June 10, 2004

I Told You So?

Say Uncle discusses this article by Robert Ricker.

Ricker is a former firearms industry insider who switched sides to support various lawsuits against firearms manufacturers.

This is what Say Uncle found interesting:

"Even more interesting is the fact that the NRA doesn't speak for even its most diehard members. NRA leaders such as Wayne LaPierre and Kayne Robinson are pragmatists. Others, such as NRA board member and former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, are pure right-wing partisans who care more about electing Republicans than protecting gun rights.
The tension between pragmatic NRA leaders and the minuscule number of diehard right-wing board members played itself out in the debate over the immunity bill. According to insiders, LaPierre was willing to accept a renewed assault weapons ban in exchange for passage of gun industry immunity. But when the far-right factions of the NRA found out, Wayne's world came crashing down. The NRA was forced to issue a statement denying any deal and ultimately had to oppose final passage of the immunity bill with the assault weapons ban and gun show amendments attached."

This seems to support my views on the NRA. However I must point out that Ricker is a partisan for the other side in this issue so his views, even when they would seem to substantiate mine, aren't entirely trustworthy. He may very well be accurate, but given his situation I just don't trust him.

Another thing of interest he mentioned was this:

"Now, because the assault weapon issue is front and center, tensions are boiling over within the NRA in a more public way. Diehard pro-gun advocates tend to be more libertarian than conservative, and many are organizing against Bush because of his position on assault weapons -- much to the dismay of LaPierre and other pragmatic NRA leaders. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has advised that if the president were to publicly call on Congress to pass the assault weapon renewal bill, it would happen. The NRA board of directors knows this and recently sent a ham-fisted message to Bush: no NRA presidential endorsement until after the assault weapons law expires in September. Bush knows that no recent Republican candidate for president has been elected without the NRA endorsement."

Again the source is not entirely credible because of his motives, but his assessment isn't too different than mine.

Ricker goes on to suggest that Bush actively support a renewal of the "Assault Weapons" ban because the NRA cannot protect him from the non-NRA voters who will be offended by its sunset.

It should be obvious (except to those who think I'm too pro-gun & therefore must be Sarah Brady in disguise) that I don't agree with Ricker's conclusion. I think the number of people who would not vote for Bush if an AWB renewal becomes law would far outweigh any votes he'd pick up. Most people who support the AWB are likely to vote for either Kerry or Nader. They won't change their mind about Bush because he caves in to them on one issue. His supporters however will drop him if the AWB is renewed & that represents a more serious concern than the idle hope of taking votes away from Kerry or Nader because of a gun control law.

In fact, Ricker says:

"Democrats and moderate Republicans are beginning to understand that the gun lobby, led by the NRA, does not really represent the views of mainstream U.S. gun owners.
I can tell you firsthand that the power of the gun lobby is more perception than reality. After all, there are 80 million gun owners in America; only 4 million are NRA members. And many of these join only to get the gun magazines or insurance. They believe in the Second Amendment but understand that an AK-47 isn't a hunting rifle."

I agree in part: I think the NRA doesn't represent the views of most gun owners. Most gun owners when given the facts on the issue wouldn't support the compromises or the gun control that the NRA supports.

& I agree that only a fraction of gun owners are NRA members & many of those join the NRA for other reasons than agreeing with the NRA. But contrary to Ricker's idea that many join for the magazines or insurance (which many do) I'd estimate more people join the NRA because NRA membership is required to certain firearms ranges & shooting sports.

Where I find Ricker's direction flawed is that he feels the NRA is too extremist in their views whereas I think if they took a harder no compromise stance they'd increase membership. I think most people wouldn't want any compromises on gun control if they have all the facts before them. I could be mistaken but from what I've seen (admittedly this is anecdotal) most people aren't happy with the NRA because they compromise too much, not because they don't compromise enough.

& Ricker makes two errors with his last sentence. The first is he states that an AK-47 isn't a hunting rifle. This is inaccurate. The 7.62x39mm cartridge that the AK-47 fires is ballistically very close to the .30-30 Winchester cartridge & with the right bullets would be suitable for small deer sized game at moderate distances (say under 200 yards).

But he tries to confuse the nature of the 2nd amendment: it's not about hunting! It's about having arms for defense against any force that would deprive you of freedom. In the context of the times the main concern was a military force, foreign or domestic, that would try to subjegate a people. The 2nd Amenment protects hunting in the same way the 1rst amendment protects discussions about sports. They both could be considered covered by the respective amendments but the main purpose of the amendments is slightly different: the 1rst amendment is more concerned with political speech & the 2nd amendment is concerned with martial arms. This doesn't negate them being used to protect talk about sports or arms used for hunting, but it doesn't negate the main purposes behind either amendment.

So while I would welcome vindication of my views concerning the NRA I wouldn't taje Ricker's statements alone as that vindication. His motives are suspect & there's no way to verify hsi information - at least the information he presents as attributable to insiders. He may very well be correct that the NRA was willing to cut a deal & it's something I suspect. But Ricker's word alone isn't enough to cinvince me of anything. What he says (about the NRA deal) seems plausible & fits within my assessment of the NRA's nature, but he offers no supporting evidence.

I still think my views of the NRA are strong enough on their own to be considered "spot on" but some verification would help convince people. After all, I'm just an anonymous blogger who has nothing but the NRA's track record to base my view on (which you'd think would be enough but interpretations can vary). As much as I'd like to point to Ricker's staement about the NRA & shout "I told you so" at the NRA apologists his lack of credibility prevents me from doing that.

Still, if he is correct then the most important thing to realize is that the NRA was prevented from making another deal because os us. The "die-hard" pro-gun people made a lot of noise over the LAwsuit Immunity bill voted on in the Senate last March. Blogs, news sites & message boards made people aware & the people acted. That's encouraging.

Unfortunately we may have to do a repeat of our activities to stop the AWB renewal Feinstein has on the floor of the Senate as we speak. Keep checking back here for updates on that.

Posted by Publicola at June 10, 2004 03:45 PM
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