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The Empty Bank

I share the frustrations of the hardline crowd that the GOP is feckless and not willing or able to accomplish anything for us. But what got us here isn’t that we didn’t shout “no” loud enough. We didn’t end up here because we’re not pure enough. That’s always what religious zealots turn to when disaster strikes. It’s a natural human reaction. But it usually leads to doing the wrong thing.

Our opponents are very wealthy and effectively have unlimited monetary resources at their disposal. A commenter pointed out, “Personally I think that anti-gun groups are going for small wedge issues like bump stocks and ghost guns, precisely to drive a wedge into the gun rights movement.”

That’s exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it very well. The trick to quashing gun culture is to extinguish new trends before they have a chance to take hold. This is basically what they did with Machine Guns back in the 30s. If you want to understand why I’m not big on fighting tooth and nail for bump stocks, it’s because it’s an extension of a fight we lost almost a century ago. If we’re honest with ourselves, bump stocks were a way to say, “Ha, ha, your machine gun restrictions are now meaningless.” Well, the powers that be decided they wouldn’t be, and started to take action that would put whole new classes of firearms that were not previously under regulatory threat under regulatory threat.

Ghost guns are another thing entirely. The law has usually (foreign parts counts, etc aside) not touched on people working on their own guns and making their own guns. This has long been something dedicated hobbyists have done. But while 3D printing and computer-controlled milling are not all that new, the technology being within reach of casual hobbyists is new. They need to kill that before it takes hold, and before the more casual gun owners start seeing it as territory that needs to be defended at all cost. Your average person’s rights calculation is, “I don’t do that, don’t know anyone else who does it, so it must not be important.”

If they successfully ended up squashing every new trend, they’d succeed in making the gun culture moribund, which eventually would kill it. That’s exactly what they were doing with machine guns, and I’m sorry my great-grandparents didn’t fight it back then.

We’re here now because Mike Bloomberg dumped more money into the gun control movement than it’s ever seen, and he has been rallying other super-rich to his cause. His people are using that money very intelligently, and understand their own (and our) strengths and weaknesses better than any of our previous opponents.

Here’s an unpleasant truth: when monied elites decide they want something, they usually get their way.

The problem with NRA right now is they are largely stuck on what “worked” before that pressure came to bear. I used worked in quotes because a lot of NRA’s game the past decade or so are probably more like someone wearing garlic around their neck, and convinced it works because they’ve never seen a vampire.

I would also argue that NRA has, for a long time, been withdrawing from a bank that was filled up by a strong grassroots game before Ack-Mac really got their hooks in and convinced the powers that be that overpaying them for video content no one would watch was as good a strategy as any. That bank is now empty, and they need to go in a new direction. I’m sure Ack-Mac will be happy to overcharge NRA for more Angry Dana videos in order to goose membership. But if the membership is disengaged, uninterested, and disorganized it won’t matter. You’d be better off with 3 million passionate, engaged, and organized members than with 5.5 million who are happy to watch Angry Dana, yell at clouds, and otherwise do nothing.

Strong grassroots are the only way NRA is going to defeat Bloomberg. It’s something money won’t buy him. Passionate grass roots will self-organize, but they have to understand how to do it. NRA will not succeeded in outspending Bloomberg. They will not succeed trying to outcompete him in top-down strategies. NRA need to play to our strengths, and our strength is in honest-to-god motivated, passionate grass roots. Even the slickest of PR firms can’t deliver that.

NRA Needs a Reform Movement That’s Realistic

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.

Everytown Files Against NRA’s Non-Profit Status

John Richardson has all the details. All I can say is NRA better have its act cleaned up by the time the next hostile administration is in the White House. As John mentions, “I could only imagine the damage this complaint might have done if it had been filed during the Obama Administration.”

I suspect that’s not lost on the faction of NRA that’s picking this fight. NRA isn’t the first corporation to enter into a parasitic relationship with a consulting firm. That’s not to excuse it: it needs to change, and should have changed yesterday. It should not take Bloomberg and a hostile state governor engaging in lawfare against the NRA for them to clean up their act.

When we sue Cuomo and other state officials personally, we don’t want it coming out that they might have a point about NRA having shady practices. You want the civil rights case to be open-and-shut, and not have both sides looking like they are trying to get away with something.

Is This Serious?

An engineering student from the UK wants to introduce a bullet that has a hemostatic agent in it to keep people from bleeding out. I’m sure criminals will sign right up to use these bullets. I’m sure you’ll have a long line of cops signing up to either use them! I can promise you’ll get a long line of cops lining up to get themselves exempted from any law that mandates them for the serfs.

This greatly misunderstands self-defense. If it’s a less-than-lethal threat, we have less-than-lethal tools at our disposal that we ought to, and are usually legally obligated to use in our defense. When it comes to using deadly force, it’s to defend against someone that is a threat to life and limb. Blood loss from critical places is the key means that causes the threat to not be a threat. It’s a life or death situation, and you’ve decided better your attackers life than yours. It’s not a arm wrestling contest.

We’re providing another degree of lethality or force in comparison to current nonlethals that exist. They don’t penetrate the body and most times are not effective in neutralizing, especially in life-threatening situations. So, we’re trying to bridge the gap by still providing a way to incapacitate like a normal round, but removing that loss of life.

No, you aren’t. Bullets are deadly force. Bullets with hemostatic agents are still deadly force. No one has any business shooting someone with a firearm if they aren’t threatening life and limb. This is not even remotely comparable to non-lethal chemical or electronic weapons. Why don’t you talk to some self-defense experts before you waste your time with this shit. Stay in your lane!

The do-gooders want to save the world. But who will save the world from the do-gooders?

The Plot Thickens

John Richardson has more. Yesterday a story was floated that Angus McQueen’s son in law was the outside retained counsel NRA was using in the suit. It turns out that isn’t true. From John:

Ackman McQueen contends this lawsuit is the work of the NRA’s outside counsel William Brewer III who is the in-law of their co-CEOs Revan and Angus McQueen. However, the lawsuit is brought by the Virginia law firm of  Briglia Hundley not by Mr. Brewer’s firmTodd Rathner, NRA Board Member, speculates that the attack on Mr. Brewer is the work of the pro-AckMc faction of the Board in an effort to undermine Wayne LaPierre.

So Wayne has turned against Ack-Mac? This is bigger news than I thought, if true. You can find the actual lawsuit here. I’d note this footnote from page 8:

Refusal to provide certain requested data “in writing” (such as unique visitors, viewership numbers, clickthrough rates, or related performance metrics) that enable the NRA to analyze the turn on its in NRATV.2

2 In addition, certain NRA stakeholders were also concerned that NRATV’s messaging — on topics far afield of the Second Amendment — deviated from the NRA’s core mission and values.

Ya think? Based on some numbers I had compiled from YouTube to support a post I never had time to finish, the reason they aren’t turning over these numbers is because they are almost certainly atrocious and would show what a waste of money most of NRATV is.

It also looks like much of this contention is over the contract Ack-Mac has with Ollie North, which they aren’t apparently disposed to share with NRA despite New York law requiring that NRA review the contract.

Is something untoward going on here that Ack-Mac doesn’t want coming out? You could bowl me over with a feather if it were true. I’d be shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment.

The Titanic Battle Begins

By now most of you might have seen the news that NRA is suing it’s PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen. I should note that I haven’t been in regular contact with NRA staff or board members for several years now, so I have no special insight on insider information about what’s going on (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be talking about it in public like this).

That said, I’d be very surprised, given the public reactions, if this didn’t represent an internal struggle within NRA. Especially given Ack-Mac’s statements that it’s a frivolous suit, without merit, etc, but that they also look forward to continuing to work with NRA. But continue to work with what faction?

This is a struggle that needs to happen. Bitter and I are not as anti-Ack-Mac as some folks. We think there’s merit to some of their work, and they do some things do well. But we also believe their relationship with NRA is unhealthy, and there probably is not be any fixing it. Sometimes you’re just better off pulling the tooth, rather than trying to save it. This is probably one of those cases.

A Handy Guide on Where to Bank

A gun control group has put up a handy rating site so you know where to take your business. I am pleased to discover that I am banking with F-rated Wells Fargo! Our club banks with F-rated PNC. Two for two. I’ll admit, in the past I’ve been unhappy with Wells Fargo, but I will stick with them if they maintain that F-rating.

They Aren’t Going to Believe It

NRA is up to 5.5 million members, according to NRA. The antis never believe the membership numbers, and neither will their allies in the media. What convinces them? Winning elections and flooding phone banks.

What NRA needs is more Democrats as members. As long as they think our numbers are baked into the GOP numbers, the Dems will remain anti-gun. We need some ability to pull numbers off Dem candidates that they won’t get back by going with Bloomberg.

2nd Amendment Victory in California

District Court win, which can be reversed by the Circuit Court, but a win is a win, and for now California can’t enforce their magazine ban.

It’s good to see some victories. As Dave mentions, it could be the next wave of appellate challenges. I am becoming cautiously optimistic. It’s a long shot, I think, to get court protection for all semi-automatics and accessories. Federal judges are elites who tend to come from more urbanized areas. They don’t like the idea of the peons being armed any more than you’d expect from someone of that class.

I appreciate everyone’s patience through the light posting period. I’ve been extremely busy. Trying to start new steel matches, rebuilding Bitter’s S&W 622, and trying to balance multiple clients at the paying job. I shoot Bitter’s 622 more than she does, and it started getting very fussy about ammo. Replacing the recoil spring, extractor spring, and firing pin seems to have breathed some new life into it. I’d like to have replaced the extractor too, but they are hard to find right now.

NRA Range Development and Operations Conference

I had the opportunity to attend NRA’s Range Development and Operations Conference in Pittsburgh. If you’ve ever been to NRA’s Law Seminar, it’s a similar format, except a smaller crowd. If you’re a Director or Officer at a gun club, I highly recommend you get your club to send you, or even go yourself if you can swing it. It was an eye opener for me. It’s three days. It can be rough to sit in a conference room for three days and hear presentations if you’re not the classroom type.

Takeaways for me:

  • First takeaway is that if you don’t do this for a living, in other words, if you’re not presenting at the conference, you don’t know everything. This conference will just explore the tip of the iceberg of things you don’t know.
  • The worst thing you can do as a club is stick your head in the sand and pretend everything is right, and everything is fine. Seek expert advise. NRA will come evaluate your range for free. The results are kept confidential. If you’re really worried, coordinate through your lawyers so any results are privileged. Ranges that stick their head in the sand likely do not have an extended future. When those ranges inevitably go under, we won’t replace them.
  • There’s lots of expertise and technology available to help ranges get on the right track. My club send people to the RDOC about 15 years ago, and we had a few Board members who figured it would just be the same. It was not. Range technology is evolving fast. One presentation on the economics of the industry mentioned that while there is definitely a “Trump Slump,” the baseline of shooters is still much higher than it was a decade ago, and there’s investment. Shooting ranges actually do less business when people aren’t buying as many guns.
  • At some point, the firearms industry will need to replace lead styphnate and lead azide priming with something non-toxic. That’s proven illusive, but it’ll have to be done. Lead bullets are a far more manageable problem than the lead emitted from primers, which have to be cleaned up and disposed as hazardous waste.
  • Does your range have an environmental stewardship plan? If not, you need one. This is becoming standard industry practice. We’ve long been big on recycling in our sport, but a plan will help ensure people know all the best practices. There are people who will help you write one who are experts in this stuff, know environmental engineering, and who are not tree huggers looking to shut you down. NRA’s Range Services and the professionals who work with them are trying to keep ranges open, not help them get shut down.

Now, some things I didn’t like about the conference:

  • The classroom format is a bit rough for some people. Not sure there’s so much you can do about this. I found the Vendor room, and networking with the pros, to be just as useful as the conference itself. Maybe more here.
  • Get presenters to hold questions off until the end. Letting an audience of people interrupt speakers with (often stupid) questions is a recipe for a presenter having to skip over material at the end or rush through. I wanted to see some of that material! It’s better to be able to cut off questions at the end. We had a few “class clowns” and various other people who liked to hear the sound of their own voice monopolizing or interrupting the speakers.
  • Asking people to introduce themselves at the beginning individually is a nice touch, but it does signal to a certain kind of individual that the world gives a shit, and primes them to believe the world wants to hear their wisdom.

And the biggest takeaway for me?

Shamelessly stolen from Tam.

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