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Conspiracy theories are all well and good–until someone puts a Twin Tower out. Then you take your eye off the ball, mistaking your friends for enemies and encouraging Mel Gibson to make movies that are only slightly more credible than Plan 9 From Outer Space. When it comes to separating fact from fevered imagination, go with Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is most likely correct.

On one hand, the National Rifle Association (NRA) may be endorsing/supporting/funding not-so-anti-gun candidates to ensure that they have something to fight against. Intentionally subverting their own cause to protect it. On the other, politics makes strange bedfellows; and boy, does the NRA sleep around.

Charlotte Gun Rights Examiner writer Paul Valone comes down firmly on the side of tin foil millinery . . .

If gun laws were suddenly declared unconstitutional or otherwise repealed, the NRA would be unnecessary. Given the salary and benefits accrued by NRA chief executives, success (and obscurity) is not an option.

According to the 2008 IRS Form 990 for the NRA1, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre raked in $1,263,101 per year; NRA Institute for Legislative Action EVP Chris Cox made $661,059; Treasurer Wilson Phillips made $649,463; General Operations Executive Director Kayne Robinson benefitted to the tune of $602,608; and last, Secretary Edward Land, Jr. trails the pack with a measly $509,186.

Plus health care, travel and expenses. But I’m not buying it. The NRA is a huge bureaucratic enterprise; they have an annual budget of $307 million and plenty of wampum in the war chest. Even if legislative reform suddenly rendered the 500-pound guerilla gun rights group in the room surplus to requirements, it would take them decades to collapse. Look at GM. IBM. Kodak. They’re still here.

Which is a bit queer—until you realize the sheer scope of their operations. As for those salaries, what’s the bet that the CEOs at the former giants still pull down gigantic salaries? Before he ran Chrysler into the ground, the Home Depot paid Chairman Bob “Prowler” Nardelli $210 million to screw it up and piss off. LaPierre and his cronies are hardly staring down the barrel of poverty now, or ever.

All that said, you don’t have to be a gun blogger to know that the NRA has been ramping-up the hysteria despite numerous gun rights victories. They see a direct connection between members’ paranoia and NRA donations. They’re institutionally addicted to the cycle of fear and fund-raising.

Which is, as Valone suggests, at least partially responsible for the NRA’s situational ethics. The bottom line: they’re like gamblers. Winning or losing is important, but being in the game is everything. There’s no getting around it: the NRA will play with anyone. And as long as the money keeps flowing in, failure is impossible.

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  1. Of course Wayne LaPierre and co. would take my definition of winnig and tell you that day will never come. There will always be some threat to our 2nd Amendement rights. Sadly, they'd probably be right.

  2. Ever see a John Goodman movie called Matinee? In it, Goodman was a B-movie producer who traveled from town to town, promoting one of his horror flicks. As he prepared to release his campy movie, a couple of guys showed up to stir up opposition to the film, as being bad for the kids in the town. Turns out, the two guys that were the ringleaders of the opposition were stooges that worked for Goodman's character, specifically to stir up controversy to increase awareness and interest in the film.

    I'm not sayin'…I'm just sayin'.

  3. I'm not really a conspiracy theorist but a lot of these sorts of organizations exist. Much of our government is entirely self perpetuating.

    In private industry it exists on a similarly broad scale. Take computer viruses. I bet most of them are made by Norton and McAfee. I really don't think there are enough vandals in the world to keep these companies as necessary as they've become.

  4. The NRA is pro-gun. Most of the time. Sort of.

    Recall that the NRA tried to quash the Heller case. When that failed, they filed their own suit, and tried to take over Heller. They wanted to avoid a ruling by the Supreme Court on whether the Second Amendment was an individual right. Same thing in the McDonald case, except they actually got a chunk of the time to argue the case and screwed up the "privileges and immunities" tactic that Gura had planned. (That approach would have given gun owners a much bigger club to wield against gun control legislation).

    The NRA always does just enough to be seen as "doing something" – but shies away from actually pushing for an all-out win. It's indecisiveness and lack of commitment to an all-out win is part of what keeps gun rights in legal limbo.

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