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The Gift that Won’t Stop Giving

Ted Nugent, firm believer that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, is at it again.

I could go onto a rant about why the hell is this guy still getting nominated to the Board (I get he could run by petition and win, but why endorse it?). The only way we can expand our political power is to grow the tent. Some questions for people to discuss in the comments:

  1. Is Nugent helping keep the tent full, or is he driving more people away from it?
    Does the nonsense spewing from his maw actually accomplish something for us, and if so what?
  2. Does this kind of rhetoric bring in support from places we need it? Not all new NRA members are created equal. I’d rather have ten new NRA members where I live, in Northern Virginia, or in Columbus, Ohio than have 100 new NRA members in rural Oklahoma.
  3. The reason Nugent’s inane commentary gets amplified is because it gins up our opponents base and hardens their soft supporters. The other side has a bigger amplifier than we do. Does that mean we need to police our kooks harder than the other side needs to police theirs?

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.

Dear NRA

It’s time to sit down and have a little talk. There’s a few things that are becoming apparent as I’ve watched the reaction to Parkland. One is that Bloomberg’s game has been much better organized and more focused than it was after Sandy Hook. My impression then was that the gun control movement was poorly prepared and organized. Bloomberg was still mucking about with Illegal Mayors, and the Brady organization was flat broke and not really ready. The White House hadn’t yet spent much time on gun control, and Sandy Hook was the pretext that got them started. That has not been the case this time. They’ve learned a lot, they were much better prepared, and they executed on their strategy very effectively.

NRA used to be an organization that was good at grass roots organizing. I have participated in some of those efforts as a volunteer coordinator over several campaigns. I stopped in frustration, because we could never recruit any volunteers to coordinate. It was always just Bitter and me. Back then, I thought they were my deficiencies; maybe I didn’t have the touch. There were some volunteer coordinators who are pretty successful. But since then, I’ve learned I can be an effective organizer of volunteers. The chief problem was that I didn’t have enough local connections to be effective. The other thing I learned is that people did not recognize NRA as an organization that they are or should be directly involved with. We might like to say “I’m the NRA,” but I’m not sure that’s really ringing true for a lot of people these days. NRA is an organization that sends them a magazine and asks them for money. A lot of members might agree that NRA is important, and that why they maintain their memberships, but they are more in the role of passive consumers of what NRA is offering.

That has to change. We must turn them into active participants. NRA will not accomplish that by continuing to encourage members to passively consume more Ack-Mac-generated Angry Dana videos. I worry that in another few years of planning and learning from prior mistakes, when Bloomberg et al get their next pretext, the dam is going to break. It may have broken already; this is all still playing out. We can lament that Bloomberg has been more effective this time because he’s hiring professional organizers who know how to work with a small number of dedicated activists, or we can beat him at this game by upping our game.

This past weekend, I organized a mailing of more than 200 letters to local lawmakers from members of my club. We came up with templates people could start with. We were ready to look up lawmakers for members, and had a bunch of envelopes, pre-printed address labels, and stamps. I offered work time (which applies against dues) to members who participated. The response was pretty good. We are an NRA Gold Star club. How many other clubs out there would like to do something, but don’t quite know what to do? How many other clubs or shooting outfits view NRA as some far off organization they don’t really know or interact with?

Grassroots activism is hard. It’s a lot harder than paying Ack-Mac to make another series of angry videos. But effective organizing takes more than feeding people’s anger. You have to effectively turn that anger into something useful and positive. For that, there is no substitute for face-to-face local contact. NRA doesn’t seem to do a whole hell of a lot of that outside the Friends of NRA program.

I would strongly encourage NRA to focus on a few areas:

  1. More outreach to NRA affiliated organizations, specifically for the purpose of training people how to be effective. But less specifically to get face time with members. Doesn’t have to be top people. Could be Board members. Could be local volunteers.
  2. A lot of clubs and shooting organizations need help with technology. NRA could be a lot of help with this. Technology facilitates communication. I could never have organized the letter writing campaign with the technology we had even two years ago. I was only able to do that because I put a framework in place to facilitate it. It was a lot of work, but paid off. What I’m lacking is the ability to communicate with other area clubs. I’m slowly building that, but that’s a harder problem. Again, NRA could do a lot to be a facilitator to get local organizations talking to each other. Sometimes being an outside organization can be an advantage, and this is one of those times.
  3. People need to have politics explained to them. Most people don’t understand the political process. They need to see and understand how their action fits in. I was recently reminded of a passage from a leftist organizer: “Power tends to appear magical to those who have less of it, and mechanical to those who are accustomed to wielding it instrumentally.” The article continues: “It’s not magical kids, and it’s not George Soros sprinkling money around. It’s hard work by people who’ve trained to do it.” When the balloon goes up, our people have to know what to expect, and be able to spring into action. We’re very good at self-organizing, but some people will need it spelled out a bit more than others. You don’t want to lose because you’re only depending on self-starters. In my experience, self-starters are rare, and they are getting rarer in the younger generations.

We have a lot more people at our disposal, and unlike their people, ours have a lot to lose. They will have to pay people to organize their small cadre. We should require far fewer paid professionals. But the work nevertheless has to be done, and it’s something that can’t be accomplished with a membership accustomed to passively consuming content. NRA needs to spend more time getting out there among the people, and most importantly educating them, and offering the tools they need to be successful.

It’s Going to Take More Than Just Taking Kids Shooting

Kevin has a good article that I think is spot on:

I’ve been arguing gun rights online for almost 20 years now, long before there was such a thing as a gunblog, and in that time, I’ve managed to convince absolutely no one that disarming the law-abiding will somehow affect criminal behavior.

However, I’ve also seen friends who were anti-gun get into guns because of their experience at a range: Shooting guns is fun, and once we get people to try it, we usually win.

I think what we’ve been seeing this past year are the consequences of the destruction of civil society. Recently, a friend posted a picture on social media of a tween sleepover where every single kid had their nose buried in their smartphones. I can remember when I was a kid having friends sleep over, and we’d spend serious effort trying to side tune the Playboy channel. You remember doing that? Adjust the tuning just right and “Hey, is that a tit? Yeah. I think that’s a tit! Turn it the other way.” I don’t know, maybe kids these days will have fond memories of gathering together to stare into smartphones, and interact on whatever social media app the kids are using these days. But today’s kids have almost no opportunity for unstructured and unsupervised play that most of us grew up with.

Snow day from school? Yeah, I was out, and didn’t come back until dark. No parents. Mom would say, “Stay off the lake. You’ll fall through and drown. And don’t stay out so long your limbs freeze off.” Of course some of the best sledding was the slope heading onto the lake, and you could catch decent air off the bank. Most of the lake was a few feet deep. I fell through the ice plenty of times only to find myself up to my knees. I wasn’t dumb enough to go on the part of the lake that was deep enough you could go completely through. We (and when I saw we, I’m talking Xers born in the 1970s) are probably the last generation to have been raised the old way. We are now beginning to reap the whirlwind of a decades long experiment in raising children that is an abject failure. If you read nothing else this week, read this:

There’s a Way to Stop Mass Shootings, and You Won’t Like It.

That’s right. You’re not going to like it because it’s going to require you to do something personally, as opposed to shouting for the government, or anyone to “do something!”

You ready? Here it is:

“Notice those around you who seem isolated, and engage them.”

Read the whole thing. My parents were both heavily involved in civil society. My dad became a volunteer firefighter in the early 1970s. Even though he’s now pushing 70, he’s still doing it, and probably will keep doing that in some form until he drops dead. As he’ll tell you, his days of running into burning buildings are over, but he can still drive a truck and direct traffic as fire police. My mother was involved in probably half a dozen groups. I was dragged to meetings as a kid when their schedules overlapped. If I had had a smartphone at the time, I almost certainly would have buried my nose in it. But we didn’t have smart phones then, so I had to watch, and whether I realized it or not at the time, I had to learn.

Take this passage from De Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”:

The political associations that exist in the United States are only a single feature in the midst of the immense assemblage of associations in that country. Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government in France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.

We are not passing this onto our children, and it’s going to be an absolute disaster for our Republic. Because civic life is the antidote to both isolation and totalitarianism. It exists in the community and outside the government. Civic life was not something that was foreign to me when I encountered it as an adult. I understood a thing or two about it from my parents, who may have not explicitly taught this to me, but did through example. When I came into the gun issue, which is largely organized as civic organizations, it was something familiar. When I look around my club I see a lot of old guys. I do not see young people, even though I know they are out there. We can’t be satisfied to simply pass a love of shooting along to the future generation. We also must bequeath to them the civic institutions that go along with it. It is those institutions that have protected us for so long. It’s not the NRA: the NRA is ultimately a part and a product of those institutions. If the NRA did not exist, we would have to invent it. So take your kids to the range. But also take them to meetings, like my parents did. Teach them how all this works, and make sure when they are adults, they are ready and able to inherit what has protected and promoted this issue for so long.

Russians! In the NRA!

This story in Newsweek, which these days has about as much credibility as the Weekly World News, is following up on this story from McClatchy There’s nothing illegal or unethical about a foreign national being a member of the NRA, or NRA taking money from a foreign national provided the law is being complied with. This is a case of put up or shut up. Alexander Torshin, a Russian oligarch, cannot legally donate to NRA-PVF. If any of these journalists have evidence that Torshin donated to PVF and NRA took the money, by all means, proffer your evidence. Otherwise, there’s nothing to see here. If Russian oligarchs want to give money to promote and protect the shooting sports and the right to keep and bear arms in America, I don’t see any reason not to take their money, provided they are donating to efforts that it’s legal for foreign nationals to donate to. NRA has plenty of non-political funds that would qualify. Until Russian nationals try to get on the NRA Board, or use their power as donors to get Russians flunkies into key staff positions, this isn’t something I’m going to worry about.

Enemies Within?

I’ve hardly seen anything more over the top than Adam Kraut’s campaign for the NRA Board, and some Board members response to it. Marion isn’t the only one I’ve seen making comments that range from “good point” to “Oh sweet Jesus that’s nuts.” This is one of those cases where I’m probably just going to piss everyone off, so I might as well get on with it. Lately I’ve liked bullet pointing issues, so I’ll go with that:

  • The idea that Adam Kraut is some kind of Bloomberg plant or is financially motivated seems fantastical to me, so I’m inclined to not believe it if it’s not presented with evidence as equally convincing as the charge is nuts.
  • I’m skeptical of anyone who wants to be on the Board that bad. Seriously: you’re one of 76 people if you win. You’re ability to influence things is pretty limited. This is doubly true if you got on the Board by essentially running against it.
  • Let me turn that last point around to those attacking him: Adam Kraut would be one of 76 directors if he won. Why the flamethrowers? You do realize by attacking him like this, you raise the profile of his campaign? This backlash is making you all look petty and out of touch. You’re playing right into the hands of those who oppose many on the board right now.
  • You can say a lot of things about Marion Hammer, but Marion Hammer is the reason we have concealed carry. I would not advise anyone who wants to get on the NRA Board to do so by antagonizing her. I’m not saying she’s beyond criticism. No one is. But she’s the one who got the ball rolling legislatively by getting the Florida Legislature to take a bite of the apple. Concealed carry was a social movement, so I do not wish to go so far as to say that Marion single handedly did it. We all did it. But getting Florida to jump first was a huge accomplishment that got the boxcar over the hump.

I’ve always thought the best way to get on the NRA Board is to first, put in your time on the issue and the organization’s many activities. There’s a lot of ways to do that. Second, hang around Board meetings, get to know Board members, see if you might be able to get someone to help score you a committee assignment. Third, do a good job on that committee. Finally, try to get nominated. That to me is the path of least resistance. But I suppose it’s hard to change the good ol’ boys club by playing by its rules. But you know what else is hard? Trying to change the boys club by antagonizing it.

I’ll be the first to admit I’d make a poor revolutionary, but I’ve found it’s better wait patiently, to recognize opportunity, and be ready to exploit it when the time comes, than to try to force it.

NRA Burns Florida Carry

I told people at NRA for a while they should do more to fight back against other gun groups who sabotage some of our best efforts when we try to argue not to let perfection be the enemy of good. It seems they are finally starting to do that:

Moms Demand Action should put Florida Carry’s representatives in red t-shirts and give them an award, because in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on 12/5/2017 Florida Carry sided with Bloomberg’s Moms Demand Action – NOT Florida gun owners.

Ouch! I have to say, that’s brutal even by my standards. I can feel that burn all the way up here.

Interview with Chris Cox

I know James Yeager can be a loose cannon, but it’s a good interview:

The Liberal Gun Club

Gets a profile piece over at Bloomberg funded gun control site “The Trace”. This bit stuck out at me:

Despite the group’s name, politics are mostly absent from its discussion boards. Members instead use the forum to discuss reliability, accuracy, and cost of firearms, and to get advice.

Then what good are you? Those kinds of gun owners are a dime a dozen. I can find them everywhere. I’m actually rather sympathetic to the idea of a pro-gun insurgency on the left, and in the Democratic Party in particular. But you’re not going to be any kind of insurgency if all you do is talk about guns and look the other way while your members vote for gun banners. So I ask again, as someone who has never been entirely comfortable in the “conservative” movement (whatever that means these days), what good are you? Providing puff pieces for Bloomberg?

Using Castile Case to Hawk Carry Guard? Are You Kidding Me?

NRA breaks its silence on the Philando Castile case:

Do I believe that Philando Castile deserved to lose his life over his [traffic] stop? I absolutely do not. I also think that this is why we have things like NRA Carry Guard, not only to reach out to the citizens to go over what to do during stops like this, but also to work with law enforcement so that they understand what citizens are experiencing when they go through stops like this.

I guess all things are taking a back seat to what’s really important: signing people up for Carry Guard. Radley Balko has an article in the Washington Post: “How the NRA’s allegiance to cops undermines its credibility on gun rights.

A law-abiding gun owner was shot and killed by a cop after doing everything he was supposed to do. It then took more than a year for anyone from the nation’s largest gun rights organization to comment, and when she did, she offered a vague, heavily qualified, quasi-criticism of the cop while implying not only that Castile contributed to his death but also that he might be alive if only he were carrying an NRA Carry Guard card.

Actually, Castile did a number of things that you should never do in a stop, but in my opinion the officer did not handle the situation well either. More training on both sides of a stop is a valid answer, but I really don’t like using this to hawk Carry Guard.

Where I really part with Balko is that I don’t want the NRA taking sides on the militarization of police any more than I want them to be militantly pro-police for the sake of taking sides a culture war that has nothing to do with gun rights. NRA has fostered police involvement for years through it’s LE program, and I’m fine with that. That’s part of NRA’s mission.

But I’ll be bluntly honest, I’m not happy where NRA’s PR firm, and Dana Loesch in particular, seem to be taking the organization.

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