Previous Post
Next Post

Lech Marcinkowski (courtesy

Lech Marcinkowski, advisor to the president of the Republic of Poland, penned this piece in praise of the NRA. Republished with permission from

Despite all of the criticism directed at the National Rifle Association (NRA), I find their presence beneficial to democracy in the U.S. and I wish a similar organization appeared in my own country, Poland. As a Marshall Memorial Fellow, I recently met with NRA representatives in Washington, DC. This marked the first time I was confronted with a comprehensive set of arguments for bearing guns . . .

I was fascinated by the actual power of an organization that was founded in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”

There is abundant research on the NRA and its influence on the political life of the U.S. It claims to have over 5 million members, of which over 3 million regularly pay their dues. Most of their income is from contributions, grants, royalties, advertising, and the firearms industry. Many would characterize the NRA as one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the U.S.

In addition, it seems to be an organization with the ability to successfully engage average citizens in debate and encourage them to participate in the political life of the country. One of the most notable results of their efforts seems to be a large number of bumper-stickers devoted to this subject.

These stickers are fun, but don’t let that distract you from their impact. The NRA is able to encourage people not only to post a sticker, but also to be engaged in political life. It runs voter registration drives; Get Out The Vote campaigns at the national, state, and local levels; it recruits, trains and mobilizes Election Volunteer Coordinators; and it remains politically active throughout the United States despite being a “single issue” organization.

I witnessed a political rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, where a former governor was endorsed by the NRA as a Senate candidate. About 200 people participated in the event, which featured the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the former NRA president and current attorney general of South Dakota. The candidate, Mike Rounds, hoped he would gain from the campaign organized by NRA supporters, who cheered loudly at every promise he made about the right to bear arms.

How can such a marginal movement (marginal in terms of their area focus of) have such a beneficial influence on the political activity of an average American? It might be due to a very controversial yet simple subject, and a strong reference to the Constitution. By basing their rights on the Second Amendment, the NRA constantly reminds Americans about the importance of the Constitution and the necessity to respect it.

Leaving aside the debate of whether the Founding Fathers meant single-shot, muzzle-loading muskets or semi-automatic shotguns, the discussion is anchored in the law, as citizens always coming back to individual liberties, directing individuals’ attention to their rights and responsibilities.

Upon reflection regarding civil society in my country, Poland, I see a need for such an organization to mobilize citizens. It has been only 25 years since the fall of communism and yet the turnout in general elections rarely reaches 50% of eligible voters, not to mention the low participation in NGOs or civic actions at both local and national levels. The quality of public debate is also poor.

Is there any issue in my country so contentious that it would spark permanent civic involvement throughout the country? Is there any organization with, at least in theory, comparable potential outreach? Unfortunately, I do not think so.

Would I be willing to pay the price that Americans do to have such an organization? In addition to violent crime, there comes the knowledge that everyone around you can have a gun.

However strange it may sound to opponents of the NRA, I would be willing to pay this price for the benefit of democracy– so essential do I find civic participation.

Lech Marcinkowski, Advisor, Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, is a 2014 Marshall Memorial Fellow.

Lech Marcinkowski currently serves as key advisor to the Chief of Staff at the Chancellery of the President of Poland in Warsaw. Prior to this he was director general of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, where he was responsible for the 500+ staff of civil servants at the centre of government. His previous professional experience includes leading internal inspection functions in the government, where he introduced performance auditing into the Polish administration. Marcinkowski worked for several years for the National Audit Office and holds a number of professional certificates (CFE, CIA, CGAP, CCSA). He was a Hubert H. Humphrey fellow in 2008-2009. He is a graduate of the National School of Public Administration and the University of Warsaw

Read more:
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
Follow us: @Ammoland on Twitter | Ammoland on Facebook

Previous Post
Next Post


      • Yep. He said that we pay the price of violent crime by having the NRA, but he thinks it’s worth it. It made some sense until that point. He hasn’t a clue that the organization doesn’t create the crime, nor do guns…

        Did YOU read the same article?

        • He attributes the violence to the ubiquity of firearms, not the NRA. More importantly, he says the price is worth it.

          You might want to read it again.

        • He attributes the violence to the ubiquity of firearms…

          That is an incorrect attribution, and that’s what we have a problem with. The ubiquity of firearms doesn’t cause violence. Criminals cause violence. Armed, law-abiding citizens reduce criminal violence.

        • “Would I be willing to pay the price that Americans do to have such an organization? In addition to violent crime, there comes the knowledge that everyone around you can have a gun.”

          He says he would be willing to pay the price that we do IN ORDER TO HAVE THE NRA. That tells me that he believes that violent crime is a by product of the NRA, but it’s worth the cost.

          This isn’t praise for the NRA.

        • Violent crime correlates to out of wedlock child birth. It does not correlate at all to the number of guns in the hands of the law abiding.
          But it is another one of those things that is not allowed to be discussed for fear of being called RACIST.

  1. It just goes to show a foreigner has more respect for our Constitution and rule of law then most of our citizens do.
    Certainly more then a side of our politicians do.

  2. Yup. He raises very good poi.ts, but lost me when he said that he would ‘pay the price’ of having armed citizens around him.

    Deeply anti gun…

    • Nah, he’s been indoctrinated for his whole life. He’s one of the ones we should be trying to convince, and kudos to the NRA for trying. Next time, take him to the range and show him the stats on law-abiding gun owners. He’s winnable.

    • Liberty always has a price. Freedom of speech empowers bigots and racists. Freedom of religion empowers death cults and charlatans. Freedom from unwarranted search and seizure gives comfort to criminals. Freedom from self incrimination shelters the corrupt. And the freedom to keep and bear arms entails plenty of risks; a bad man with a gun is something to fear indeed.

      But it’s all worth it.

  3. I’m from Poland and I will only say that we are totally disarmed society located between Germany and Russia.

    Getting a permit to legally own modern firearms is very, very dificult, yet not impossible. Takes 8-12 months at least, requires club membership, medical and psychological examination, passing a test (legal issues and firearm handling, with or without shooting test, depending on the type of the permit). It costs at least ca. 500 USD, not counting actual shooting training.

    Pre-1885 non-cartridge firearms and their replicas as well as black powder are legal to own and carry without any paperwork.

    Almost all knifes, other edged weapons and low-energy (below 17 J) airguns are virtually unregulated. However, for some reason crossbows are treated almost like firearms.

    Hunting permits are the most common, but it is still only some 75.000 people in a population the size of California. Other non-carry permits amount to less then 20 000. Carry permits are virtually non-existent at just few thousands, basically reserved for politicians and wealthy businessmen.

    According to the newest version of the self-defence law, passed some four years ago, you may stop anyone violently attacking anything protected by law (live, property, even somebody else’s honour) by whatever means you deem necessary. But in practise If you hurt or kill the attacker in Poland, at worst what can happen is you can be arrested for murder or a criminal assault. It may well be somewhere down the road, after you’ve gone through a legal nightmare, that you’re cleared of these charges, but in the meanwhile you can be bankrupted from the legal expenses, and have your reputation ruined, and nobody reads it on page eighteen that Mr Kowalski was cleared of those charges.

    • I live in a Chicago suburb that is heavily Polish. Until this past year, we had a gun range in town, and there were a lot of Polish clientele. They did tend to skew a bit younger than the overall customer base with most in their 20’s and 30’s. I was surprised to later learn that Poland has one of the lowest gun ownership rates in Europe.

    • So, getting a license to buy a rifle in Poland is like getting a license to fly an airplane in USA? (in USA, we don’t need a license to buy an airplane, just need one to make it go fast enough to leave the ground)

      • Actually, I’m not sure about that. Maybe a pilot could clarify, but if it’s an experimental aircraft and you keep it below a certain altitude, I don’t think you need to involve the FAA at all. I wouldn’t swear to it though.

        • Was a pilot once, so I’ll try to remember this accurately.

          An experimental aircraft has little FAA involvement with the aircraft. The level of FAA involvement with aircraft probably exceeds the ATF’s involvement with NFA weapons, since for most aircraft the FAA looks over your shoulder at just about any mod you want to make to them (“experimental” being the exception). The pilot on the other hand, remains heavily regulated, with a license, needing to have the proper ratings for the aircraft flown (though I don’t know how that plays when the aircraft is experimental), and those ratings get complex in a hurry; the basic rating just gives you the legal ability to fly a small single engine prop job. Furthermore the pilot is required to take refresher training every two years AND must maintain a medical certification to fly. Many pilots are grounded by “losing their medical.” A lot of this seems worse than it is, as you’d be out of your fricking mind to take a guy who trained on single engine planes and drop him directly into a jetliner. He wouldn’t know how to operate it, and wouldn’t have a clue about how it performs and how to land it. (He could certainly steer it, as long as nothing went wrong…a large part of pilot training is what to do if something goes wrong.)

          On the other hand none of this is needed to fly an ultralight, which are basically unregulated, but those are basically hang gliders with engines and maybe a chair.

          Overall, the FAA is FAR more intrusive in the daily flying activities of pilots than the ATF ever dreamed of being with gun owners, and their regulations on aircraft have a lot to do with the ridiculous prices of parts, etc. for aircraft.

  4. Mr. Marcinkowski clearly understand guns just slightly more than a member of the California state legislature. There’s nothing pro-gun about his missive, but he still supports the NRA. That was very interesting.

    It’s also worthwhile reiterating, as Mr. Marcinkowski did, that Poland has the misfortune of being located between Russia and Germany, which is pretty much like being located between a hammer and another hammer.

  5. I don’t understand this part:

    Would I be willing to pay the price that Americans do to have such an organization? In addition to violent crime, there comes the knowledge that everyone around you can have a gun.

    Is Poland devoid of violent crime?

    Also, does the author not take note that the vast majority of such violent crime happens in the parts of the US that are the most disarmed?

  6. His argument is basically right except that multiple studies (independent and also the FBI) have 100% disproven the statement that more guns = more crime.

  7. Also being Polski, our peeps deaths in WW2 were second to the Jews about 5 million give or take. I wish we would model our nation statement after the Jew’s …..never again. Family history indicates I lost a great great Grandmother in Treblinka.

    • as I recall,based on percentages, the Poles lost the largest portion of their population in the war than any of the other nations in Europe.

      The sad part is that we used to have a guy who claimed to be from Chicago and was from Polish ancestry who commented here and he was a dedicated racist and Nazi fan. Lower case matt. I think RF finally banned him.

      • I’m 99% sure I saw lower case matt commenting on youtube videos under an alias since he left here. He was giving the exact same “I’m slavic but heil hitler anyway and god damn the U.S. military” speech; even had the SS lightning bolts set as his picture. Some fools never learn.

        • Sad, really. The internet, like alcohol, brings out the real man. Would not be a bit surprised to learn matt’s momma did drugs while she was carrying him.

      • Yea he probably just changed his internet handle and is commenting on this article now and reading our comments about him. There really is no such thing as “ban” for forums or Internet blogs, etc.

  8. Dear Lech: You aren’t gonna get much help from J’FnKerry or Obama, so my advice is you do this:

    Read “The Rise of the Anti-Media” for a good history of the NRA. Here is the kindle version- for ten bucks.–Forming-Americas-Concealed-ebook/dp/B00FX758S4/ref=la_B001KI7E4Q_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416187252&sr=1-7

    Here is an bona-fide American gun-guy review, and IMHO you’d be hard pressed to find better advice than from Dean Weingarten on CCW issues:

    Here is the author’s blog, with coincidentally a nice review of Halbrooks “Gun Control and the Third Reich” another you will find highly useful perhaps in understanding the “opportunity cost” of Polands gun control now.

  9. Not to go too far OT, but since this thread is about foreign policy, and Mexico is foreign,

    so useful that I could get away with dropping it in here- maybe for a separate article by someone on staff.

    Pretty much makes the point about immigration and gun control that the NRA has been trying,
    but failing to connect the dots on, pre-and post-election buzz-

    but is most timely now- in view of pending executive action, with some history and proof.

  10. Would I be willing to pay the price that Americans do to have such an organization? In addition to violent crime, there comes the knowledge that everyone around you can have a gun. This depends on which segment of the USA is being compared to Poland. European America to European Poland and the ratios are not so bad.

  11. Poland has one of the worst gun laws in Europe, actually probably way worse than UK.

    Poland and the Czech Republic share very long border and yet they could not be more different. The Czech Republic is 80% atheist country where you can grow your own pot and easily get the shall issue concealed carry license (which will, apart from your pistol, cover also semi-auto rifles, notwithstanding the barrel length or magazine capacity), you have personal freedom on a level that my American friends tell me they didn’t know existed. Then there is the deeply 95% Catholic, next-to-no chance to get a gun gay bashing Poland. I think you can guess that Poland has by far higher criminality compared to the Czech Republic.

    Most of the border between the two countries is comprised of mountain ranges. To the South there is the country with probably the best gun laws in Europe and to the North with arguably one of the worst. The border is free to cross and tourist tracks often lead to the summits zig-zagging the actual border. Then you get to the top and stand on the border directly – legally CCWing with you right leg while your left leg is asking for a couple of years in Polish prison.

    • Don’t worry, the EU will crush the life out of whatever freedoms the Czech Republic has. Even a non-member like Switzerland is feeling the pressure.

      • You can feel only as much pressure as you allow. Nobody is forcing Switzerland to participate in the four freedoms. But if you want to eat the cake, you need to play by the rules.

        Deciding to play by the rules but avoiding the seat at the table where the rules are made really is the dumbest decision the Swiss (Norwegians, Icelanders) could make. Stop blaming deux et machina, nobody can force Swiss to do what they don’t want to, especially with the marvelous referendum system you have. You don’t like it, leave it.

        The main gun related evil from Brussels is the mandatory gun registration. But we had it in the Czech Republic before we joined, so I can’t complain on EU there either.

  12. “Poland has one of the worst gun laws in Europe, actually probably way worse than UK.”

    Not true. UK, Japan and South Korea have the worst. You CAN get a gun in Poland (including handguns), but it takes almoast a year and costs a lot of money.

    • That is weird statement considering that UK has many more guns per capita than Poland.

      Isn’t it easier to procure a hunting rifle (with all the licenses etc.) in UK than in Poland?

      Poland: 1.3 guns per 100 residents.
      England Wales: 6.2 guns per 100 residents.
      N.Ireland: 21,9 guns per 100 residents.

  13. I would guess this man has a good understanding of freedom issues in the abstract, but hasn’t thought the gun issue all the way through, and is still confused by a lot of lies. (He’s willing to pay the price for freedom, but doesn’t realize the price he thinks he has to pay–isn’t in fact being charged!)

    He needs education, at this point, not condemnation.

  14. Yeah, if I was Poland id want an armed populous too. You’d think they’d learned that lesson long ago, but better late than never. With the return of the Bear in the east I’m sure allot of Eastern European countries are thinking the same. The only thing that’s going to counter Russian military Adventurism is force of arms, a force of an armed populous resisting a Soviet invasion through guerrilla war. The US and Western Europe have not the stomach, capital or might to push the Red Army out of it’s bordering states, but Russia and Putin were scarred by Afgahnistan, and the more Soviet soldiers come home from Eastern Europe in zinc lined boxes the sooner the Bear will be quelled. If not, then half or more of Europe will be under the sickle. Or the cressant….

    • European Honkey Tribe. They all look alike. My ancestry is mostly Scot. We have to wear different colored kilts to tell each other apart.

  15. Heh… well… as Poland is next to Ukraine… I imagine it’s a pretty decent “price” (?!) if Mr. Putin decides to come a knockin’.

  16. This Lech Marcinkowski guy sounds like apparatchik. His confused gobbledygook is not representative of what Polish people think or say.
    I travel to Poland time and again. There is no real chance to get your ‘gun permit’ there unless one is with a (secret) police. Engangement with a ruling party helps, too.
    The gub’mint guys give guns to their comrades and apparatchiks, but not to anyone else. Most if not all registered hunters are chosen from rank and file of secret police, as well. Hunting permit is considered a sort of promotion under the policemen there. Some prosecutors and judges can get guns, a few sportsmen, after many hoops, but no one else.

    The populace is hopelessly disarmed: practically nobody has a gun, though many could easily afford it financially. Yet the rulers (there was never a hint of communism in Poland, only rule by “friends of the friends” i.e. foreign rule by the Russkies and their pawns) deem the society “not mature enough” to be allowed to keep and bear arms. So some 1% of stiff apparatchiks are armed whereas 99% (the nation) are not. The apparatchiks are always dripping with antigun propaganda – particularly the armed ones. 99% of the Polish people are disarmed and denied the right to defend themselves.

    You easily find out, who in Poland is false like a three-dollar-note: those who say they are ‘democrats’ surely are. Those babbling about the ‘fall of comunism’ definitely spit misleading propaganda, too.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here