Reader Wendy writes:
I have been reading (and occasionally commenting on) TTAG for some time now. I read with interest one of your entries from Friday 4/25, “How can the NRA become less white?” Or perhaps more generally (and more accurately), how can the NRA become more non-OFWG? I decided to address this in an email rather than a comment, mostly because this response is going to be fairly long, but also because the comments seem to be running along the lines of, “Diversity? We don’t need no steenkin’ diversity!” . . .
Grant Cunningham addressed precisely this question a few weeks ago. It wasn’t people of color he was discussing, it was tattooed and pierced, socially liberal hipsters. But I think the same analysis applies.
“One thing is certain: these new shooters don’t like the NRA and they aren’t members. They don’t know the organization because the organization hasn’t taken the time to know them. What they believe they know about the NRA and its members comes from the mainstream media, because too many members have decided that these new shooters aren’t worth getting to know as human beings.
“(Frankly, the organization’s social stances haven’t helped, either. Seriously, look at the major social activities planned for the NRA convention later this month: a country music concert and a prayer breakfast. Do you really think these people are going to be excited about either?)
“Don’t expect them to see eye-to-eye with you on political matters, because they may not. Don’t expect them to join the NRA, because they probably won’t (at least, not until the NRA becomes more representative of them.) If that bothers you so much that you won’t treat them like you would other shooters, all you’re doing is insuring that future generations grow up without the Second Amendment advocacy that we enjoy today.”
Cunningham makes some points worth noting.
First: Culture. Want non-OFWG’s to get involved? Let’s start with last night’s concert, “Country Jam IV.” Nothing against Joe Nichols and Jerrod Niemann, but that’s not likely to appeal to people whose musical tastes run more toward Jay-Z or Pitbull, or toward Imagine Dragons or OneRepublic. A little hip-hop, a little alt rock, would go a ways toward showing that the NRA’s culture isn’t just for aging rednecks.
And Alabama? They’ve been around nearly as long as I’ve been alive. I know a lot of people still like them, but see above re fans of Imagine Dragons and Pitbull… As for the prayer breakfast? Nothing wrong with that, just that millennials are less likely to be enthused about that, and people of color would be more likely to show up if, say, T.D. Jakes appeared alongside Franklin Graham.
Second: Politics. I looked at the lineup for the NRA-ILA leadership forum. No women, a slew of very conservative Republicans. Three persons of color (Gov. Jindal, Sen. Rubio, Sheriff Clarke) so at least there was that. But still. We all know that Republicans tend to be pro-2A and Democrats for the most part tend to be anti-2A. The Democrats’ general stance is a problem that all us People of the Gun – right, left, and center – need to address.
But see Cunningham’s article above…attracting moderates and liberals to the NRA is going to be difficult as long as the NRA aligns itself with politicians who oppose women’s right to bodily and reproductive autonomy, LGBTQs’ right to live authentically and right to marry the person they love, Latin@s who have grown up here since infancy or toddlerhood being able to obtain the right of citizenship (and who are undocumented through no fault of their own). Or to put it a little more colorfully, you’re not going to get PBR-swilling hipsters and latte liberals to come if all you’re throwing is a TEA Party.
The NRA could start by supporting pro-gun Democrats (they do exist) such as Mark Begich of Alaska. The NRA could also refuse to reflexively endorse anti-gun people who happen to have an “R” after their name, such as Mitt Romney, who signed Massachusetts’ AWB when he was Governor. (Note: refusing to endorse Romney wouldn’t have necessarily meant endorsing Obama. The NRA could have said, “we can’t endorse either major party candidate this year.”)
The NRA-ILA could also have a little chat with politicians who say, um, unfortunate things about, say, sexual assault: “Hey, we’re glad you support 2A. But we’d like to increase female support for 2A rights by pointing out that firearms ownership can help women protect their right to bodily autonomy, and when you say stupid things about rape, that just pisses women off and drives them into the antis’ camp.”
Third: Wayne LaPierre. It’s time for him to go, or at least not be the public face of the NRA. He just isn’t an effective spokesman. He’s our Michael Bloomberg.
Fourth: Ditto Ted Nugent.
Fifth: More spokespeople of color, younger spokespeople, female spokespeople. (On the latter: Not Sarah Palin. She falls under the LaPierre/Nugent category of “open mouth, remove left foot, replace with right foot, close mouth.” Some women love her, but a lot of us hate her. And not because of her looks.)
Sixth part un: Introducing people to shooting and improving access to shooting. For urban people, lobbying to change laws making it difficult or impossible to locate ranges in urban areas. Recruiting and training more instructors of color, more female instructors, more younger instructors.
Sixth part deux: Identifying and winning over influential community leaders – pastors, local politicians, business leaders in communities of color. If you look at cities like Chicago or Atlanta, the black clergy are often in the forefront of anti-2A initiatives because of the heavy toll of violence they see among black youths. Recruit them, work with them on the types of social change that could reduce violence, help them see that the NRA is on their side.
My $.02, worth every penny you paid. 😉
Thanks for listening.