Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NRA: Not Representative Anymore

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has been taken over by the firearms industry and is promoting radical views to increase sales.  Hunters, hobbyists, and decent citizens are being fed propaganda from secret agendas of greed.

I want to exercise my second amendment rights.  I can no longer support the NRA.  We citizens have the right to own and responsibly use firearms.  It is enshrined in the constitution. The firearms industry has used the NRA to twist our rights into something sinister. 

Do not be fooled.  Not everyone against the immoral practices of firearm manufactures is trying to take your guns away.  Do not let your fear overwhelm your good sense.  Do not let the intentional polarization of the debate allow greed and fraud run amok in our land.

Way Back When

When I was very young we were not wealthy.  Dad supplemented our meager chicken coop meat supply with deer, duck, trout, and salmon. 

Generational bonding on the hunt
Grandpa shared his “The American Rifleman”, the NRA’s magazine, with me.  I read about adventure cuddled in a cozy army surplus sleeping bag.  Lusting after my own .22, begging for my own BB gun, watching dad load his own ammo or simply watching my grandpa clean his vintage M1 rifle were apart of my childhood.

Starting in 1977, as a soldier, I learned how to use many kinds of firearms proficiently.  Safe handling of pistols, assault rifles, and mortars became my profession. 

Throughout its history, the NRA had been a bipartisan group of liberals and conservatives that shared common interests in guns, hunting, and marksmanship.

The NRA was a rifle club.  It worked with the National Guard to improve member’s marksmanship.  Hunter education, marksman competitions, and hobby promotion were its main focus.  This hobby sporting group even advocated conserving natural habitat for game.  National training programs taught Boy Scouts how to handle guns safely.

Radical Revolution

While I was learning the weapons of war, the NRA became radicalized.  Fevered, angry Second Amendment fundamentalists using walkie-talkies, bull horns, and orange baseball caps staged a highly organized coup to take over leadership of the NRA. 

The organization went from a club for sportsmen, to a radical political lobby. 

Dissent shouted down 
The cause of the revolution was the Gun Control Act of 1968.  Incited by turmoil of the 1960s where multiple assassinations, street violence and riots drove Congress to regulate the interstate commerce of firearms. 

The Act made it illegal for convicted criminals, addicts, the mentally ill or non-citizens to purchase guns. Many conservatives, including Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, publicly supported the act.

The NRA’s new leader after the coup was Harlon Carter.  Mr. Carter had been convicted of murdering a 14 year old Hispanic boy in Texas while attempting to kidnap him. 

Carter proclaimed violent felons, the mentally deranged, and addicts had a right to gun ownership because it was “a price we pay for freedom”.  He even advocated giving grade school children pistols for self defense from bullies.

Fear Mongering for Money

Using fear and terror tactics, the new NRA leaders declared that the government was trying to take away all the guns from everyone. 

Harlan Carter
Any limitation on firearms was declared traitorous.  Everyone, at any time, and in any place should be able to have a firearm.  Adults, children, criminals and insane all should be free of any restrictions.  Church, school, funerals, and athletic events should allow the bearing of arms.

As professionals who work in advertising should know, fear sells.  Fear sells better than sex or greed.

Regular bulletins were mailed to members, each escalating the trepidation that guns were about to disappear.   Article after article, press release after press released followed.  Constantly repeating the threat to freedom and the imminent demise of the second amendment, terror was put into the hearts of men. 

Scaring people by saying things that were not true gave good people doubt.  Hearing lies told over and over again, many began to believe the deceit was truth.  A closed mutual support network of alarm amplified the messages even further.

Fear worked.

In only a few years, membership in the NRA had tripled.  The new members brought their cash with them. 

Selling branded apparel, bumper stickers and decals at high markup, the money rolled in. More money was raised by selling, cancer, theft, and medical insurance.  Like carnival hucksters, they dazzled members with overpriced trinkets and misdirection. 

Radical Lobbying

Another of the revolutionary leaders, Neal Knox, moved to Washington DC and launched a radical gun lobby effort.  Knox claimed that the assassinations and other tragedies of the 1960s had been part of a vast plot to control guns.  Sayingthat some of the incidents could have been created for the purpose of disarming the people of the free world” he used NRA money to lobby for gutting the enforcement of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Neal Knox
The money, lobbying, and campaign contributions paid off when Congress passed the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986.  The new law stopped government from tracking gun ownership and allowed ammo to be sent through the mail and across state lines unregulated.  The law stripped the ability for the government to know when a criminal, addict, or insane person had been sold a gun.

Some lawmakers said off the record that they would have voted against the act but feared retaliation from the NRA’s now powerful gun lobby come election time.

Corporate Money

Money from gun manufactures significantly impacts the funding of NRA’s lobbying effort.  Private gifts from owners of manufactures and from gun industry firms have been estimated at over $70 million per year.

Not very wise
Without firearm industry’s donations, the NRA would not be able to maintain its membership programs, much less lobby government. 

The NRA is basically helping to make sure the gun industry can increase sales," Representative Carolyn McCarthy "No one is challenging NRA members' right to own guns."

Midway USA, Sturm, Ruger & Co. Smith & Wesson, and Beretta USA are all large funders of the NRA’s lobbying efforts. 

The $16 billion a year firearm industry uses the NRA as its spokesman.  The NRA no longer represents gun owners and hobbyists. 

The NRA “translates the industry's needs into less crass, less economically interested language -- into defending the home, into defending the country," said Tom Diaz of the Violence Policy Center.

No firearms here please
"The NRA clearly benefits from the gun industry," William Vizzard, a former agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "There’s a symbiotic relationship. They have co-aligned goals much more than 30 or 40 years ago."

They "started out as a grassroots organization and became an industry organization," Vizzard also said, "The NRA is generating fear.  The industry has learned that the more controversy there is about guns, the more guns sell -- whether it’s a legitimate controversy over a bill, or a trumped-up one like, 'Obama’s been re-elected, they’re going to take away our guns.'"

In his book, Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, former NRA lobbyist Richard Feldman said that the NRA had degenerated into "a cynical, mercenary political cult," that was "obsessed with wielding power while relentlessly squeezing contributions from its members."

Partisan Politics

With the new lobbying effort, the NRA came to be closely tied to the Republican Party.  What had once been a non-partisan hobby organization now was directly involved in one-sided election politics.

Responsible training is good
Activists began to claim that black helicopter carrying federal agents dressed like ninjas were coming to take the guns away.  Using the tragedies at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas; Democratic control was proclaimed to be “jackbooted Government thugs” who wanted “power to take our constitutional rights, break in our doors, seize our guns, destroy our property and even injure and kill us.

This was too much for even staunch conservatives like Ronald Reagan who wrote about the assassination attempt on his person “Lives were changed forever, and all by a Saturday-night special - a cheaply made .22 caliber pistol - purchased in a Dallas pawnshop by a young man with a history of mental disturbance. This nightmare might never have happened if legislation that is before Congress (the Brady Bill)... had been law."

George H.W. Bush, who resigned his NRA membership over this radical rhetoric, wrote "I was outraged when, even in the wake of the Oklahoma City tragedy when the NRA, defended his attack on federal agents as ‘jack-booted thugs'.  To attack Secret Service agents or A.T.F. people or any government law enforcement people as ‘wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms’ wanting to ‘attack law abiding citizens’ is a vicious slander on good people."

Changing Tactics, Not Direction

A stunned ex-president of the NRA observed “We were akin to the Boy Scouts of America … and now we’re cast with the Nazis, the skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan.

Guns and Moses
To change their growing negative public image, they decided to bring in an action movie star, Charlton Heston.  Heston put a new spin on the same rhetoric.  Predicting the loss of liberty, Heston recast the NRA message in patriotic terms.  Using images of Pearl Harbor, Concord, Lexington and farmers he called firearms “sacred stuff”.

Actively working for the Republican campaign, Heston helped sway sufficient voters in the swing states of Arkansas and West Virginia to very narrowly defeat Al Gore’s Democratic campaign for the presidency.

In the most recent election of 2012, the NRA lobbying group directly spent $20 million on federal campaigns alone.  With new Super PACs it is no longer possible to know how much was spent indirectly.  The NRA spends significantly more on issue specific advertising and soft money political action committees which effect elections results. 

Fourteen out of the 29 lobbyists employed by the NRA previously held government jobs.  90% of those were Republican appointees, prior to working for the NRA. 

Gun Sales Explode

According to the General Social Survey, the NRA’s partisan lobbying has radically changed gun ownership in the United States.

Households with guns by political party

Using Charlton Heston as a spokesman, gun sales exploded.

Number of background checks per year.

By spreading the fear that a Democratic President would take their guns away, the industries sales accelerated the trend even further.

Obama supports the Second Amendment and he's unabashed about saying so.  Those who say he is lying are trying to manipulate us. 

Number of firearms manufactured by year

The NRA is more interested in fighting than winning second amendment rights.  Fighting increases gun sales.  Winning would make us safer.

Find a Better Way

No civilized person should support or approve of the misuse, the criminal use nor deranged use of lethal weapons of any kind. 

We need to agree on a return to public civility on this issue.  We must be considerate of each other and address our violence issues as concerned, rational adults.

We must find a way to allow responsible citizens to keep and bear arms, while protecting ourselves from criminals, accident, and the mentally ill.

Perhaps arming teachers with Tasers is a better solution than handguns.  Perhaps better ways to identify criminals and the insane can be found.  Perhaps legal and medical professionals can help us find better ways to reduce violence.

I will not pretend to have the answers to solve this complex problem.  There are no simple solutions to violence.

However, I will not support the NRA until it returns to its sporting, hobbyist roots.  I will not support the NRA until it stops being a prophet for firearm manufactures profits.

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