August 25, 2009

THE BUSINESS OF LOBBIES IS LOBBYING:

The NRA's Main Target? Its Members' Checkbooks. (Richard Feldman, December 16, 2007, Washington Post)

[T]he truth is that much of the public debate over gun rights and gun control is disingenuous. Gun owners of every stripe -- liberal, moderate, conservative -- and non-owners alike can and do agree that violent criminals, juveniles, terrorists and mental incompetents have no right to firearms. Federal and state laws, despite poor enforcement by the courts, underscore that. Further, there's no significant debate -- nor should there be -- over private ownership of guns for lawful purposes such as target shooting, hunting, self-protection and collecting.

What we do have, though, is an organization whose senior leadership is dedicated to keeping the gun debate alive and burning in the American consciousness, for its own self-serving and self-preserving reasons. That organization is the National Rifle Association.

Unfortunately for American gun owners, the nation and the NRA itself, this major lobbying group has become intoxicated with money and privilege. The leadership has lost sight of its mission. Safeguarding the rights of gun owners has become secondary to keeping the fundraising machinery well greased and the group's senior staff handsomely compensated.

I know, because I once worked for it.

In 1984, I landed my dream job as Northeast regional representative of the NRA. I was a young lawyer, keen on politics and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This post promised to indulge both passions, and for a time it did. But soon enough, I was watching with growing dismay as the NRA morphed from a reasonable, responsible voice of sportsmen and firearms owners into a giant money machine that provides more benefits to its insiders than to its 3 million-plus members.

During my tenure at the NRA, the theme was "We're not in the business of fundraising; we fundraise to stay in business." The "business" of the NRA then was defending the Second Amendment rights of a considerable number of Americans (if pollsters are correct that guns are kept in almost one of every two American homes). But today, the association's primary business is fundraising. And nothing keeps the fundraising machine whirring more effectively than convincing the faithful that they're a pro-gun David facing down an invincible anti-gun Goliath.


Well, David was better armed.


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 25, 2009 7:35 AM
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