand by my statement that if you’re not helping to pull the wagon, then you’re a free rider. We have plenty of free riders out of ignorance, apathy, and laziness, but those who intentionally decide to watch others pull the cart while they watch really irritate me.

                  2. Yup.

                    The ONLY way to cover your bases on lobbying for gun rights is the two level approach:

                    NRA at the national level. (They do some state level stuff, and very good work oftentimes, but they are THE functionally effective group at teh national level. Period.)

                    Your local state level gun rights organization – CALGUNS (CA), VCDL (VA), etc. They are the most effective lobbying groups at the state and local level.

                    A boutique organization that represents (at best) less than 30% of less than 30-40% of the voting population simply will never have the effect of a large single issue group that doesn’t really care what your party affiliation is, even if most of their members do tend to self-identify with one side of the aisle.

                    There are plenty of NRA and VCDL (I’m in Virginia)members who I vehemently disagree with on many social policies. . . but we stand arm-in-arm together for pro-gun issues, and frankly, that’s all that matters to me when wearing my single-issue-organization hat.

    2. My experience with the LGC, as a former member and forum participant, was of a group dominated by “Second Amendment butters”, that is people who support the Second Amendment but…

      I saw widespread support for plenty of gun control measures, such as capacity restrictions, extensive training requirements, extensive background checks, and even some support for assault weapons bans. Basically, a lot of that membership would feel right at home in a Moms Demand Action gathering. After several extremely frustrating conversations, I gave up on them.

      I’m now a member of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA. I agree with the candidates the NRA supports on gun rights and pretty much nothing else, but the NRA gets my money anyway because I care about the Second Amendment.

      1. I only joined in January of this year, so my experience has been that those advocating “but” positions tend to have to rigorously defend them. the current sentiment seems to be that gun control is illiberal and used a fig leaf by otherwise conservative democrats.

  10. I hope the NRA event planners take this to heart for next year’s annual meeting.
    We all roll our eyes a little bit at some of these “liberal” gun organizations that pop up now and again, but if nothing else they demonstrate that there’s a barrier handicapping our outreach. This year, the figurehead of that barrier was Palin.
    Ironically(?), I can’t help but liken the problem you describe to that of the Republican party here in Alaska with libertarians. Our state party has been experiencing increasing membership for years, and they use this as evidence that they clearly don’t need to compromise on some of their most statist planks, not realizing these new members will likely become disenchanted and walk if they don’t see some focus and consistency in the party platform. Not to mention the divisiveness it causes in the party ranks, which is what loses elections.
    I fear the same thing with increased member rolls in the NRA. Many wouldn’t see a reason to change as long as membership is increasing. To riff on your sinking ship analogy, I see Palin-esque personalities being the hole below the water line in the RKBA boat. Or the Jonahs.

  11. I am an NRA member. I’m also a Wiccan. I want nothing to do with Sarah Palin’s baptism. She can keep her guns and religion, and I will keep my guns and my religion. People like her are the reason that most people think only Christian conservatives are welcome in the NRA.

    The same goes for Glenn Beck and some of the other speakers the NRA has invited to the Annual Meeting over the past few years.

    1. Then change it by becoming a member. You can’t change it from outside. If you’re pro-2nd Amendment all the way, we will be backing you all the way, regardless of what Sarah Palin thinks.

      The only reason they have a voice in the way they do is that you’re not members so you can speak your side.

    1. Beatbox wins the day.

      I don’t think it’d take much for the NRA to turn it around though. I mean, they better, if they plan to stay relevant.

      1. Oh I have no doubt the nra will remain a force, hopefully they will emerge better.

        1. Geez, smug much?

          It’s the NRA; anything they yammer about *but* the 2A is just window-dressing. Look to what they are *lobbying* about and on that basis, they’re the *most* palatable pro-2A force we’ve got.

          1. There’s also that the NRA does have mechanisms for the members (life members at least) to pick the organization’s leadership and guide where it is going.

            Pardon my ignorance but I’m pretty sure otehr pro-2A organizations don’t have even that level of member control.

            And at least they are out there lobbying and working.

            While the LGC is a great idea. They’ve got their work cut out to go from a clubhouse to an organization that actually holds politicians responsible.

            For one they’ll have to organize and acutally have carrot *and* stick for Dems that displease them.

  12. I think there is something more to it than the right to own/use/carry a firearm. I don’t know of many liberals (I know they are out there) that actually abhor the sort of government power that has been wielded in the last several years. It’s not just under the current presidency, either. I think the “tough on crime” position is showing the cracks in the foundation. Drugs are continually being used as a vector to violate constitutional rights. This mantra (and many others, including the push to militarize police) continues to end badly for Americans (and gun owners).

    To me, LGC is a liberal gun club with folks whose panties are in a twist over gun restrictions since the NRA *seems* to do a good job protecting and defending individual rights from an oppressive regime. Am I wrong here? Can any LGC members chime in here with the organization’s/membership’s position on the militarization of police or the interpretation of the USC?

    1. Everyone here is making too much of a big deal over the LGC. It is basically just a forum on guns and gun rights. It is the same as any other gun forum sans the Kenyan Socialist stuff.

      1. I don’t think its like any other gun forum minus the Kenyan talk. There’s plenty of support for crap like mandatory training on LGC. No one on m4c or arfcom would voice support for that.

        And regarding the socialist Kenyan rhetoric, I agree its pretty juvenile. But Obama has earned the ire of everyone who strongly values gun rights. I would expect those people to insult him as harshly as possible. I’ve called him some juvenile names myself. Fuck him.

        I’d like to note I’m also not a fan of the NRA pushing the country music thing. That’s not a stereotype we need to be reinforcing.

        1. I find the Liberal Rifle Association to be extremely pro-gun as we understand it, although I’ve also Liked the LGC on Facebook for a while now.

          But both groups have succumbed to the temptations that we sometimes see on other forums to fixate on particular “characters” on the other side. It’s no coincidence that Palin and Nugent are mentioned here, they’re two of the most frequently attacked people. However, just like Christianity-related posts in some gun forums, I ignore it for the sake of the bigger issue of defending gun rights.

          A big challenge is that I’ve not yet seen those groups *begin* to start holding Democrats accountable for their anti-gun stances, nor running recruitment drives or new shooter introductions to previously ambivalent Liberals. They almost seemed hopeful that Wendy Davis really was pro-gun, when it was clear she was scrambling for a piece of a demographic. They’re about 20 years behind us on being able to spot a Fudd or a “pro sportsman” politician. I hope we can help them to get up to speed.

      2. So, who is on the board of directors of the LGC? They have one (they discuss it in their affiliate requirements), but there is zero clarity on who the board is and how the members are selected.

        LGC used to publicly support gun control measures, like NICS checks to buy standard capacity PMAGS. Now they don’t ( How was that decision made? Who got to vote on the matter, or on the Board members that made the decision?

        At the end of the day, LGC is more like than the NRA. is a (arguably benevolent) dictatorship run by the Avila family and trusted staff. You can pay for a membership but it doesn’t give you any sort of say in the direction of the site or its leadership. has hit the critical mass where it can mass effects for good on the issue in the real world; for example, the Colorado Recall initiative began on a subforum there, and the site has done several fire missions that raised five and six figure amounts for ILA and other pro-2A and charitable causes in the last two years.

        Ultimately, the best that LGC can strive to be is something like given its current governance structure. That can still be quite positive, but let’s not kid ourselves about effectiveness here. The one big advantage LGC might get is easier access to media attention, and then if I was an LGC member I’d want to know: who is speaking to the media on my behalf? Do I get to vote for that board member getting interviewed by NPR?

    2. come check out our forums. you already sound like most of us anyway, esp with your concern for militarization and firmness on the 2A. we probably, if polled, would have similar policy positions as the NRA, but without the NRA’s lurking statist militarism, people using “socialist” incorrectly or as an insult, ethnocentrism, gender bias, etc.

      1. “. . .we probably, if polled, would have similar policy positions as the NRA. . .”

        Would that include “Hang’em High” anti-crime policies, and other state-power-expanding distractions from gun rights?

        1. definitely not. I meant “gun policy”. in fact, i recall there was a recent positive discussion of immediate gun and voting rights registration for felons. the creeping authoritarianism of the state is viewed through a liberal lens, though.

  13. When it comes right down to it, most of the crazy laws the GOP talks about — school prayer, abortion, drugs — are things that are either set pretty far out of their reach, or are already easily and routinely ignored or circumvented. Conversely, the Dems want to do things like carbon taxes, “bail-outs” for newspapers that would turn ’em into State-controlled organs and increasing Fed control over schools that would be very difficult to get around. Folks snicker at Santorum. They take Hilary seriously.

    The Dems had a majority in Congress by mid-way through W’s second term. Did they use it to stop our various wars, to roll back the militarization of police? Nope — and they still haven’t. We’re on the verge of more war right now than the younger Bush ever dreamed of.

    “Liberal” Gun Club? ‘Scroom. Somebody start a damn Gun Gun Club, where it’s all about g-u-n-s and administering electoral curb-stompings to any pols of any party who try to diddle with the basic human right to effective means of self-defense, and I’ll be interested. For now, I’ll put in my earplugs during Ted Nugent’s speech as long as the NRA keeps after Congress and the courts about guns, gun rights, and actual genuine gun safety.

    Left, Right or Center, you’d better understand the .gov is not your friend and it never will be, no matter how many innocents you toss down its gaping maw.

    1. Agreed, but the reality is that it’s not the environment we find ourselves in. We NEED to have the Left engaged and aligned with us on the correct side of the 2nd Amendment issue. Many on the right are reaching out to them, especially the more libertarian gun rights supporters. But we’ve got to see some reciprocation.

  14. It seems to me that the NRA is probably already getting about as much support as they can hope to from 2nd Amendment single-issue voters. If they want to continue to grow politically, they need to expand their reach to people who are more concerned about other issues but may be brought around to helping with our cause.

    Like it or not, we’re stuck with a de facto two-party system. Both parties have some extreme positions that will flat-out turn off some voters. If the NRA continues trying to appeal to the right, they risk alienating some otherwise leftist members but the trade-off is they increase the chances of electing politicians who belong to a party that isn’t hostile to gun ownership. If the NRA instead tries to cast a wide enough net to appeal to leftists, they risk alienating conservatives and what they stand to gain will be a return of Majority Leader Reid, a return of Speaker Pelosi, and Scalia being replaced by another Kagan or Sotomayor.

    As repugnant as some GOP policies are to people who love freedom, it looks to me like right is the only way for the NRA to lean.

  15. It has been mentioned here before and I think it bears repeating.

    Gun rights are a proxy for how politicians view me. Why should a politician that doesn’t trust me to own or carry a 9mm pistol trust me to do anything with far great import like raise my child or choose how to invest my money and time?

    The Libertarianish wing of the Dem party seems to be out of favor except for legalizing weed.

    I am faced with the choice of voting for Sen Begich (who hung with us on the issue and demonstrated some leadership) or a generic R challenger. On one hand I want to reward Begich for hanging with the 2A issue. On the other hand, Begich is a former MAIG mayor who I suspect only voted with us in 2012-13 as he knows he was up for re-election in 2014. How will he behave on the issue in 2015? I also know that a vote for Begich is a vote for any future anti-gun SCOTUS justice or for Chuck Schumer as Senate Majority Leader.

    Frankly the Dem party has become the party of gun control. It is in the party platform, it is pushed by party elites, and it is becoming a litmus test issue for liberal appointees. Democratic voters who claim to like guns need to fix that in their primaries, pronto. Why isn’t there a more organized effort to primary the crap out of antigun Democrats in liberal strongholds in MD, NJ, etc? I can only conclude that “pro gun liberals” really don’t care that much about the issue. I’m not asking you to start making a visible effort to clean out your house, with the threat to vote for the other guy if your team continues to screw all gun owners.

    1. Frankly the Dem party has become the party of gun control. It is in the party platform, it is pushed by party elites, and it is becoming a litmus test issue for liberal appointees.

      Exactly. Because of the way the DNC has decided to be wholly anti-gun, you cannot simultaneously be “for the Second Amendment” and yet vote for a Democrat in a federal election, even if the candidate actually is someone who personally supports the Second Amendment. The two positions are mutually exclusive.

  16. I know this is anecdotal, but I was talking to a friend of mine just this last weekend who works in congress and has worked as a lobbyist in the past. I asked him why he doesn’t go work for the NRA and his answer was: “The NRA doesn’t pay for shit. Everybody’s there for the cause.” This made me smile.

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