One of the more contentious topics here on TTAG concerns the NRA, its mouthpiece, Wayne Lapierre and some of the positions it takes (or doesn’t) on various issues. I’m not here to try to defend all that the NRA does (or doesn’t do). I don’t always agree with how they conduct business and certainly concede that the scare tactics they sometimes use to drum up donations don’t sit well with me. I’m also aware that other organizations such as the Second Amendment Foundation often do a lot more for gun rights in certain cases and that the uncompromising views that they hold on Second Amendment rights more often resonate with hard line gun owners than some of the compromised positions that the NRA has taken over the years. All that said . . .
It’s important to remember that the NRA is by far the largest of the gun rights groups, boasting something on the order of 5 million members. The Second Amendment Foundation claims 1/7 of that as of last July (I’m sure they’re bigger now, but still small compared to the NRA). The SAF has been in existence for nearly 40 years, but few people outside of the gun movement have ever heard of it. A few years ago, before I purchased my first gun, I had heard of the NRA, but none of the other gun rights groups. The NRA is frequently cited by anti-gun zealots, but the SAF or other groups rarely get a mention.
What got me thinking along these lines was the speech that Wayne gave last Friday at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo. He mentioned the NRA’s membership of 5 million members and frankly, that seemed small to me. According to the National Institute of Justice, as of 2009, there were over 310 million firearms owned by Americans. Certainly that number has grown over the past three years, but let’s use that as a starting point.
Assuming the average household owns 10 guns (a big assumption I know, but I’m trying to make a point here), that works out to at least 31 million households with guns. Assume further an average of two people who are into firearms in each household and we wind up with about 62 million people who care about guns in one way or another. With the population of the U.S. hovering a little north of 300 million, it’s easy to see why the gun control lobby is starting to realize that they may have awakened a sleeping giant.
Politicians and the gun control lobby fear the NRA with good reason. And this is with only 5 million members. What would happen if the NRA grew to 30 million or even 60 million members? I suspect that we’d see a lot fewer politicians on the national, state, and local levels who want to mess with Americans’ gun rights.
So this, then, is my argument for joining the NRA — even if you don’t always agree with them. The mere existence of millions of acknowledged gun owners who care enough about their rights to join an organization that most of the time is pushing for expansions of those rights sends a powerful message. Why wouldn’t you? Go ahead and join the SAF, too, but join the NRA first.
At $35 a year, it’s a small price to pay for the amplification of the pro gun message that the NRA could project with significantly swelled ranks. Think of it this way as well – the more members who join, the more powerful the organization becomes. The more powerful it is, the less it has to compromise any Second Amendment principles to get the job done.
I’m not saying you need to give the NRA one dime more than the annual membership fee if you don’t like something they’re doing. All that I’m asking is that we create an organization of sufficient size that its mere existence serves as a deterrent to politicians who think that they “know better.”
Go ahead and hate Wayne. Complain about the compromises the NRA makes. Say and do whatever you feel like doing, but remember the strength that comes with numbers. As citizens in the U.S., we have great disagreements with each other about all kinds of things, but none of our enemies attack us because they know that we’ll quickly come together to form a united front against our opponents. As gun owners, I concede that we have our internal squabbles, but now is the time to come together against the outside forces who wish to take our rights away.
Join the NRA. Then — by all means — please go back to bitching about them.