The NRA Is Doomed. Long Live the NRA.

 

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The National Rifle Association is too rural and too radical to continue. The NRA will soon cease to be relevant in local and national politics as its members age and the political zeitgeist swings in favor of voters who support gun control and restrictions on the Second Amendment. The science is settled on this, it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen.

I’m not quoting this month’s story by Adam Winkler in the Washington Post, rather, I’m quoting a 1996 story in Rolling Stone. The “experts” in the halls of Washington and academia were wrong about the NRA 20 years ago, and they’re wrong about it today as well.

To be fair, there are some nuggets of truth in the Washington Post story. NRA members do tend to be old. However, they’re not as old as the Democratic presidential candidates, and no one at the Post is writing stories about the inevitable demise of the Democratic Party.

Well, not at this moment, at least.

The NRA realizes this, though, and they’ve recruited young voices like Colion Noir and Natalie Foster to help spread their message of gun rights and personal freedom. Gun owners are also not as rural as Mr. Winkler would have us believe. The gun industry’s main trade show, the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, primarily because of the greatly expanded interest in concealed carry and “tactical” weapons. The “typical gun owner” of today is just as likely to be a middle-class woman in the suburbs who carries a pistol for personal protection or a young tech worker who shoots practical pistol as they are a farmer who hunts for deer every fall.

The NRA is not going away anytime soon, but their political role is changing. Thirty years ago, the Republicans relied on a “three-legged stool” of support from foreign policy hawks, small-government activists, and social conservatives. Of those three, it was the social conservatives who did the dirty work of knocking on doors and getting out voters to the polls on voting day. Since then, however, the power of social conservatives inside and outside of the Republican Party has waned, and it’s now gun owners and NRA members who get out the vote for their candidate of choice.

The NRA (and gun owners in general) used to be welcomed by moderates in both parties, but with the increasing radicalization of the Democratic Party, neither the NRA nor gun owners are welcome within their ranks. It’s not that the NRA is in the pocket of the GOP (or the other way around), but when the leading candidate for the Democrat nomination compares dealing with NRA members to negotiating with Iranian terrorists, it’s hard for the NRA to throw their support behind another party beside the Republicans.

The future of the NRA is bright because the NRA is a magnet for people who distrust government, and those ranks are growing every day. People of all ages, creeds and colors are looking to the NRA and other organizations that defend the Second Amendment to help them defend all their lives in an increasingly disordered world, one which shows that you’re one of the good guys who takes their civil responsibilities as serious as you do your civil rights. People who join the NRA (or other gun rights organizations) realize, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, that trust in government is not the solution to our problems, government itself is the problem.

There are 18 comments.

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  1. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Kevin Creighton:

    The future of the NRA is bright because the NRA is a magnet for people who distrust government, and those ranks are growing every day. People of all ages, creeds and colors are looking to the NRA and other organizations that defend the Second Amendment to help them defend all their lives in an increasingly disordered world, and shows that you’re one of the good guys who takes their civil responsibilities as serious as you do your civil rights. People who join the NRA (or other gun rights organizations) realize, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, that trust in government is not the solution to our problems, government itself is the problem.

    I’m an NRA Life Member, and I approve this message.

    • #1
  2. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    The NRA’s latest TV commercials are very very good. Especially the black lady who lives in a dangerous neighborhood. That one is powerful.

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    gun lady

    • #3
  4. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Re comment #3: why’d they use a picture of Queen Elizabeth to illustrate that?

    • #4
  5. Stephen Dawson Inactive
    Stephen Dawson
    @StephenDawson

    Miffed White Male:Re comment #3:why’d they use a picture of Queen Elizabeth to illustrate that?

    James Bond may be 007, but Elizabeth Windsor is 000.

    • #5
  6. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Miffed White Male:Re comment #3:why’d they use a picture of Queen Elizabeth to illustrate that?

    I thought the same thing haha!

    • #6
  7. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    The state associations are also becoming very influential. I think the TSRA is more influential than the NRA in Texas.

    • #7
  8. Goldgeller Member
    Goldgeller
    @Goldgeller

    Thanks for posting this. I haven’t joined the NRA (I don’t really like to join stuff) but I recently got my CCL and I’m certainly interested in protecting gun rights. I took the Adam Winkler article relatively seriously because the premises themselves didn’t really seem that controversial at all. They actually seemed very plausible. But then again I didn’t know some of the demographic factors that you discussed. Certainly, I think it will be very important to protect gun rights. Charles CW Cooke suggested in a post that “Today’s exemption will be tomorrow’s ‘loop hole,'” and that sounds right to me.

    The problem isn’t so much that people are scared of guns, they just don’t understand the rules already in place. So of course they want more rules. I was surprised (on Twitter) at how many people really thought they could just order a gun of the net and get it just like you’d get a book from Amazon.

    Its’ weird and possibly instructive, of something, how the issues have been framed. Planned Parenthood is a righteous institution for abortion rights supporters because they refuse to budge an inch on abortion, whereas the NRA’s refusal to budge is a sign, not only of recalcitrance, but of a broken political system and so on and so forth. Very interesting.

    • #8
  9. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    And, by the way, one of the biggest myths, the “gun show exemption,” is just that.  A total myth.  It doesn’t exist.

    • #9
  10. James Madison Member
    James Madison
    @JamesMadison

    Kevin,

    Right on. This is true today and will be true in 20 years. Thanks.

    • #10
  11. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    Guns sales are up, ammo is scarce, therefore the NRA is in trouble.  Makes sense to me.

    • #11
  12. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Goldgeller: NRA’s refusal to budge is a sign, not only of recalcitrance, but of a broken political system and so on and so forth. Very interesting.

    I’ve got another, longer post fermenting (fomenting?) in my brain on this topic. The fact is, the ol’ right/left GOP/Dem dualism in our society is breaking apart, thanks to increasing personal empowerment. The idea of the monarchy and “divine right” broke apart when the personal empowerment in education brought the printing press gave us the Reformation and Renaissance, and it’s happening again because of the Internet. The NRA is leading the gun culture of today because it is training more people than all other gun rights or sporting shooting organizations combined. They’re setting the pace because they’re the ones out front, and their training is teaching people how to act responsibly in a potentially dangerous world.

    • #12
  13. Autistic License Thatcher
    Autistic License
    @AutisticLicense

    NRA is apparently doing the job that the Republican Party won’t do:  unashamedly defending constitutional rights, empowering individuals, pointedly ignoring identity politics, mobilizing effective support for liberty-minded candidates.  Naturally this puts them on the enemies list for progressives.

    It’s nice to have the right enemies.  Look at how many rifles Mr. Obama has sold in the past few years, without meaning to.

    • #13
  14. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Goldgeller: The problem isn’t so much that people are scared of guns, they just don’t understand the rules already in place. So of course they want more rules. I was surprised (on Twitter) at how many people really thought they could just order a gun of the net and get it just like you’d get a book from Amazon.

    This is definitely true.

    These are the issues I see for the NRA (and I could be wrong—not claiming Rolling-Stone-Style prescience, here!):

    1.) The NRA is financed to some considerable extent by contributions from gun manufacturers.

    2.) Fewer people own guns, largely because fewer people live in places where guns are normal tools of daily life (e.g. farms). And since crime rates have been dropping, fewer people are going to have the sorts of personal experience that make self-protection seem an urgent priority.

    3.) Guns are extraordinarily durable objects. The small shotgun my mother bought for her farm 40 years ago is still perfectly usable, something that cannot be said of the truck, washing machine, stove, refrigerator, Roto-Tiller, tractor or other machines she purchased around the same time. This makes the secondary market very competitive with the primary market.

    4.) Fewer customers+durable items=lower profits, therefore lower contributions to the NRA.

    No?

    • #14
  15. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    Kate Braestrup:
    1.) The NRA is financed to some considerable extent by contributions from gun manufacturers.
    2.) Fewer people own guns, largely because fewer people live in places where guns are normal tools of daily life (e.g. farms). And since crime rates have been dropping, fewer people are going to have the sorts of personal experience that make self-protection seem an urgent priority.
    3.) Guns are extraordinarily durable objects. The small shotgun my mother bought for her farm 40 years ago is still perfectly usable, something that cannot be said of the truck, washing machine, stove, refrigerator, Roto-Tiller, tractor or other machines she purchased around the same time. This makes the secondary market very competitive with the primary market.
    4.) Fewer customers+durable items=lower profits, therefore lower contributions to the NRA.
    No?

    No.

    1. The NRA is financed primarily by its members, not the gun companies. Yes, there are large donations by companies like Ruger and Midway USA, but the vast majority comes from small donations from millions of members.
    2. Gun sales are friggin’ BOOMING, and it’s being driven by new gun owners, especially women. It’s not rural people buying guns, it’s Gun Culture 2.0.
    3. It’s true that the secondary market is competitive with the primary market: There’s real bargains out there right now on police trade-in Glocks, and a used CZ-82 in 9×18 Makarov that I bought for $300 five years ago lies about 2 feet away from me as I type this. It’s a great gun, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
      But.
      Guns are also a consumer good, so that means demand for  the latest and greatest gadget is going to trump price pressures. Guns are tools, to be sure, but they are also lifestyle items, which means they are prone to the whims of fashion.
    4. See items 1-3. The NRA is doing just fine right now, and their future (unless they screw things up) is bright indeed.
    • #15
  16. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Kevin Creighton:

    Kate Braestrup: 1.) The NRA is financed to some considerable extent by contributions from gun manufacturers. 2.) Fewer people own guns, largely because fewer people live in places where guns are normal tools of daily life (e.g. farms). And since crime rates have been dropping, fewer people are going to have the sorts of personal experience that make self-protection seem an urgent priority. 3.) Guns are extraordinarily durable objects. The small shotgun my mother bought for her farm 40 years ago is still perfectly usable, something that cannot be said of the truck, washing machine, stove, refrigerator, Roto-Tiller, tractor or other machines she purchased around the same time. This makes the secondary market very competitive with the primary market. 4.) Fewer customers+durable items=lower profits, therefore lower contributions to the NRA. No?

    No.

    1. The NRA is financed primarily by its members, not the gun companies. Yes, there are large donations by companies like Ruger and Midway USA, but the vast majority comes from small donations from millions of members.
    2. Gun sales are friggin’ BOOMING, and it’s being driven by new gun owners, especially women. It’s not rural people buying guns, it’s Gun Culture 2.0.
    3. It’s true that the secondary market is competitive with the primary market: There’s real bargains out there right now on police trade-in Glocks, and a used CZ-82 in 9×18 Makarov that I bought for $300 five years ago lies about 2 feet away from me as I type this. It’s a great gun, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But. Guns are also a consumer good, so that means demand for the latest and greatest gadget is going to trump price pressures. Guns are tools, to be sure, but they are also lifestyle items, which means they are prone to the whims of fashion.
    4. See items 1-3. The NRA is doing just fine right now, and their future (unless they screw things up) is bright indeed.

    Good to know! How could they screw things up?

    • #16
  17. RabbitHoleRedux Inactive
    RabbitHoleRedux
    @RabbitHoleRedux

    Autistic License: NRA is apparently doing the job that the Republican Party won’t do:  unashamedly defending constitutional rights, empowering individuals, pointedly ignoring identity politics, mobilizing effective support for liberty-minded candidates.  Naturally this puts them on the enemies list for progressives.

    Ain’t that the truth. I always feel my dollars go the furthest via the NRA than anywhere else, in securing all of the above on my behalf.

    • #17
  18. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    RabbitHoleRedux:

    Autistic License: NRA is apparently doing the job that the Republican Party won’t do: unashamedly defending constitutional rights, empowering individuals, pointedly ignoring identity politics, mobilizing effective support for liberty-minded candidates. Naturally this puts them on the enemies list for progressives.

    Ain’t that the truth. I always feel my dollars go the furthest via the NRA than anywhere else, in securing all of the above on my behalf.

    And this isn’t exactly the best time in our history to try to tell us we should be unarmed.

    • #18
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