I'm an endowment member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) -- that's one step above the venerated "life member" status. Most of the time I agree with NRA's stand supporting the rights of gun owners over the regulatory authority of the government. Mistakes can be made either way, but when in doubt, I prefer erring on the side of the citizen over the police power of the state.
This past June the US Supreme Court, in the landmark case, DC v. Heller, ruled that the government may not ban commonly owned guns for self protection. It was a very tempered decision, but a humongous victory for American gun owners. Gun owners across the country should be rejoicing after this victory. We achieved one of our most important goals.
Yet, watching the NRA's current ad wars against Sen. Obama you'd never know there was a Supreme Court case. As I pointed out in my book, Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, the NRA leadership would rather fight than win. Fighting is good for membership recruitment; it's good for direct mail fundraising and it's good for lots of press coverage, but is it really good for American gun owners?
NRA's exorbitantly paid senior staff and consultant corps need to have a dragon to slay in order to feed their incessant money machine. Obama is their latest dragon. But, it's without merit. Obama supports the Second Amendment and he's unabashed about saying so.
If Obama wins the Presidency NRA leaders will have a new enemy to fight (even if he doesn't want to be our enemy). If McCain wins, their lobbyist buddies and former senior staffers will have access and high-level appointments in a McCain administration. So, NRA executives win either way. There is, however, a double standard at play. Let me provide one example: If Barack Obama announced he was bringing Andrew Cuomo, the former Secretary of HUD who fancied himself the point-man of Bill Clinton's "anti-gun crusade" into his administration, the NRA's leadership would come unglued. Yet, when John McCain suggested he'd appoint that same Andrew Cuomo to a senior position in his administration, not a peep!
Why aren't the leaders of the "gun rights" movement in America pleased with the fact that the Democratic nominee for President has reached out to gun owners in re-assuring them that he supports gun ownership? True, his past votes from ten years ago were not encouraging, but he's made great strides. I was very impressed by the Obama campaign's TV ad featuring an NRA life member. Also, not too many years ago, in July of 2001, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's Chief Executive, was allowing the NRA's magazine, America's First Freedom (no link), to state that John McCain was "one of the premier flag carriers for the enemies of the Second Amendment." But, now McCain is their guy. It seems to me that NRA leaders are more concerned about what's good for NRA leaders than they are about what's good for American gun owners.
This is an exciting moment politically. Both candidates are vying for the votes of almost one hundred million gun owners. This should be a great victory for the gun issue and the NRA. But, they're ignoring this development just like they're ignoring the Supreme Court decision.
As a gun owner, I want both parties' nominees to support my rights. As a gun owner it's in my interests that the gun issue has been largely resolved by the Heller case. I can cast my ballet on the basis of other more contentious and significant issues that need to be decided.
As a gun owner I care about the environment. I want pristine places to shoot, hunt and hike. As a gun owner and taxpayer I care about and am deeply concerned about our failing economy - no jobs and no money means no new guns! As an American, I am mortified about our unraveling financial crises - this is as scary as I've experienced in my lifetime. As an American I care that we're caught in a terrible situation in Iraq with no easy way out and a more compelling need to fight in Afghanistan and our President says we don't have enough troops. As an American I'm disturbed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declares that the "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road." I want America to lead the world again - morally, economically, politically and not be challenged militarily! As an American I want America to be that "shining city on the hill" that Reagan spoke so eloquently about. In short, I want the country I love so much, the country I grew up with back, NOW!
As a voter, I haven't made up my mind who I'm supporting on November. But, in my view, Obama has neutralized gun as an issue. It sure would be helpful if NRA leaders looked ahead to the problems facing Americans who own guns and not just backwards to the good old days of " liberal gun grabber" bashing. It's worn pretty thin and really has gotten kind of old. Frankly, guys, our side won - move on already!
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