Is NRA in a Position to Exploit These Trends?

First being the increase in black gun owners. Some of John Lott’s research has backed up the anecdotal stories. The other trend is hipster hunters. Note that article is appearing in a lefty outdoor site, but they’ve bought the left’s take on NRA hook line and sinker. But what is NRA doing to dispel these myths?

There’s a hell of a lot of conservative branding and conservative outreach from NRA, and to some degree I understand that it’s easier fishing where there are a lot of fish. I am understanding that NRA will tend to reflect its members. But I do worry the organization is so far out in the conservative weeds, there’s no going back. If the Democratic Party is ever going to push gun control off of its platform, the impetus to do so is going to have to come from within. This is opportunity, and I fear it will be wasted.

41 thoughts on “Is NRA in a Position to Exploit These Trends?”

  1. This is not only anecdotal, but ancient history, so its value is limited, BUT. . .

    One of the most mouth-watering gun collections I ever came across when I was young, belonged to an old black guy my father and I befriended as a fishing buddy, and after he knew us well enough to trust us, trusted us to visit his house and see his gun collection. His house could best be described as “weathered” though not quite “falling down,” and no one would have guessed it contained anything of more value than a television set. He also had a well-equipped reloading bench. I later would run into his nephews while out hunting, and their guns were a step up from what I was carrying. They were in what was considered typical “black entrepreneur” businesses at the time.

    I think if there is a point to that story, it is that they were residents of Newtown, back when Bucks County was still genuinely rural. So they came to the “gun culture” the same way I had, despite our ethnic/racial differences. There was a common “culture” we shared.

    From that I would suggest that if we wanted to actively recruit blacks (or?) to the contemporary gun culture, we need to be honest with ourselves about what the current attractions are for whites. The attractions aren’t the same as when I was a kid.

    To be a little cynical — while thinking out loud — I would suggest there is already an urban “gun culture,” but it is one that operates without the concern for “the law” that we have. That sounds terrible and perhaps demeaning, but I remember that more than 20 years ago, a frequent complaint among people trying to organize Pennsylvania gun owners was, that the very rural population of the state was used to operating outside the law, and so didn’t feel like politics really affected them. I remember people citing “guys in the mountains who brought full-auto M-16s and AKs back from Vietnam and would shoot them back in the hollow” and who didn’t give a crap about what the law was, as long as they stayed away from the road — reminiscent of my own attitude about hunting laws, in my young, rural days.

    1. This stuff about vets bringing full auto M-16s and AK-47s back is an urban myth. Not saying that a few were not smuggled out. You could get papers to bring a SKS back. The MPs went through our luggage with a fine tooth comb. Also the same with Customs here in the States.

      1. “The MPs went through our luggage with a fine tooth comb.”

        I’m not going to say you’re wrong, because personally I never saw one of those contraband M-16s or AKs myself.

        But that said, those MPs and U.S. Customs must have been so focused on looking for guns, they missed all the drugs my contemporaries brought back.

        Personally, I was so hell-bent on just getting out and getting home, I wasn’t going to mess around with any contraband. But, no one ever looked in my duffel bag, at all.

  2. “Is NRA in a Position to Exploit These Trends?”

    I forgot to append to the above the answer, “Sure, as soon as it gets back to being single-issue.”

    Lose Ted Nugent and stop pandering to rednecks. Try pandering to gun owners regardless of their other persuasions.

    It worked once, and it can work again.

  3. And repeat after me; Ted Nugent is not your problem, he’s your excuse. And the excuse of the gun owning Left who’d rather bitch about phantoms such as Nugent (and Reagan, boy do they bitch about him) than bother trying to get some balance on the BOD, or Heaven forbid, even just be a member of the only federal-level organization that gives a damn about this right.

    I could forgive the intolerance for conservative/libertarian ideas among liberal gun owners if they would work towards the goal of making the Left a pro-gun supporter again. Or perhaps actually helping minority gun owners instead of bitching about the NRA not being quick enough to jump the gun on the Castille case.

    I hope they can someday become a meaningful force in the fight for gun rights, but they have to get over their dysfunctional, bipolar nature first.

  4. “I could forgive the intolerance for conservative/libertarian ideas…”

    Who should I forgive for the misidentification of conservative/libertarian ideas?

    I don’t want to make an essay out of that tangent, or the still further tangent of, where the boundary between “libertarian” and “conservative” lies, so I will just comment that what seems to be identified as “libertarian” these days is not even a shadow of what it was defined as being, 25 – 30 years ago.

    It seems odd that you mention “conservative/libertarian ideas” immediately after a defense of Nugent; which of his ideas are “conservative” and which are “libertarian?” A guy can get confused.

    And I would just like to suggest, as a new if late-in-life student of such things, that it might be worthwhile to learn the distinctions between “the left,” “liberalism,” and “the Democrats.” From a good deal of my recent reading, I’ve observed “the left” does not appear to be the gun owners’ enemy; they don’t seem to care about the gun issue at all, other than to arm themselves; and they usually speak as disparagingly of “liberals” and “Democrats” as “the right” does.

  5. Whetherman: Ted Nugent is primarily a one-issue man as well. Therefore I have to conclude that your objections to him, and by extension the NRA, have less to do with their lack of focus, and more to do with your desire to be accepted by the radical Left.

    Let me guess, you want to ban open carry because “they’re ruining it for the rest of us.”

        1. No, but he seems to agree with Sebastian’s positions on a lot of things.

          (ObDisclaimer: I agree enough with Sebastian that he’s allowed me to post my own work here from time to time.)

  6. I am, but I don’t follow Whetherman enough to remember everything he has ever said about every issue.

    1. It never ceases to amaze me how people like you will extrapolate beliefs onto someone else because they disagree with you on one issue — like what a loudmouthed asshole and net liability to the cause Ted Nugent is.

      I don’t need to defend myself to people like you, but for just one example, I have been flattered when predecessors of CeasefirePA in the past, on Sunday morning talk-TV, have quoted things I’ve written on other boards, as extreme bad examples of “what gun owners think.”

      In short, if you don’t think I support open carry, than you don’t know half of what I think. I was open carrying myself, right here in staid Bucks County, PA, probably a couple decades before you were born. (And there, I’m the one extrapolating a lot.)

      But, there is no equivalence between “open carry” and being a loudmouthed, dog-whistling asshole like Nugent, and I’m only raising the open carry issue because you did.

  7. Well then, I am sorry. It seemed to me that you were pulling the common political ploy of starting off attacking an unpopular group (NAGR types who exploit the gun issue in order to advance other causes) and then slyly shifting that attack to a more popular target.

    However, I don’t think Ted Nugent is a net negative for the 2A cause. Imagine where we’d be if all the pro-2Aers were National Review types.

    1. I’ll apologize too for getting snippy. But IMO a mistake almost all activists for all issues and all ideologies make, is self-censoring and listening only to their own echo chambers.

      I would say from wider reading, that in the general society, Ted Nugent has a much-less-than-positive image, and the least of the cause for that is his association with gun rights or hunting. In short, he widely has the image of being an offensive sphincter. While we can’t please everyone, and shouldn’t try to, we shouldn’t assume that the people he offends are lost causes, and will not be useful allies (if only for writing checks) for our single issue; but increasingly the NRA seems to believe the low-hanging-fruit among gun owners who find him amusing, are the only gun owners worth appealing to. I happen to believe that in the long term, they will be proven wrong. I believe our “movement” requires diversity, and I mean that in every possible sense of the word.

  8. Ted, Trump and Milo share a common characteristic They like to offend people.

    Can the NRA recruit the new market of scared blacks? Probably , yes. The NRA has lots of courses to help new shooters. The public NRA politics is siding with the GOP since the GOP is more pro gun. Also the NRA is pro LEO. Since BLM had come about more Leos are siding with the GOP.
    Now will black young men that use guns in their jobs selling drugs be drawn to the NRA? No, since the NRA sides with LEOS,

    Those law abiding blacks that are scared of violence from the uptick in racial rhetoric. That is a natural market for the NRA. NRA uses fear as a recruiting tool. That fear is the same as women who fear being attacked and want a gun. NRA and gun manufacturers created products for that market .

    1. “Now will black young men that use guns in their jobs selling drugs be drawn to the NRA? No, since the NRA sides with LEOS,”

      Overall I like your analysis, but I want to point to a BIG problem via what you’ve written, right there: You assume (or at least, chose to characterize) black young men who don’t like cops as necessarily being criminals. Have you considered maybe some of them just didn’t like being rousted and having their faces shoved into brick walls, because some cop thought they “fit the profile?” (Or, were just available?)

      I had the experience as a poor white kid; so I know “the profile” is, “somebody powerless we can [screw] with.” Remember the popular phrase “up against the wall, MF” that once applied to almost anyone with, say, hair longer than the cops approved of? That the more obsequious you were with them, the more viciously they would shove you around? That, to be carefully balanced against, not appearing to be “defiant,” which would draw blood?

      I remember those things. Part of the irony is, I was already a veteran when I experienced them. I let my field jacket get too raggy, I guess.

      I seriously doubt the NRA is going to reach out to those “law abiding blacks,” because to do so will offend those LEOs they pander to so much; and things like the “Huey Newton” and “John Brown” Gun Clubs suggest that knowing that, many self-defense inclined blacks are not going to wait around for them. They remember that the Black Panthers were the original proponents, champions, and practitioners of Open Carry, and that it was a conservative California governor (need I name him?) that got the ball rolling to crack down on that, arguably starting the trend that state still suffers from today.

  9. That is the problem with being a grassroots organization. You reflect your members. The NRA has certainly tried to reach out to Democrats over the years and has gotten pushback from members. Gun control organizations being all astroturf don’t have this problem.

    It has also devoted significant resources to broadening the base, especially with blacks where it has has a presence since Reconstruction Days. Local affiliates have been quite welcoming to gays seeking defensive training. But in the end, if people don’t come because of the lying media, they don’t come.

    1. “NRA has certainly tried to reach out to Democrats over the years and has gotten pushback from members…”

      Honest question: Is that what really happened?

      I have an anecdotal experience that, shall we say, informs some doubt on my part. Some years ago I was in frequent private communication with the leaders of a state-level gun rights group in another state. A primary election came along in which a pol with an established pro-gun record was up against a challenger with a record of nothing but pro-gun rhetoric. But, the candidate with the established pro-gun record was pro-choice, while the candidate with a record of nothing but talk was pro-life.

      The “gun rights” leaders endorsed the candidate who had no record, but was pro-life. The reason they gave, privately, was “so many of our members are pro-life that we would lose members and support if we supported a pro-choice candidate.”

      I knew that was bullshit, and that they were pursuing their own druthers and their “other” agenda, but even if they believed their own bullshit, it was an example of blaming “pushback from their members” for doing what they preferred to do, in the first place.

      1. So why are you claiming that’s a gun rights Issue? Far more to do with conservative politics.

        Anecdote is not data.

        1. “So why are you claiming that’s a gun rights Issue?”

          Because when a “single issue,” gun rights organization allows another agenda to divert their politics, gun rights are being subverted. Thus the reason for the diversion becomes a gun rights issue.

          If, for example, a gun rights organization “reaches out” to Political Party “A”, but only does so in a half-hearted way, or only reaches out to “A” candidates it knows can’t win and where their outreach will not make any difference, then that favors Political Party “B”, and the reaching-out wasn’t real; and everyone not born yesterday knows it. But in public they will wear the mantle of “non-partisan.” “Bs” will love it, and “As” will know not to waste their time with the organization, or its issue.

      2. The best example is Harry Reid. He was originally pro-gun and had been endorsed by the NRA before. His maneuvers played a big role in national park carry and got a major shooting sports facility built in Vegas. NRA leadership was working up to endorse him again but members were outraged because of his role in such things as Obamacare. Leadership backed off. I am not criticizing leadership for listening to members but it is a problem that Bloomberg doesn’t have. Reid was a problem for us from that day forward until he retired.

  10. Weatherman,
    You experience of a pro gun guy that was pro life being endorsed over a pro gun guy that was pro life. is valid. The NRA is not just single issue . They push many traditional American values and pro life is part of that. After all self defense is a pro life position.

    As to the poor smuck that got hassled by police Many of those do choose to become gun literate later but not pro NRA

    One of the better changes is how many videos of police confrontations and many of those people are pro gun. The automatic deference to cops testimony in courts is a problem That deference is changing due to the many instance of videos of incorrect cops behavior in the field.

    1. The NRA/ILA should only be a single-issue gun-rights lobbying organization. To the extent that they include other causes in their “push” is harmful to their messaging.

  11. “After all self defense is a pro life position.”

    IMO these “equivalency” arguments may by valid — or not — but they are poison to the overall gun rights movement, because they dilute the primary issue, which is our right to keep and bear arms without the need to justify that right to anyone.

    The right to self-defense is a closely associated right, that may be useful for purposes of persuasion in support of the RKBA, but is not a necessary condition for the existence of the RKBA, so whether it is equivalent to being “pro-life” is immaterial. People who make the argument are trying to divert our support for our issue, into support for their issue; and that is issue dilution for our issue.

    There is hardly a single social conservative issue-position that I haven’t heard presented as “you can’t believe in the RKBA without also supporting our position on Issue X,” with some usually convoluted logic that may or may not be persuasive.

    Well, yes I can support the RKBA without supporting Issue X. And what I (the generalized “I”; any individual) believe about the RKBA is what is of political importance. Whether it satisfies some other faction’s philosophical logic is irrelevant to the issue of the RKBA.

  12. Part of the problem with reaching out to the Black Community is that necessitates jumping into the conflict between the Black Community and the Police. And the NRA as a small c, conservative organization has always sided with the police.

    But honestly, if I had to pick a ‘side’, I’d pick the Black Community. The NRA alliance with police has always seemed to me to be a weirdly schizophrenic choice if you analyze the heart of the great Gun Control debate. Because boiled down to its essence Gun Control = only cops should have guns. Police have been some of the highest profile and most politically important supporters of Gun Control (regardless of what the hypothetical ‘street cop’ supposedly believes about Gun-Control).

    In my opinion, In the long run the NRA would be wiser to pick up the political allegiance to the Black Community then continue its unrequited love of the Police.

    1. Police have been some of the highest profile and most politically important supporters of Gun Control

      Big city departments seems to be pretty much all of that, that I’ve seen – they’re loud, and have some local clout, but they should not be left to be the voice of “Police”.

      I mean, in OR and WA (I think also CO?), Sheriffs refused to enforce stupid transfer-check requirements ala Bloomberg, did they not?

  13. “And the NRA as a small c, conservative organization has always sided with the police.”

    IMO that arises from, that those who are usually considered (or define themselves) as “conservative” predominantly have “authoritarian” personalities. There is at least one, and perhaps several, psychological studies that demonstrated that, but of course conservatives tend to dismiss those studies as somewhere between invalid and rigged by liberals.

    But I say it is possible to side (or not side) with either blacks (in our example) or the police by being painfully objective about everything related. E.g., BLM has a point sometimes, and sometimes they don’t, but whether they do or not is not really RKBA business; nor is whether we lean toward giving the cops the benefit of a doubt when they claim self-defense in a dodgy shoot. The RKBA should be our only business; not which faction we side with as being more equal than the other animals, per Orwell’s allegory.

    1. The problem isn’t that conservatives have authoritarian personalities; the problem is that police officers are an authority that conservatives generally respect.

      I remember one liberal doing a study that showed that liberals predominantly have “authoritarian” personalities when it comes to authorities *they* respect.

      Which brings us back to the problem: how do we focus more on gun rights, and less on other issues, when conservatives tend to be the ones attracted to defending gun rights?

      I think we need a better litmus test than “cop is good” or “BLM member is bad”, and I think it’s this: is the person in question seeking to reinforce our rights — and not just gun rights? If so, they are generally good. If not, we should at a minimum call them out on the issue.

      One thing that drives me nuts about the BLM movement is their tendency to latch on to examples of “racism” that turns out to be justifiable self defense, when there are plenty of examples of racism and just plain brutality (as you observed earlier, that brutality can sometimes be directed towards whites as well) that we barely hear about.

      Let’s support cops when they are genuinely defending innocent lives. Let’s call them out when they are being a problem!

      1. “liberals predominantly have “authoritarian” personalities when it comes to authorities *they* respect.”

        What I think I have detected is that “liberals” tend to discount/underestimate that any ass-kicking at all will be necessary to enforce the policies they advocate, and when any of it comes to light, necessarily need to define the kickees as the epitome of evil and the kickers as heroes; while “conservatives” go into things intending to kick ass, and the more ass that’s being kicked, the better they define their policies as working, and blaming those who are getting kicked.

        E.g., we have an element that decries that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and an opposing element that defines the same statistic as demonstrating how well our system is working.

        Actually I suppose the outcome is similar for either end of the ideological spectrum; different asses kicked for different reasons, and sometimes for the same reasons, but plenty of ass gets kicked, either way.

  14. The members of the NRA are not single issue. A large part of the membership are middle class law abiding gun owner with a desire for normal law and order. Not a raging street battle between looters and rioters and police When that happens we side with the police despite all the bully tactics police use.

    If the Black Community side with BLM and I am not sure they do,then the NRA will not make a great effort to penetrate blacks as a market.

    But to address the Black Gun clubs The NRA will market to them very strongly because those people share common values of middle class living and fear. NRA does market to the fear in us The fear of social unrest whether it is whites who are scared or blacks that are scared. The fear women have of being assaulted.

    Since NRA does use fear as a marketing tactic That is a common issue among potential markets. They will not market to drug criminals that also use guns as tools.

  15. “A large part of the membership are middle class law abiding gun owner with a desire for normal law and order.”

    “Normal” is in the eye of the beholder. You have to remember that to a big part of the population, “Open Carry,” legal or otherwise, is an example of anarchy. There are dozens of things the middle class members may “desire,” but what our organizations are supposed to desire is the RKBA. If they divert to other “desires” for the sake of recruitment or fund raising, they are diluting what is supposed to be their main effort.

    The thing we have always needed to get over, is the idea that “law and order” is a gun rights issue. It isn’t. It’s a diversion. I’m aware of the logic that if there was less crime, there would be less pressure for gun control. Logically, that was never true, but we now have empirical proof that it’s not true, in that, while crime rates have gone down, the gun control movement has accelerated.

    At any given time, in a nation of 320 million people, there will be enough sensational crimes to control public perceptions of there being a crisis. The irony of that is when those on the pro-gun side use “hate, fear, and revenge” as recruitment and fund raising tools, playing on similar though differently-directed sensationalism.

    1. This article is quite dated (older than 20 years) and used to be findable from other sources, but this seems to be the last instance of it on the internet.

      In any case, I think it requires no explanation as to how it illustrates the ways that a cause can be diluted by misdirected recruitment and fund raising tactics.

      Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing — The Merchant of Fear


      Nearly everybody gets direct-response mail, letters from charities, political campaigns and all sorts of other causes asking the recipient to mail back a donation. Often they appeal to one’s charitable instincts or sense of civic responsibility. This is not the tack that Gottlieb takes. “The letters he composes,” says Outside magazine, “are not long on subtlety or literary polish, but they are extremely adept at pinpointing the recipients’ deepest anxieties and eliciting floods of righteous indignation.”

      Gottlieb does not disagree. In Trashing the Economy, the 1993 book he and his co-author, CDFE Vice President Ron Arnold write with startling frankness that:

      “The message of the direct mail letter must appeal to three base emotions; Fear, Hate and Revenge…

      “[The] fund raising mailer must present you with a crisis — a problem won’t do…That crisis must frighten you…If you are not frightened, you won’t send money…

      “Then the direct mail letter must present you with a bogeyman against whom to focus your anger…

      “Once you’ve been frightened and made to hate the bogeyman, the successful direct mail appeal must offer you a way to get revenge against the bogeyman — the payoff for your contribution. The more soul-satisfying the revenge, the better the letter pulls.

      “All this must be dressed up in an appeal that appears to have a high moral tone, but which — without you realizing it — works on your lower emotions.”

      Gottlieb and Arnold are describing environmental direct-mail pitches but Arnold in an interview on Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, also told us that “in direct mail, fear, hate and revenge go a long way.”

  16. Actually the NRA was not originally for RKBA It was to teach a skill that was fading due to the urbanization of Americans. It was not until the revolt that RKBA became a priority for the NRA.

    But all those Elmer Fudds hunters that were members and disliked the rude RKBA members still exist The point is make sure that hunters know that their sport was endangered and they need to support gun rights. Now for the people who are getting guns because of fear of unrest they need to know that their ability to defend themselves can and has been under attack

    The NRA is actual smart enough not to offend their members much That mean Godly religious and non religious alike So your desire to be pure actual reduces the power of the NRA because it eliminates other members and offend s their values

  17. “But all those Elmer Fudds hunters that were members and disliked the rude RKBA members still exist…

    I have often used the “Fudds” rhetoric myself, and still will when it is justified; but my point is, if you are going to be rude, be rude about an RKBA issue, and not something that has merely become associated with the RKBA, usually with little logic behind that. Part of the trick of getting those Fudds to listen to you and become educated, is not to have them pre-dismiss you out of hand as an asshole.

    For example, if you check out what the MSM reports about Ted Nugent, it is every time he says something racist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, xenophobic, misogynistic, or generally assholey; but they never fail to mention that oh, by the way, he’s an NRA Director.

    I find loudmouths of all persuasions titillating, and I can (wink-wink) chortle at a lot of political incorrectness. But I don’t want an all-over-the-map asshole as my spokesman. Because, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia or misogyny are in no way related to gun rights, and whatever percentage of the gun-owning population is offended by any of those issues, I would prefer they listen to our pro-gun-rights arguments, and not dismiss us unheard because of what our “our” spokesman said about, say sand-n-words.

  18. The one NRAAM I went to, I felt weirdly uncomfortable with the level of casual and unconscious “religiousity” on display in the official programming. And I’m an somewhat-more-than-intermittent churchgoing (and literal) WASP. It didn’t appear to be deliberate, but it was noticeable.

    1. “the level of casual and unconscious “religiousity” on display in the official programming.”

      Don’t even get me started on that issue. I have had two very bad experiences with Christian infiltrators in state-level organizations I was involved with, and the infiltration and subversion was deliberate.

      For gun rights relevancy, one was our attempt to form a coalition of existing local and regional gun rights and sportsmen’s groups. We appointed a guy to be chairman, based on his adeptness at running a meeting and herding tomcats. We knew he had a Christian Coalition background, but I thought nothing of that while I was still an innocent.

      For a year he did nothing but lobby the other principals of the coalition, that we should expand our horizons and expand the coalition’s focus to “other issues” besides gun rights.

      Eventually his wife inadvertently outed him, when at a dinner following a meeting, she commented “if he ever brought a gun into the house I’d kill him.” After that he disappeared and was never seen nor heard from in the gun rights world again.

      I can’t say he ever actually subverted gun rights in any direct way, but by not putting any effort into pursuing them or organizing on their behalf, he contributed to the eventual collapse of the attempt at a coalition.

      1. To be fair to the organizers of that NRAAM, I don’t think it was deliberate. It was the water they swim in, the air they breathe, the background cultural radiation. About on the level of someone saying Grace before a meal. Only this was in front of a small stadium-load of attendees, and the world via camera.

        I don’t have a good answer for this, to be honest.

        1. Sensitizing people to it may be the only answer. As I mentioned in my comment, I thought nothing of the religious affiliation at that time, even though I had experienced an even more egregious example, a couple years before. (It takes two data points to suggest a “trend,” and more to suggest a “pattern.”)

          The only way to get people to watch out is, to tell them to “watch out!” But keeping that from turning into de facto bigotry, or the rejection of genuine allies, also can be a problem.

  19. I LOL’d at Whetherman’s comment about Nugent pandering to rednecks. As a redneck, he ain’t pandering to me. I fully agree with Whetherman’s points on Nugent. I’d trade Nugent for Maj Toure in a heartbeat. Toure comes across as very intelligent and well-spoken, which is what I prefer in those representing me.

    I would recommend staying out of the BLM/cops issue. Support the RKBA and the responsible use of firearms. Full stop.

    1. I apologize for my “redneck” comments because I know there are all kinds of definitions of redneck, and a lot of very decent people embrace it proudly. Unfortunately I “culturally” equate it to some of the Deep South guys I knew in the Army, who were proud of being both ignorant and stupid.

      By all external measures I grew up as a northern redneck — rural, didn’t live in a house with indoor plumbing or telephone until my 23rd birthday, first “car” was a ’51 Willys truck, loved hound dogs — and if there’s a God, that’s what heaven will look like if I get to go there — but life has a way of contriving other things when adulthood imposes itself on us.

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