Despite fears that the Obama administration would usher in a new era of gun control, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is having a banner year. On the meta-level, the U.S. Supreme Court looks set to strike down Chicago’s 28-year-old handgun ban—and with it every other such handgun ban in these United States. Even if the Court punt’s the Windy City’s firearm ownership restrictions on a narrow basis, the ruling could put the impetus on state and local municipalities to show why a citizen shouldn’t have a gun, rather than make them prove that they should. Meanwhile, the Open Carry movement is gaining momentum, concealed carry laws are breaking out all over and various strictures (e.g. Virginia’s “one gun a month” law) are being rolled back. It’s got the point where The Miami Herald headlines “NRA may be running out of targets in Florida.” So . . . we recently heard that the NRA website is only getting 200 thousand unique views per month. Is the NRA losing its mojo with the next generation?
If so, it’s not for lack of trying. The breadth, depth, range and scope of the NRA’s “youth outreach programs” mirrors the kind of efforts you’d expect from a well-established religious movement. For a start (literally), the org claims it’s exposed some 21 million pre-K to fourth grade students to its gun rights neutral Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program From then on, if you shoot, you’re NRA aware.
The NRA funds a wide variety of shooting sports around the country (e.g. shooting sports camps) and offers numerous firearms-related educational opportunities (e.g. the Youth Education Summit in Washington, D.C.).The NRA supports scouting (and how) and hunting (through its Youth Hunter Education Challenge, amongst other programs).
In total, as this chart indicates, the NRA spends 65.5 percent of its foundation grants—worth more than $140 million since its inception in 1990—on Youth Programs.
Yes but— is the NRA hip? Only if it’s hip to be square.
Even a brief look at InSights magazine (online, of course) reveals that there’s a distinctly non-multi-ethnic 50’s feel to the NRA’s youth-oriented electronic endeavors. For example, a young Annette Funicello would’ve made an equally suitable model for the piece on shooting posture. The text has an “Our Friend the Atom” tone.
This month’s other InSight’s feature, From Ammo to Camo, offers a 16-year-old’s guide to turkey hunting. It read likes it’s [re]written by a 40-year-old professional hunting journalist. The Sgt. Klean videos lie something between silly and creepy.
The site’s games—Coney Island Shooter, Bow Hunter Challenge and Trivia Challenge—are the Ms. Pac Man of gun games—especially when compared to the first-person shooter’s bought by tens of millions of American consumers (both young and old).
Maybe I’m just one of those left-coast liberals conservatives who doesn’t think there IS such a thing as good Klean fun. Maybe not. I’ve got kids from teenagers on down. I know what they’re watching and yes reading on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Fios and the rest. It does NOT look or feel like this.
The NRA website’s low numbers are only the non-tip of a non-existent next gen iceberg. Judging from the site’s gestalt, the organization caters to middle aged white men clinging to their guns and religion. (I mean that in the nicest possible Palin-esque way.) Aside from a toupe-wearing Chuck Norris asking us to “Trigger the Vote,” there’s just not a whole lot of fun to be had.
Like many corporate Facebook pages, the NRA’s Facebook page is a rudderless ship, without much in the way of NRA interaction. The page claims 241,037 members, but the comments indicate very few members couldn’t tell you Fonzi’s catchphrase. The last photo added was uploaded on November 6.
The NRA’s YouTube channel is not blowing the next gen’s socks off, either. It has just 8,961 subscribers. No surprise there, either. The NRAILA Grassroots News Minute is hardly the guns ‘n babes video we posted yesterday. You can’t embed it in another site like, say, this one. And it’s six days old (an eternity in new media terms).
Twitter is another NRA dead zone. The org has just 2,804 followers. The last Tweet was the 27th of January, and guess how youth-friendly that was (hint: Virginia: Many Firearm Bills to be Considered Tomorrow in Richmond!).
I’m not saying that the NRA is a dinosaur because it’s not tapping into the next generation’s preference for ADD-compatible interactive electronic information. I’m saying it’s becoming a dinosaur because it’s failing to exploit and explore the next generation’s preference for ADD-compatible interactive electronic information.
More to the point, to appeal to the people who will die later than the organization’s leadership, the NRA needs to lighten up a bit. Again, it’s just not . . . fun.
For example, could the NRA do something positive with gangsta culture? Maybe reach out the African American community to arm and train legal owners? Maybe the NRA could help all American minorities celebrate gun culture in a positive way.
Make no mistake: the upcoming generation of shooters are more tolerant than their parents. And they’re not as serious-minded. Raised on a steady diet of Family Guy and Fred and celebrity culture, they “get” irony.
Which is ironic. The NRA’s pro-active defense of Second Amendment rights (how’s that for irony) is quickly bringing the country to the point where its youth take these rights for granted. Unless the NRA can redefine itself as something more than your Dad’s pals in paranoia, or at least get with the e-program, it’s legislative success dooms it to increasing marginalization.