Dear Col. North:
Recently you reached out to NRA members asking our help in recruiting new members to the association. Given that less than ten percent of gun owners are NRA members, it’s not an unreasonable request.
However, the NRA has erected several obstacles to recruiting efforts beyond people that fit an unfortunately narrow group.
We know the NRA is not a shill for the firearms industry. However, the association has increasingly become a shill for the Republican Party and specifically President Donald Trump. High-visibility NRA spokespersons are increasingly discussing issues that are not in the NRA’s brief.
We didn’t join the NRA to become party to a discussion of the wall along the southern border. In fact, we didn’t join the NRA to become Republicans or members of the GOP fan club.
There are gun owners that are Democrats; there are gun owners that are Libertarians, there may even be one or two in the Green Party. There are definitely gun owners among the 73.6 million people that did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. The NRA’s increasingly partisan stance makes it more difficult to attract these people to membership.
The NRA has three reasons for existence: training in marksmanship and gun safety; promotion of hunting and the shooting sports; preservation of the protections of the right to keep and bear arms. Any support of political candidates and positions should be based solely on those three purposes.
Next up is the major point: Forget the Second Amendment. Despite the hype and Sunday-supplement-level punditry, it’s not going anywhere.
We don’t have Second Amendment rights; the Second Amendment doesn’t confer a right. Like the First Amendment, the Second is a prohibition; a limit on the powers of the government. Like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the rights protected by the first two amendments are inalienable rights with which men have been endowed by their creator.
Such an approach is much harder to attack. The popular line, “My right to life trumps your right to own a gun” becomes meaningless when it’s clear that both come from the same source. In essence, the rejoinder becomes, “No, your right to life does not trump my right to continue living.”
It is high time we gave gun control advocates a conundrum to figure out.
Such an approach also simplifies attacking the various proposals on the table and in the minds of gun control advocates.
Instead of bravely defending the bulwarks with appeals to philosophy, the NRA should be attacking.
We need to attack the real weakness of our foe. We know, and have a mountain of evidence to prove, that their tactics have a fundamental weakness: they don’t work.
We need to expose these peddlers of legislative snake oil for the charlatans they are. There is not one claim that they make for their nostrums that cannot be disproven.
But we can’t rely on a good guy with a gun as our primary answer.
We should also attack their motivations. Since their proposals won’t prevent bad guys from getting and using guns, what is their goal? They are obviously willing to endanger public safety so there must be another agenda in there somewhere.
In order for these strategies to be effective, the NRA needs to adopt new tactics.
The NRA must become far more proactive than it is. It must take its message beyond preaching to the choir and move out of the echo chamber.
Not only will this provide support for the politicians that support the gun-owning community, it will raise the visibility of the NRA and can be a positive inducement to membership and recruiting.
This is tremendously important. We need our allies in Congress and every state house in the nation to vigorously challenge our opponents and create doubt in the minds of the uncommitted.
We face a daunting challenge: reaching the American people. We need to show them that there is a huge difference between being inalterably opposed to any regulation of firearms and practical opposition to ineffective legislation.
Among other things, we need high-profile legislative champions to challenge Senator Feinstein, Senator Schumer and their fellow travelers. We need legislators who can speak to the press about opposing bad laws. This has a higher probability of success than a vague hope for something other than hostility in much of the media.
We also need new spokespersons for the NRA. They need to be articulate, very knowledgeable, trained to recognize and avoid the popular traps and, most of all, likeable by most Americans.
What amazes me is that we already have such people in our ranks but we are not asking them to speak on our behalf.
While shifting our philosophical focus, we also need to raise awareness of the fact that the NRA is the premier gun safety resource in the United States.
Eddie Eagle needs to be revamped. It must be more clearly presented as an ongoing process instead of a one-shot deal. All that many Americans know is that it has been criticized for being ineffective but they aren’t aware of the basis for the criticism. We need to address them; we can’t expect them to learn if we don’t teach.
To be honest, the NRA and the National Shooting Sport Foundation need to work more closely together to encourage not only campaigns like Project Childsafe and Eddie Eagle, but to encourage schools and service organizations such as the Rotary Club and others to advocate proper firearms education from the earliest years and proper firearms handing to youth and adults.
We should never hear about an organization like Everytown for Gun Safety conducting a gun safety course. That is no different than depending on people with only a vague knowledge of the automobile to teach drivers’ education.
You want to grow the NRA, as do I. But in order for us to do this, we are going to have to give people a reason to join and an organization of which they will be proud.
We need Americans. That means women and men, regardless of racial, ethnic, religious background or nation of original birth. Political leanings or sexual preferences are not important. The only litmus test for NRA membership should be the desire to exercise our inalienable rights in a law-abiding manner and to improve our abilities.
You want to make the NRA larger. I want to make it better. Working together, we can both succeed.