Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- The NRA’s annual conference, held this year in Indianapolis, has been a cause of controversy. But not for the usual reasons surrounding the debate over gun control in America, but for the ousting of the organization’s president, Oliver North, and over questions of the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president, and regarding the group’s finances. These internal struggles are fighting for attention amidst stories about Russian efforts to use the NRA as a part of their interference in U.S. elections.
Picture me in the opening credits of The Simpsons, writing “I will not use a cliché. I will not use a cliché…,” but I have an urge to point out that I have expressed my concerns over the leadership and strategic thinking of the NRA in the past. Oliver North was always a problematic choice for president, given his history, and Wayne LaPierre seems to think that the Second Amendment protects his right to keep and use his job.
The problem, however, is not limited to the public faces of the organization. I’ll sound here like a one-note kazoo, but when the NRA entangles itself with the most right wing of the Republican Party, gun rights in the minds of the public are seen as something that no one in other positions on the political spectrum can or should participate. Admittedly, they hold an ill-informed opinion on the subject, but while majority views are not the source of rights, they do too many times make free exercise difficult. We have to win support left, right, and center and gun-rights organizations that surrender the field rather than seeking to win over more significant percentages of voters are tacitly accepting a loss.
What should the NRA do?
Even though the group is one of the favorite targets of the Left, its history of promoting shooting skills and safety are also a part of the legacy, and any group that will speak out for gun rights has plenty of work to do. And those are what the NRA claims to see as its purpose. Americans love the story of the prodigal son who comes back after going astray, and the most famous gun rights organization has a chance now to restructure itself.
Doing so will require a separation from the Republican Party, as I hinted at above. The American people are increasingly opposed to our system of legalized bribery that campaign financing currently is, and when a gun rights group dissipates its energy in battles over other political debates, the core mission loses. And no matter how many #Blexit campaigns or outreaches to Hispanics the right wing tries, the demographic shifts that we’re going through mean that if gun rights are seen as something that only white men care about, those rights will be entirely hypothetical in not too many years. This may be a painful message to absorb, but the NRA’s failure to speak up for Philando Castile—one example among many to choose from—speaks at a higher volume than occasional mumbling about how everyone is welcome to join.
I don’t know if the NRA has been saved. I do sincerely hope that it can be done. We who support gun rights need all the groups fighting on our side that we can get. But we need that fight directed at opponents of those rights, instead of friendly fire, and we need more allies to win.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.