There has been a steady parade of backlash from NRA board members and other prominent NRA figures against the burning criticism of the self-billed “oldest civil rights organization.” I am sick of decrepit old people, rich people, and famous people telling me I’m wrong for airing legitimate criticism. I don’t want to fall in line and shut-up because a wrinkled old crone told me to.
In the wake of supporting President Trump’s bump-fire stock ban, outcry against the association for its support of a ban has been vociferous. They did this because in the wake of the October 1 Route 91 shooting, where the killer used bump-fire stocks as ersatz machine guns from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay, it seemed that ownership of these stocks was indefensible.
Plenty of gun owners on both sides of the current NRA debate have expressed disinterest or outright loathing of bump-fire stocks. Yet plenty of those who call the sliding plastic stocks “stupid crap” opposed any such ban, especially a regulatory one, because of the slippery slope. Such a redefinition of rate of fire, getting away from the strict definition of a machine gun as multiple shots from one distinct pull of the trigger, could be used to back bans of binary trigger packs, triggers with lighter pulls, or even semi-automatic weapons entirely.
Backing up to 2017, when it seemed like Congress might pass a ban itself (an unquestionably legal ban, if not constitutional), many defended the NRA and President Trump’s call for an administrative change to ATF regulations as “3D chess” or some such strategy to prevent legislation from passing. But after the threat of legislation died off, we were left with a looming regulatory ban and no advancement of any pro-gun legislation.
Indeed, movement on deregulating suppressors and national reciprocity stopped, leaving them as good as dead with the Democrat-led House in the 115th Congress. Frustration mounted that with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, neither measure went up for a vote, but now a very dangerous precedent might be set. Political irritation with the GOP is another matter, but among the grievances of NRA members was that the organization had not put much visible effort into getting the pro-gun bills passed.
Lack of success and appeasement of an enemy that can never be appeased did not make many NRA members happy. No headway being made and the loss of something, even as seemingly inconsequential as a bump-fire stock, was the last straw for these members. Much of the criticism of the NRA was that it was “all noise, no action.” Bloggers and YouTube stars have complained that the NRA is a club for it’s elite members and to provide political cover for members of Congress. In essence, the NRA’s federal lobby was a scam. Gun owners’ interests were not at the heart.
With board elections coming up, pieces are appearing all over the Internet from board members and other NRA honchos begging members not to throw out the board and belittling those who want radical action. Marion Hammer is one such member who seems to be contemptuous of those in the gun right’s movement who truly believe that “shall not be infringed” means what it says. She and a few others are downright contemptuous of what has become the new face of gun right activism. We are not a polite, ever suffering majority any longer.
The NRA has failed to change with the times. With the very long tenure of Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox, the organization has become part of the DC swamp where connections and money is valued more than winning. I’ll not delve into the specifics here, but the milquetoast corporate leadership seems more interest in preserving its semblance of power and privilege than actually winning successes. We do not want compromisers in office who take heavy paychecks to squander a once-in-a-lifetime trifecta at the federal level, only to go weak at the knees and give something up. This was the organization that dared suggest guns in schools was the answer to mass shootings in 2013 and took it on the nose.
Coming to my conclusion, it’s not the NRA that’s the problem. Instead, it’s the very top of corporate leadership that is the problem. The board of directors need to be cleaned out and given the power to throw out executives like LaPierre again. LaPierre and Cox need to go and take their PR and ad firms along with them, while their sycophants pack up their offices as well. The NRA needs radicals at the top who realize we are fighting—literally—to keep our right to bear arms on the cusp of a civil war. With fresh blood at the top, the whole body will prosper and can wield its tremendous power to influence Congress and the President.
Reading the defenses of the NRA make me sick because it sounds like an abusive husband telling his broken and bloody wife “If you leave me, no one else will love you or take care of you.” Even moderate defenses, of the organization as a whole and not the cancerous leadership, fail to separate the tumor from the body. The training, media, outreach, safety, and historical aspects of the NRA are as great as they have ever been. The NRA, aside from its middling actions in Washington, is a strong entity worthy of support.
At the state level, the NRA-ILA does do as much as it reasonably can. In Nevada, we’ve recently received help from them and back in 2016, their help with Question 1 was invaluable. Through the work of Kevin Kam and others, they helped us turn what we thought was going to be a defeat by 20% to a difference of less than one percent (thanks Clark County). The NRA is still the first-stop for those gun owners who are newly politically active.
My friend’s parents, live-long Californians, recently bought a shotgun and joined the NRA. They are enthusiastic members and supporters of firearms freedom. Should we put them down for signing up? Of course not. They’ve already seen the value in donating to California state groups and other organizations like GOA and SAF. State and these alternative organizations are perfect places to still support the political cause for NRA-protesters like myself.
For many of us, including myself, we cannot donate to the NRA until they clean-up their act. It is not our goal to kill the NRA, but to reform it. We want it to reflect what the changed face of gun rights activism is; a true fight for survival. Until the NRA feels the pinch of declining membership and lost revenue, it will not listen to what gun owners want.
We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water, but that doesn’t mean that we as gun owners and members (current, former, and future) should continue to accept compromise. We do not want Wayne and Chris negotiating our rights away. We want our juggernaut to begin throwing its weight around. Imagine if Fairfax called for one million AR-15 armed people to converge on the National Mall and bussed them all in from Virginia? Bloomberg and Soros would do it.
A father disciplines his children out of love in order to correct their misbehavior. That’s all that we protesters and unhappy members are calling for; positive change. Once the NRA realizes that it cannot continue to be the political organization it has been and institutes positive, lasting changes, we can once again wholeheartedly embrace it.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West