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By Robert Spitzer, State University of New York College at Cortland

No observer of contemporary gun politics could fail to notice a jarring disconnect between the two very different trajectories of the gun rights movement today.

On the one hand, more states are allowing Americans to carry weapons in public without permits, and the gun-rights movement could be on the verge of a major Supreme Court victory. On the other, the National Rifle Association, which advocates on behalf of gun owners, faces an existential crisis that’s mostly due to the NRA’s own missteps.

As a political scientist who has studied gun politics and policy for over 30 years, I’m confident that there is no precedent for this contradictory situation. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that the NRA’s problems will influence how the courts treat gun-rights cases.

Two very different lawsuits are pending

The Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, challenges a state law that requires authorities to exercise discretion when issuing concealed-carry pistol permits. When justices heard oral arguments on Nov. 3, 2021, a majority of them appeared to be skeptical about the law’s constitutionality – despite the fact that it was first enacted in 1911 and has withstood legal challenges in the past.

Meanwhile, as it marks the 150th anniversary of its 1871 founding, the NRA looks like an organization in jeopardy.

Wayne LaPierre NRA
Dan Z for TTAG

Expensive and protracted litigation exposed a pattern of lavish perks for its top officials, including private jets, designer clothes and vacations at expensive resorts – as well as plenty of cronyism and sweetheart contracts.

Many of these allegations of misdeeds were crystallized in a 160-page lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General’s office in August 2020. It called for the NRA’s dissolution and the removal of Wayne LaPierre as its CEO.

A nonprofit gun-control group led by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived being shot at close range, is also suing the NRA. The Giffords group alleges financial misconduct and possible campaign finance law violations.

Also, some NRA board members have resigned in recent years due to their objections to the organization’s track record. In September 2021, a dissident board member called for the entire board to be replaced and for LaPierre’s removal.

And in November, a National Public Radio report on secret recordings of a 1999 conference call among the organization’s top leaders held immediately after the Columbine High School shootings further tarnished the NRA’s reputation.

The recordings revealed frank discussions of the organization’s public relations strategy and derided some of the organization’s more zealous members as “hillbillies” and “fruitcakes.”

The organization has not released clear information about how any of this has affected membership. Because the NRA gets 40% of its annual revenue from member dues, which are reportedly stagnant, this exposure could be affecting its bottom line.

What’s happening in court

The NRA’s national reputation, however, might not matter that much.

First, while the NRA has long played a key role in Second Amendment litigation, many affiliated and unaffiliated organizations have taken on the task of challenging laws that restrict gun rights, such as the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association – the plaintiff in the pending Supreme Court case. Similar state-specific organizations exist throughout the country.

Second, and arguably more important, recent Republican presidents have been remarkably successful in appointing to the federal court system a large number of young and very conservative jurists. They have expressed great sympathy for an expansive reading of gun rights under the Second Amendment. Their interpretation goes further than the standard the court set out in its 2008 D.C. v. Heller ruling, when the court for the first time established that Americans have a right to own handguns for personal protection in their homes.

Even though he served for only one term, President Donald Trump was particularly successful in filling judicial vacancies, thanks in large measure to Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after President Donald Trump announced Barrett as his nominee to the Supreme Court, in the Rose Garden at the White House, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The three conservative Supreme Court justices Trump appointed, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, had all previously expressed their support for the rights of gun owners. And Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, who have been on the court far longer, have often expressed dissatisfaction that gun rights have not received sufficient deference in prior court rulings.

Public opinion is shifting

There’s another paradox that could matter too: Most Americans, especially Democrats, continue to support stricter gun laws, and yet people in the U.S. are buying guns, mostly handguns, at a record pace.

Notably, support for stricter gun control fell in the past year by 5 percentage points to 52%, according to a Gallup poll conducted in October 2021. That decline followed a 7-percentage-point drop Gallup measured a year earlier. Still, the poll reflects overwhelming support for existing gun laws: Only 11% favor making gun laws less strict.

Gallup gun control support november 21
Courtesy Gallup

A record-setting 1.2 million background checks, a proxy for gun sales, were conducted in two separate single weeks in March 2021. The buying spree was fanned by fears that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrations tied to the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 elections.

However, only about 20% of these purchases were new gun owners. For the most part, the nation’s estimated 72 million gun owners are adding to their firearm collections.

The Conversation

Robert Spitzer, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the Political Science Department, State University of New York College at Cortland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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50 COMMENTS

  1. There IS room for more than one 2A organization here, we just need to keep our leadership from being infected with the D.C. virus!!

  2. “This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.”

    I’d rather shave my eyeballs than read a single additional word of communist bvllsh!t.

  3. I love how people like this mook, and dummies like duncian the nazi, keep saying that our civil and human rights are dependent on a simple majority of votes.

    If it violates the rights of one person it is a travesty and must be corrected. Call me an isolate if you will. But the individual matters, not the mob.

    51% of the voters could end womens rights.

    51% of the voters could bring back slavery.

    This is the madness that those evil folks that advocate for gun control by saying, ‘the majority wants this,’ are really trying to implement.

    • The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities. -Ayn Rand

  4. I’ll rejoin the NRA when Wayne is gone. Meanwhile, I am, and will continue to be, a member of GOA and 2A Foundation.

    • just put a little note to that effevt in that renawal requesr they keep sending out….tuck that into the postage paid envelope they send with it…minus the check, of course

      • HAH! Wish I’d thought of that the other day when I got a request for money from Chuck Schumer! I just set him back his envelope, I just know he’d enjoy it more with a bunch of NRA requests for money stuffed into it!

  5. Interesting. The author of the article (Robert Spitzer) has argued for gun control his entire life. During the Clinton administration, he supported international small arms control, and he has publicly argued that Heller and McDonald were incorrect rulings, and that the 2A is not in reference to an individual right.

  6. “However, only about 20% of these purchases were new gun owners.”

    How is determined without a defacto ‘Gun Registry’?

    • My favorite part of that sentence was “only.” If it were some progressive cause, that 20% increase would be cause for jubilation. But since it’s guns and the Second Amendment, it’s *only* 20%.

      Don’t worry, progbots, everything is fine…the number of gun owners (of which a large proportion will learn to hate you) will only double in less than five years at this rate.

      • Yep. Truly buried the lede:
        12 point drop in 2 years issuppprt for more gun control (64 to 52 percent), which is a nearly 20 percent drop in support and 20 percent of gun buyers are first timers. That’s tens of millions of first time gun owners.

  7. At the core of what the NRA was originally established is the basic teaching of the fundamentals of shooting, marksmanship, and safety. The NRA taught thousands of blacks after the Civil War how to shoot and handle firearms for their own protection. And the NRA remains today, the only Nationally authorized authority accepted for all firearms training. It is supported and mandated in all states that only certified NRA instructors and courses can be taught to police, military, civilians, and security personnel. All hunter safety courses are derived from the NRA. All school shooting programs are based on and follow the NRA guidelines. At least those that are still left! It is for these reasons that the NRA must remain viable and survive these BS assaults by leftists and liberals. Without NRA certified instructors, all other firearms training would collapse into a stew of unregulated practices and rules, not consistent with anything from one place to another in this Nation. And that we cannot have. I am a Life Member and damn proud of it. The NRA today is still dedicated to it’s core values firearm safety, training, marksmanship, and knowledge. They are the only ones producing a safety course for K-12 that should be mandatory in this nation. I urge you to forget the internal politics and infighting going on. It will resolve itself! And take a look at Congressional infighting now! That is a Hell of a lot worse and more dangerous. If the left succeeds in destroying the Nation’s oldest gun rights platform, all others will soon follow! Don’t be stupid not to believe that! Support all of them now or turn in your weapons to PELOSHIT and the commies because you will have lost your rights to own them legally.

    • NRA stabbed itself. NRA is about lobbying; training and safety give it cover for its egregious misuse of funds.

      It is possible to have NRA as a training and safety entity, without a lobbying arm. It is not NRA winning the “rights” battle, it is litigation; litigation where the NRA is nowhere in sight, but claiming to be the cause of all the recent “wins”.

      Spend you money wherever you choose, but don’t be deceived that NRA isn’t corrupt.

      • Horse pucky! So what if they lobby? Is this a crime? I always thought it is part of our right to free speech?
        I’ve been a Patriot Endowment Member of the NRA for about 40 yrs and am damn proud of my membership. It seems that the NRA’s participation in numerous gun lawsuits have ended in victories for gun owners.

        • “So what if they lobby? Is this a crime?”
          If they act fraudulently; NRA is corrupt at the top.

          “I always thought it is part of our right to free speech?”
          Irrelevant. The issue is not free speech, but corruption at the top levels of the corporation.

          “It seems that the NRA’s participation in numerous gun lawsuits have ended in victories for gun owners.”

          Yes, that’s the propaganda. Would you happen to have a list of “victories for gun owners” directly attributable to corporate NRA lobbying arm? When was the last “victory” led by NRA, and assisted by other concerned organizations? (btw….wins by organizations to whom NRA contributes isn’t the same thing)

          Support whom you wish; it’s your money. Sorry to see you buy into the myth that NRA is the leading civil rights organization in the US. I agree NRA has been a powerhouse fund raiser for its rulers.

          Note: Yes, I was a lowest tier membership person because the local gun range required it. But, I never renewed, and the people at the gun range never asked about NRA membership again.

      • You claim that the NRA is “corrupt at the top?” Be specific how they are “corrupt”?
        Are you complaining about their flying in private jets? So what? How is that “corrupt”?
        Are you complaining because they are lobbying? Again, you do not specify how that is “corrupt”?
        Are you complaining how they are compensated? Again, you have supplied no specifics.
        Propaganda that they have participated in numerous lawsuits? How so? The fact is that they have participated as “amicus curia” and as litigants in a number of gun right suits, including but not limited to Heller, McDonald and Wren. How is that “propaganda”?
        Lobbying is done in the legislatures, not in the courtroom. I think you have your wires crossed.

        • No, I think you are an NRA lick-spittle, Sam’s wires seem fine. You keep asking Sam rhetorical questions, but I don’t see you answering the ones he posed to you. Like the man said, it’s your money so do with it whatever pleases you. But you’re doing nothing to convince us the NRA doesn’t suck currently.

        • How about hiring vendors and outside counsel without following their established rules and procedures? How about having credit cards that charged to AMcQ, which paid the charges and passed it on as bills to the NRA, thus avoiding any approval process? Those private jets were through a no-bid contract paying a California company $150k to schedule the flights, despite not having a travel agent license. Those jets included flights to pick up and drop of Wayne’s wife’s niece in Nebraska. Those are flights Wayne wasn’t on, but the NRA picked up the tab. There’s the Italian restaurant with $2k bottles of wine and a cigar bar that would charge meals the the AMcQ bypass. There’s paying millions a year to Bill Brewer for legal fees, which got Ollie North tossed out when he started investigating who had approved the expenditures. How about million dollar donations to non-NRA related charities run by Wayne’s wife?
          The hiring of convicted embezzler as Wayne’s assistant, without adequate background checks, and then keeping her after she was caught embezzling NRA funds to pay for her son’s wedding? The evidence is there if you would care to look. Wayne and other execs have used the NRA as their personal piggy bank, and the board hasn’t provided the oversight that is legally required. Meanwhile, Wayne will continue to spend every last cent the NRA has to Brewer in the mistaken hope that it will keep him out of prison.

        • Chose Death So what you are saying is that you cannot answer any of the questions or posits that I have posed. There is NOT A DAMN thing rhetorical about the questions I’ve asked. He can’t answer them nor can you apparently. I think you are a poser.
          YOU are damn frickin right it’s my money.
          Now if you can answer my posits, we can go on, other wise, MOVE ALONG with your boy.

        • AnyMouse, Seems you love to use acronyms that I have no idea of what they stand for. But then again, maybe that is your method if shielding your so called information? Don’t play games say it out loud. What is God’s green earth of AMcQ? Never heard of it. The NRA is not subject to “bidding processes” as far as I know. If you can prove otherwise, have at it with FACTS not acronyms. What has a company scheduling flights on what planes ( you seem to omit this)? If the plane’s route took it through Nebraska, so what?
          Was the NRA reimbursed? If not, show me. You see, I don’t just take accusations at someone else’s word, just because they say it.
          Is Mr Brewer an attorney? Can you prove that Mr Brewer did little or no legal work for the NRA? Again, you make accusations but where is the “meat”? How much was donated to other charities and what are those charities? You make a lot of accusations but again, no “meat”. Could it be that you are just anti-NRA?

        • Walt
          Wayne is a corrupt asshole living off the nra bank account. If you can’t or won’t acknowledge that either your stupid or your Wayne’s butt buddy.

        • Tired of the bs, Prove it or lose it. Talking about stupid, isn’t that your pic in the dictionary next to the word?
          If that were the case, criminal charges would be brought, not New York’s AG B/S!

        • ChoseDeath Confirmed by who? You? Sorry, but I don’t believe propagandists.
          Want to try again?
          People like you who spread horse pucky and cow dung are called farmers.

  8. The NRA rarely sues in its own name, but instead in the name of the local affiliate of the jurisdiction in which the case arose. NYSRPA is on, CRPA is another (California) that are seen regularly. These cases are supported financially buy the NRA. Despite common complaints taht the NRA is not defending the 2A, there are a multiplicity of cases that demonstrate otherwise. The other highly active organization is the SAF.

  9. The NRA under Wayne LaPayMe! is a disaster. After a lifetime of supporting the NRA I shifted my donations to the Gun Owners of America, Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition. I also give to my state’s biggest gun right’s outfit. I see what all these organizations are getting done and see no reason to continue feeding Wayne’s ego with my dollars.

    You should do likewise, if you have not already done so.

  10. I was going to become a firearms instructor but stopped when becoming and NRA member was REQUIRED! Thought that was incredibly over reaching, especially for an organization that sits back sipping scotch watching our gun rights dwindle away waiting for something “more fight worthy.”

    • That the NRA is regaled as the end-all-be-all for firearms instructor qualifaction is decidedly contemptible- who came up with that racket, a mafioso union boss? NRA membership should be an elective- NOT a requirement.

      It’s reprehensible, really.

      • Gunn, Are you a certified anything? What are your firearms quals? Do you have any other than Hoof-in-Mouth?
        You are entitled to your vaulted opinion. AS the NRA is doing the certifying it’s the NRA that sets the qualifications.

  11. “The Supreme Court case, New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, challenges a state law that requires authorities to exercise discretion when issuing concealed-carry pistol permits.”

    I didn’t know that exercising “discretion” involved the illicit exchange of money and goods from private citizens to city and state officials of New York.

    • Newshawk, do you have any evidence of this “illicit exchange of money and goods from private citizens to city and state officials of New York”?
      I am a proponent of the Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v Bruen, and as I have had a pistol permit my whole adult life, I know of no such “illicit exchange”.
      Provide some kind of evidence other than opinion, please?

  12. Practical recognition of gun rights is not a difficult problem. It doesn’t cost a dime, and there was about a decade where I could have been persuaded to vote if a candidate had been good for it. As naive as I was it never happened.

    The fight over gun rights is political theater. The NRA is winning at pretending to do something while protracting the fight. But they have a lot of help, from stupid old farts who wouldn’t know what to with freedom if it were tossed in their lap but enjoy partisan rancor.

  13. The title is misleading. Other gun right organizations are making headway in spite of the NRA. Which the NRA then takes credit for. All the NRA knows how to do spew fear porn and then beat their chest and beg for money. Ironically all at the same time.

    Lifetime member and they will not get a penny from me until Wayne and the entire board is gone. Meaning they’re never going to get anymore money for me.

    • Yes, and? How is owning a gun “wrong” or as you imply, “not right”? There have been oodles of allegations against the NRA most propagated by the anti-gun radicals.
      I fail to see your point.

  14. Membership consensus is Wayne and his pals have got to go first and depending on who the replacements are will determine donations. As it stands the current lack of donations will catch up sooner or later.

    • We can hope and pray the lack of donations hits them hard enough to get rid of Wayne. Then I will give again. I am an Endowment member for 20 years but haven’t given for 10. Wayne needs to go period.

    • Old age + golden parachute will do something about Wayne before you unaccountable tool bags. Then you’ll pretend you got what you want and refuse to question his replacement for 20 years. You’re like yap dogs, all bark, no bite. I kind of wish I were a lobbyist or megachurch preacher to cash in on it myself but the 9-5 would be more mind numbing than accounting.

  15. As a young man with a young family, I used to get their begging letters all the time and sent them money when I could. They weren’t very effective at stopping the communists, but they were the only game in town.
    Then I started hearing about the corruption; the shenanigans with the elections, the gun rights trade offs with crooked politicians, and the lavish expense accounts. And of course, the 4:00 bell where everyone went upstairs and drank better booze than I have ever had, and on my nickel.
    So I stopped donating. Better that my money feeds my kids than filling Waynes closet, or getting him into a five star hotel.
    A relative got me a life membership a decade ago. They sent me a knife to hang on the wall. Yipee. At least I got mine. I’ve talked to a lot of people who never got the toy they were promised.

  16. The Gallup poll cited had less than 830 participants, it is not representative of America at large. Additionally, when respondents were asked specific policies such as “should only cops have guns ” 80% said no.

    I would posit that most people who favored stricter gun sale laws are absolutely ignorant of existing laws.

  17. The field of political science is to science as communism is to humane governance.
    Both are fictions, and neither will ever be done correctly, even if the current crop of the right sort of people think they can.

    The United States was founded on personal liberty and the private ownership of property, and it was understood that to safeguard those concepts, citizens had to have the means to defend their liberty and property from thieves, brigands and governments.

    Europe, whence we came, had none of those things. The worst, most murderous political systems in all of Western history were born out of that.

  18. Regarding “support for stricter gun laws”…

    When you poll on *actual gun laws*, specifically, you will find that most people support loosening gun laws, and yet, when polled, they will say they want “stricter” gun laws.

    How is this possible?

    Easy – they have been badly misinformed as to what *actual laws about guns* are on the books. They are much stricter and restrictive than most people think. In fact, they are much stricter and more restrictive than most people would want!

    But of course, deception is the purpose of polls like that, so it’s not surprising.

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