While the figures involved in the hardliner (Knoxers in the past) versus pragmatist (Wayne’s faction) debate have changed, the essential debate is still with us.
NRA’s parasitic relationship with its PR firm isn’t anything new. The Knoxers railed against it too back in the day. I’ve never been comfortable with it either, but I’ve always had the choice of living with it as a member, or joining the hardliners. I am of the opinion that NRA taking a no-compromise, hardline stance will ultimately result in its irrelevance. Believing we can always win by saying ‘no’ louder is not a winning strategy when you’re working as a determined minority in a republican political system.
These days the issue is bump stocks and red flag laws. NRA largely surrendered on the bump stock issue to buy time to stop the bills that would have put semi-automatic firearms in legal jeopardy. They endorsed red flag laws provided they had sufficient due process (which none of them do). I believe both these moves are unpleasant necessities that reflect the reality of the political situation post-Vegas and post-Parkland. If you want to fight and die on bump stock hill, sorry, but we’re going to lose that fight. We also risk losing a large chunk of the current transferrable machine gun stock. You’re all aware of the debates, so I won’t rehash them.
The NRA is in desperate need of reform, but to date the drive for reform has only come from hardliners, who would cause a lot of other disasters for gun rights by failing to see what battles aren’t winnable and aren’t worth fighting, which aren’t winnable and are worth fighting, and which are winnable. We’ll never all agree on that. But most hardliners seem to think that all battles are worth fighting all the time, everywhere, and with maximum intensity. No one fights wars that way and wins. You have to take a lot of limitations into account if you’re waging war or waging political struggle. Hardliners don’t accept that there is a limit to our political influence. They fight as if we had 200 million other Americans behind us. Generals who fight that way lose armies. Political movements that are similarly unrealistic end up similarly destroyed. We need a reform movement for NRA that understands limits and is politically realistic. If such a movement were to appear, I would support it.