“Top officials from the National Rifle Association, whose annual meeting Friday featured an address by Trump for the third time in three years, traveled to Moscow [in December 2015] to visit a Russian gun manufacturer and meet government officials,” washingtonpost.com reports.
The Post’s article Guns and religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia suggests that the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation influenced the President’s views on Russia. Like this . . .
At least one connection came about thanks to a conservative Nashville lawyer named G. Kline Preston IV, who had done business in Russia for years.
Preston said that in 2011 he introduced David Keene, then the NRA’s president, to a Russian senator, Alexander Torshin, a member of Putin’s party who later became a top official at the Russian central bank. Keene had been a stalwart on the right, a past chairman of the American Conservative Union who was the NRA’s president from 2011 to 2013.
The Post also reports that the Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottleib participated in the Russian pro-gun charm offensive.
In Russia, Torshin and an aide, a photogenic activist originally from Siberia named Maria Butina (above), began building a gun rights movement.
Butina founded a group called the Right to Bear Arms, and in 2013 she and Torshin invited Keene and other U.S. gun advocates to its annual meeting in Moscow.
The event, where about 200 people gathered at Moscow’s convention center, included a fashion show in which models donned “concealed carry” garments with built-in pockets for weapons.
One American participant, Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, recalled that Torshin and Butina took him and his wife out for dinner and gave them gifts that displayed research into their interests — exotic fabric for Gottlieb’s wife, a needlepoint enthusiast, and for Gottlieb, commemorative stamps that Torshin received as a member of the Russian legislature.
“They wanted to keep communications open and form friendships,” Gottlieb said.
Ms. Butina denies the implication that she was a tool of the Russian government seeking to curry pro-Putin influence. But that doesn’t stop The Post from trying to connect the dots.
Butina, now a graduate student at American University in Washington, told The Post via email that her group’s cause is “not very popular” with Russian officials and has never received funding from the government or from the NRA. She said she has never worked for the government and added that she and the American activists she has befriended simply share a love of gun rights.
“No government official has EVER approached me about ‘fostering ties’ with any Americans,” she wrote.
[Retired CIA officer Steven L. Hall] said he was skeptical. He said he did not think Putin would tolerate a legitimate effort to advocate for an armed citizenry, and asserted that the movement is probably “controlled by the security services” to woo the American right.
Also attending the Moscow junket: NRA spokesman Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. An event that featured a prominent Russian politician.
The group toured a gun manufacturing company and met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who was among the officials sanctioned by the White House following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Keene told the Daily Beast, which first reported the meeting, that the interaction with Rogozin was “non-political” and consisted of touring the headquarters of a shooting group that Rogozin chairs.
The Post goes on to detail Ms. Butina’s lobbying efforts in the U.S. prior to the Trump election.
Reading between the lines, considering The Post’s headline, the anti-gun news org is implying that the Russians “got to Trump” via the NRA, as part of a wider effort to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Is there anything wrong with the NRA and SAF establishing ties with pro-gun rights Russians? In The Post’s world, yes. In the American gun rights community, doubtful. Your take?