NRA: It’s good to live like a king

Rather than acknowledging their membership base, the NRA seems to do what it can to simply make the most profit.

Supreme Court Releases Ruling On Challenge To City Of Chicago''s Handgun Ban
Ronnie Barrett, an NRA board member, shows a conflict of financial and corporate interest by also manufacturing the REC7 – which is similar to the popular AR-15 semi-automatic rifle (pictured)  [CCmr.smashy]

There was a time, back before the late 1970s, when the National Rifle Association (NRA) represented their members. But not anymore.

Once they fully re-entered the world of politics on the heels of the Cincinnati Revolt, they became corrupted by the very special interest politics from which they claim to protect their members.

With their decision to reject the calculated negotiation of their previous “old guard” board members, who for example, came out publicly in support of a proposed ban on Saturday Night Specials by then-senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, they embarked upon a “no compromise” plan of action for the future.

“This, of course, made them natural allies of the gun manufacturers, who like arms dealers everywhere are far less interested in who they are selling weapons to than that they sell as many weapons as possible.”

Cliff Schecter

This, of course, made them natural allies of the gun manufacturers, who like arms dealers everywhere are far less interested in who they are selling weapons to than that they sell as many weapons as possible.

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence that the NRA’s mission has nothing to do with its members, but everything to do with protecting the profits of the gun manufacturers who support the organisation with big bucks – not to mention pay the million-dollar-plus salary of the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.

After all, those lunches at The Palm aren’t going to just pay for themselves.

In the December issue of the American Institute of Philanthropy, its “Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report” showed that when including all categories of “compensation” LaPierre came in fourth on the “charity” list with a healthy $1.281 million per year. Apparently, some non-profits can be profitable for some.

In February of 2006, a blog called Gun Guys run by the Freedom States Alliance, a 501(c)(3) organisation working “to reduce gun violence in America” found that LaPierre’s then-million dollar package was the equivalent of 35,000 NRA membership renewals.

One wonders whether these members know that not only are the views of LaPierre and the rest of his leadership team way out of touch with its membership – who overwhelmingly support universal background checks for gun buyers and stopping those on terrorist watch lists from enjoying easy access to firearms (see Part I of this series for poll numbers) – but that they are also subsidising LaPierre’s lavish lifestyle.

This might explain the NRA’s need for constant crisis marketing (Obama’s coming with the Legion of Doom to take your guns!) to misinform the public at large and shake their members’ wallets loose – the NRA’s very own “We’ve got trouble! Right here in River City!” routine.

Of, course, the direct influence that gun manufacturers exert over the NRA and their huge windfalls when there are runs on guns and ammunition, also readily explains the NRA’s play to paranoia and fringe politics, and their view that no gun sale is a bad gun sale.

In fact, if you’re looking for more than circumstantial evidence, the Center For Public Integrity will make your job easy. This past week they sent out a press release that started in the following manner:

It’s no accident the National Rifle Association staunchly supports high-capacity magazines – it gets money from their manufacturers every day. Missouri-based gun company MidwayUSA pioneered a fund-raising tactic called “Round-Up.” The program involves asking customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar. The company then donates the difference to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, a lobbying arm of the gun rights group. Since 1992, MidwayUSA, along with other firearm companies, have funnelled a total of $7.5 million to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action using the “Round-Up” tactic. MidwayUSA’s wares include high-capacity magazines similar to those used in the Arizona shooting spree…

If that doesn’t make the symbiotic relationship between the NRA and the gun manufacturers undeniable, maybe an additional investigation by the Center For Public Integrity, with additional research by the Violence Policy Center (VPC), will do the trick.

Among its other delivered nuggets of wisdom, the fact that co-owner of MidwayUSA Brenda Potterfield is also the National Rifle Association Foundation board vice president. Meanwhile, another NRA board member, Ronnie Barrett, manufactures the REC7, according to the investigation, “an AR-15 type assault rifle which comes with two 30-round ammunition magazines.”

Then there is Pete Brownell who owns Brownells Inc, “which sells a wide-range of high-capacity ammunition magazines for pistols and assault weapons, including the same capacity Glock magazine as the 33-round magazine used in the Arizona attack.”

As you can imagine, it is not NRA members who sponsor its National Youth Shooting Sports Ambassadors. Its Brownells. In fact, when seeking support from his campaign for the NRA Board, he all but admitted that his industry’s interests were 100% in tune with the “overall mission of the organisation”.

Arguably the best evidence is provided by Tom Diaz, author of Making A Killing and former NRA member and “gun nut” by his own admission. That is until he discovered in the course of working as an attorney on the House Crime Subcommittee that:

the gun industry and manufacturers had changed the profile of who their target market was. It was not about self-defence or the right to bear arms. They were hyper-marketing very lethal guns and they flooded the US with them. The NRA doesn’t represent sport shooters and hunters. They were selling these killing machines.

In other words, what the NRA does has nothing to do with its members. They have created ever more lethal gun designs, laughably argue that one needs high-capacity clips for “defencive situations”, (you never know when Genghis Khan and a platoon of Mongol soldiers might be right around the corner) and have supported concealed carry laws, according to Diaz, all in an attempt to keep selling ever more guns and gun paraphernalia.

It’s not about the rights of hunters and sportsmen. It’s simply about the right of Wayne LaPierre and his plutocratic pals on the NRA board to get ever richer as the body count mounts.

Even Robert A. Levy of the libertarian Cato Institute, who served as co-counsel in the Supreme Court case that established a second amendment right to bear arms, stated that “I don’t see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines…The Second Amendment is not absolute.”

But then again he is not in the business of manufacturing guns. He is actually trying to protect what he sees as constitutionally granted rights.

Perhaps his final quote was most apropos. Levy said a high-capacity clip ban “…may stop a few of these loony tunes.” One wonders if he was talking about the Jared Loughers of the world or the “charity” organisation who would put these weapons of mass destruction in their hands.
This is the conclusion of a two-part series.

Cliff Schecter is the president of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

Follow Cliff Schecter On Twitter: @Cliffschecter

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.