We don’t do politics very often here at GunUp the Magazine, and there’s a good reason for that. Our readers aren’t all traditional “gun magazine” readers – we have Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats and Independents. They’re divided on all sorts of political hot button issues; immigration and war, religion, taxes, you name it. But all our readers are united by one thing, one simple thing – we all like guns.
I don’t often write from my position as the publisher of the magazine either. But today I am, because today we’re talking something that is important, the preservation of the one thing that unites everyone reading this magazine. You see, we all like guns. Some of us collect them. Some of us shoot competitively. Some readers simply want a gun to defend their life in an unstable world. That fact unites us. We all likely want to be able to pursue our favorite hobby, to keep our Constitutional right, well into our dotage.
Which is why we need the NRA. To many people, the NRA exists solely as a political organization, and it does in fact operate very publicly in that arena. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action is one of the most effective lobbying organizations in Washington, but its effectiveness is only because it has the power of 5 million motivated members behind it. Those 5 million members, and the many more like us also share a similar trait: we vote. That number gives the NRA-ILA considerable power when lobbying at the Federal or State level.
But that’s not what we’re talking about today. Yes, I said this was political, but the political actions of the NRA aren’t the focus. Instead I want to look at all the things that the NRA does that preserve the shooting sports and our rights at a practical level. Fighting high profile legislative battles is sexy, but where the NRA shines, and why we need the NRA is truly seen down in the weeds. You see, our political opponents, people like billionaire Mike Bloomberg and his puppet-mommy-agitator Shannon Watts want you to believe that the NRA is some sort of monolithic representative of the gun industry, that the NRA acts to defend gun makers and sellers from regulatory oversight. We know that’s not the case, and in fact there is an industry group for the firearms industry, the NSSF. But that’s not the point. The point is that if you want to see what really scares our opponents and what the true value of the NRA is, you have to look no further than a little program called Eddie Eagle.
Some of you may not have heard of Eddie Eagle. It’s not a political program, it’s run by NRA’s General Operations division. What Eddie Eagle does is teach children about firearms safety in a way that’s accessible to kids in grade school. Here is, taken directly from the NRA’s website, what Eddie Eagle teaches children:
If you see a gun:
Leave the Area.
Tell an Adult.
Pretty shocking stuff, right? Not to us. Not to people who understand gun safety, and understand that kids and guns unsupervised don’t mix. But to our opponents, to people who’d vilify inanimate objects based on their own fear and lack of understanding. The most common thing you’ll hear from anti-gun people about Eddie Eagle is that it’s the Joe Camel of guns, trying to make guns “cool” for kids. Trust me, the mainstream media does a good enough job making guns cool that they don’t need NRA’s help.
But that’s just one example. Just recently, a bunch of whackos (that’s really the only term that is 100% accurate) decided to protest the National Police Shooting Championships, an event that’s organization and sanctioned by NRA’s shooting sports division. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad, because these people are actually serious about this. For our readers that understand competitive shooting, it would be like someone saying that USPSA was teaching people to be spree killers. It’s madness.
That madness is why we need the NRA. Not just their lobbying division, but in a way more importantly, all of the other things NRA does. From their publications like American Rifleman and Shooting Illustrated; their support of law enforcement, first responders, and military; shooting sports competitions like the recent World Shooting Championship and the Bianchi Cup – we need these things because they provide a real image of what gun ownership is about in the United States.
The political arguments are important; but politics don’t win hearts and minds. Taking people to the range to bust cans with a .22, showing them the pomp and circumstance of Bianchi Cup, letting people see the history behind some of the greatest guns ever at the National Firearms Museum – that wins hearts and minds. That’s why we need the NRA, because the NRA does all these things. NRA’s youth shooting programs introduce countless young Americans to the fun of shooting in a safe environment, keeping our sport alive. My introduction to competition shooting wasn’t in IDPA or USPSA, no it was the NRA Collegiate Pistol program that introduced me to shooting beyond just target practice.
And yet with all this, even gun owners only see the NRA as a one-dimensional political organization. They accuse the NRA of being too conservative, not conservative enough, too reactionary, not reactionary enough – it seems that if something goes wrong in a state’s gun politics, the NRA is always to blame. That’s not to say that there are not legitimate reasons to criticize the NRA. I don’t always agree with their decisions, with the candidates they endorse, but that’s not the point. We can disagree about minute policy issues all we want and still recognize that we need the NRA.
We need the NRA for what General Operations does, but we also need them for their political clout. Here’s a true statement for you: the NRA knows how to win. They are also pretty good at picking their battles, which can be a cause for frustration when the NRA doesn’t throw its weight behind someone’s cause. But when they do, they go hard in the paint, and they win more than they lose. When was the last time you heard about a major piece of anti-gun legislation with heavy NRA opposition passing? Probably about 1994.
Think about that for a minute. 20 years ago, we were living under the most onerous piece of anti-gun legislation since the GCA ’68. Fast forward to today, and we have shall issue CCW in Illinois, concealed carry in all 50 states, and it looks like even D.C.’s ban on carry is going down. That would not have happened without a strong NRA.
Which brings me to the conclusion of this article, and something I touched on earlier. We need the NRA. We need their shooting programs, Eddie Eagle, range grants, Friends of the NRA, and the Institute for Legislative action. But even more importantly than that, NRA needs us. It needs you, it needs me. It needs us to join NRA, to kick in a few bucks and become members. Because that’s where the power comes from. Think of NRA as a giant political magnifying glass. It takes the heat and light of 5 million Americans and focuses it down to a red hot point capable of burning the most evasive of political ants.
This isn’t a paid endorsement. No one at NRA called us and asked me to write this article. I don’t often use my position as publisher to talk to you, but I wanted to today (and because it’s the only way I can override the editor and write what I want) because this is actually important. It’s easy to look at the landscape of the gun rights movement over the last 20 years and see that we’re winning, because we are. But the game has changed, and our opponents now are a lot smarter than they’ve been in the past. Mike Bloomberg is smart, a lot smarter than Paul Helmke ever was. Bloomberg has functionally unlimited money to throw at this issue, which is why we need that magnifying glass more than ever. We just need to remember that’s it a symbiotic relationship. We need the NRA to magnify and focus our voices, and the NRA needs our voices to provide heat and line to shine on politicians.
By Caleb Giddings. Originally published in the October 2014 issue of GunUp the Magazine.