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Maintaining a Big Grassrootsy Garden

Kevin responded to Sebastian’s recent post addressing NRA’s lack of focus on utilizing their grassroots strength with an argument that the first step in building up your grassroots is to get people to the range.

I don’t disagree with his post, but I think we’re talking two different stages of the game. Sebastian’s post focuses on engaging those who are already in the fight, largely with something to lose – gun owners or gun rights supporters who want to keep their rights. Kevin’s is on pulling more people into the game to begin with. Both parts are desperately needed, and current gun owners need to find their comfortable place doing something to advance the cause in at least some area of the issue – recruitment or something else.

I think it gets back to the analogy is that this whole issue – the legislative votes, the shooting sports, the legal arguments, etc. – are all part of a very, very big garden. You can’t get every weed everywhere, but by making the best use of material and gardening assistants, you can strategically target the biggest weedy threats and maintain a healthy landscape.

I’ll be honest, there could be another Dear NRA letter written about their lack of engagement over the last few years with some of the important resources that can help with Kevin’s concerns and the political efforts. I think it’s too easy for workers to fall into their division without looking at how the resources at their disposal can be utilized by another division to promote the cause across the board. It’s hard for someone outside of the organization to even imagine how different divisions can help them. There is much room for improvement in connecting the many resources of the larger gun rights organization to really help the ground level volunteers and sport shooters.

10 Responses to “Maintaining a Big Grassrootsy Garden”

  1. KevinC says:

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy affects every organization.
    EVERY one.

  2. Thirdpower says:

    Some time back I applied for the ‘Grassroots Coordinator’ job for Illinois. At the time I was involved w/ every state/local level group. Regularly attended gun shows pretty much everywhere, and knew the owners of dozens of shops, activists, and leaders across the state. The ONLY thing they cared about for the position was setting up ‘Friends of NRA’ dinners.

    • This is why state level organizations are so important. The NRA might be a decent national organization, but it takes a state specific org to keep the lawn healthy.

    • Bitter says:

      There are jobs which are specific to setting up and managing Friends of NRA dinners. Those are typically Field Representatives, though. Grassroots Coordinators for ILA would fall into a different division, so that’s very strange since politics isn’t allowed at Friends of NRA dinners.

      • Nonprofit status and lobbying regulations limit what politics an entity may engage in. Hence why the NRA is split between the lobbying/political/legal activism side and the training/sporting promotional & technical support side.

        • Bitter says:

          Thanks. I never would have known that, what with the hours I’ve spent with lawyers going over issues of (c)3, (c)4, and PAC work. Nope, never have written about such a topic before here or anything.

  3. dwb says:

    Bloombergs strategy is to focus on small winnable nibbles. A small gun ban here, a small referendum there. Before you know it, we have lost a lot of ground in pro-gun states like FL.

    NRA needs to focus on small nibbles in traditionally anti gun states. It can be done.

    • Bill C. says:

      Agreed, and the one biggest step they need to focus on that is to stop doing it halfway. We get a lot of “there, I did something” –writing a bill, getting a couple of sponsors, letting it sit in committee doing nothing or pass one part of the legislature…then nothing. They don’t finish the job. “Oh, but we ran into opposition, it’s controversial” –NO S*** the other side doesn’t want it! That’s the POINT! So what there’s opposition, do it anyway! WIN! In what job does anyone here reading and posting on this blog and elsewhere get let off the hook for doing their job for saying “Well, I can’t, because it’s hard” ? No kidding. You try again. Not once a year, not every other year, not once a decade, but constantly until you succeed. Builders understand this. Salesmen understand this. Military men/women understand this. Athletes understand this. Most of all, the enemy understands this. THEY file bills year after year, bombarding us with all the crap they want to stick to the wall. Are we to be less persistent and tenacious than they? Dunno about you, but where I grew up you may lose once in a while but NEVER do you EVER allow your opponent to outwork you or put up more of a fight than you do.

      Or did that basic ethic go out of style somehow?

      • Richard says:

        Lobbyists are, by their nature, timid. They get judged, by their peers and perhaps their employers on win percentages. Grassroots people, on the other hand, are more interested in moving the culture. The trouble with grassroots people is their lack of expertise in how things really work and the fact they are not working the issues as a full-time job. Probably, the best fusion is to have the grassroots in charge of strategy and the lobbyists doing the tactics. The lobbyists have to be selected for their willingness to take direction and the grassroots people have to hold the lobbyists feet to the fire on strategy while listening to them on tactics. I know from experience that this is very hard to do.

  4. Dave says:

    At some point, even die hard NRA-ILA supporters have to, at some level, admit that the NRA-ILA model has failed in the mission to actually advance gun rights at a federal level. I had an opportunity to talk directly with Bob Levy and Alan Gura post Heller and their recollections of actual opposition to them was pretty telling.

    Wiki touches the surface of this:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/District_of_Columbia_v._Heller

    ILA also fought administrative attempts to repeal the guns in national parks rules, only swooping in at the end to propose alternate and stupidly restrictive rules that nobody liked, even pro-gun folks opposed NRA-ILAs proposed rule 2 to 1.

    Then they opposed the Coburn amendment, fearing open carry.
    and on, and on, and on. Usually, when gun folks read stories on the internet entitled “THE NRA SUPPORTS GUN CONTROL” — all caps because that’s how they typically appear – most gun owners dismiss this out of hand. But usually in these discussions there are some nuggets of truth. Some of the stories are mutual combat; personalities that just won’t mesh, but others are state affiliates that really have no business being in a position to call themselves gun rights supporters. These people are only permitted to parrot the company line. Where does the company line come from?

    Fairfax, VA.

    NRAHQ makes the determination for what to support, what to ignore and what to oppose. So why did we have so much to say after Newtown, but nothing to say after Florida? Was it Ack-Mack chasing the almighty dollar?
    was it a conscious decision to gin up membership but not move any bills?

    whatever the motivation, it was the wrong political move, wrong strategy and has been an unmitigated failure as an opposition to gun control.

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