The soul of the NRA

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the National Rifle Association's 141st Annual Convention, held in St. Louis, Missouri.

While I'm not currently a gun owner, I have nothing against guns or gun enthusiasts. I've owned guns in the past. I was raised around guns. And I enjoy emptying a few rounds just as much as the next guy.

I imagine very few things in life relieve stress better than completely destroying a life-size zombie target down on the family farm - except, maybe, playing the drums or having sex, the latter, of course, being the most fun.

In fact, my father-in-law is an NRA member. Both he and my stepfather have conceal-and-carry permits. And it's not uncommon for either one of them to surprise me with, "Hey, check out what I got."

So I don't have a problem with the NRA, or with most NRA members. But, like my father-in-law and stepfather - and probably hundreds of thousands of other gun owners - I'm terribly concerned about the NRA's right-wing politics and support for anti-union political candidates.

When I first got to the NRA Convention I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew there would be a huge exhibit hall full of gun manufacturers hawking their latest designs. I figured there would be exhibits for merchandise peripheral to the gun industry - people showing off their new gun-sights, binoculars, hearing protectors, deer-scented sprays, turkey grunters and other hunting related products.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to see charities for disabled service men and women and police officers. I was pleasantly surprised to see NRA sponsored firearms training programs, NRA emergency roadside assistance and gun safety rules brochures.

The NRA even has a youth magazine - The Eagle Eye - highlighting volunteers who work with youth and teach gun safety.

Eddie Eagle, the NRA youth mascot, says: "If you see a gun - Don't touch. Leave the area. Tell an adult." It's good advice.

There was even a NRA wine drinkers' club!

However, I did not expect to see booths for silencers and specialty bullets. I didn't expect to see scantily-clad women holding semi-automatic weapons and signing posters, sexualizing an already over-sexualized weapon.

Nor did I expect to hear crazy Ted Nugent ranting and raving about "chopping their heads off in November." He was referring to President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton, all of which, according to Nugent, are "criminals."

I didn't expect the blatant disrespect heaped upon our Commander and Chief. Agree or disagree with our President, but he is still our President. He was elected by the majority of the American people. And he doesn't deserve to be likened to a "coyote pissing on your couch" that should "be shot," as Nugent said.

Which leads me to ask: Has the NRA been taken over by crazy, right-wing nuts?

The exaggerated masculinity - of which there can be no better example than the loaded gun - the just a little crazy Ted Nugent, and the right-wing shock jock conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, mixed with guns in a highly charged political context is not a good combination. In fact, it's a little scary.

Additionally, why are all of these people so paranoid? Do they honestly believe that the president is going to take away their guns?

From what I can tell - in spite of all of the pronouncements to the contrary - there seems to be no shortage of "freedom" and "liberty." The Second Amendment is safe!

Most Americans - those without criminal backgrounds - can openly sell or buy semi-automatic weapons, silencers and specialty bullets. Which Second Amendment rights are being infringed upon here?

And as for Nugent or Beck, are they demented marionettes paid to keep people in a state of frenzied shock and fear so they'll buy more guns?

They both say our Second Amendment rights are in danger of being taken away. However, the evidence just doesn't support the conclusion.     

In fact, I would argue that the biggest threat to the Second Amendment right now is the right-wing co-opting of the NRA. These people give all gun owners a bad name.     

If the average NRA member is like my father-in-law or step-father - people who like to hunt, shoot targets and want to feel safe in their own homes - which I believe is the case, then the NRA needs to do some serious house cleaning.

And they should start today!

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  • House cleaning is exactly right! I have been an NRA member for years and my father and son too. It is hard to believe an organization could stoop so low as to make Palin, Beck, Gingrich and Nugent spokespersons for it. They have nothing to offer in their quasi intellectual speak. They are just being used to reach out to the lowest common denominator.

    The best days of the NRA may be long gone. I am sorry to see an organization that has done so much good go so wrong, but it was probably just a matter of time.

    Posted by Mike Greer, 05/01/2012 2:33pm (3 years ago)

  • I read these comments, and they only back up what has been stated in the articles written on the 141st NRA convention. the NRA and its leaders speak constant misinformation. it is unjust and terrifying.

    i am a Communist, a member of the Communist Party, and i own more than one gun. i believe that a gun lobby group needs to be unbiased....it should never be expand its objectives past influence related to gun laws. when a person brings religion, economics, race, or party politics into the scope of focus...they are out of line. besides, if all guns were made illegal, i would just keep the damned things anyway.

    Posted by Nicholas James, 04/20/2012 2:16pm (3 years ago)

  • of course this is right. now what y'all seem to be confused about here is this "political specturm" nonsense, bs , there's no such thing as left and right, thats where this is wrong, its just a vague as heck break down of society. there's only wrong and right. now "unions as enemies of society" perhaps you've been drinking too much privilege kool aid sir? What makes you think companies are your friends? Sorry 90% of the congress is antiamerican, but you know i doubt you know why, you know the reason why? cause they want to rob us and destroy what little democracy their is. get real

    Posted by rapper34, 04/19/2012 9:35pm (3 years ago)

  • Thanks for the report from the floor of the NRA convention. We all hope sensible members will re-take the NRA.

    Posted by kddidit, 04/19/2012 9:21pm (3 years ago)

  • The NRA has become an ATM for the Republican Party.

    Posted by Jim Williams, 04/19/2012 8:41pm (3 years ago)

  • Mr. Pecinovsky, Your article is only interesting in that it is an odd mix of non sequietors and inaccuracies. "I didn't expect to see scantily-clad women holding semi-automatic weapons and signing posters, sexualizing an already over sexualized weapon" and " The exagerated masculinity- of which there can be no better example than a loaded gun". What on earth do these two statements have to do with anything other than to try to denegrate those with whom you disagree. I would have to assume you are either projecting or have fixated on some of Freud's since debunked physcology theories. By the way, while I disapprove of using sex to market anything, it is used commonly. To say you didn't expect it means your are disingenous or naive (have you ever been to a car show?).
    The rest of your artcle claiming parania on the part of the "right wing crazies" includes no evidence that O'Bama doesn't want to restrict andor decrease people's ability to protect themselves with guns. There certainly is evidence that he is not friendly to gun rights. Since it was to much work for you I did a 5 minute search and found: 1) Huffington Post 03/15/2011 "O'Bama looking for ways around congress on gun policy. 2) 03/30/2011 O'bama telling Sarah Brady we are looking at ways to do things "under the radar". 3) Questionaire from 1996 (when running for state senate in Illinios) checked "Yes" to question "do you support legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and posession of handguns?". 4) Pittsburg Tribune 04/08/2008 quote attributed to O'Bama "I am not in favor of concealed weapons" 5) As state senator in Illinios voted to leave gun makers and dealers open to lawsuits for actions by third parties. 6) Not to mention the infamous quote about us in the midwest clinging to our religion and guns. 7) Administration support for the UN Arms treaty. 8) The Department of Justice allowing guns to be sold to the Mexican drug cartels and allowing them to be taken across the border without the knowlegde of the Mexican government (breaking International law). With those guns being used in crimes on both sides of the border including the killing os U.S. border patrol agent Brian Terry. 9) Changes in ATF policy (without congressional approval) that target certain jurrisdictions and asking for records they have no legal right to.
    Right, parania?

    Posted by Dale, 04/19/2012 2:43pm (3 years ago)

  • Thanks for this excellent and thoughtful piece, Tony. The far-right leadership has much to account for, including pushing these Stand Your Ground laws which are opposed by law enforcement. They push racism as much as the machoism. But in the end, the NRA is the lobbying wing for arms manufacturers! They are not truly representing the interests of working class people and gun owners, or upholding the 2nd Amendment. They represent corporate interests to maximize profit for a multi-billion - perhaps trillion - dollar industry. And all the reactionary politics flow from that.

    Posted by Terrie, 04/19/2012 11:47am (3 years ago)

  • Well, Tony, as a former (and never to be again) union member, my position is that if the labor unions would STOP SUPPORTING THOSE CANDIDATES THAT WANT TO DESTROY AMERICA, maybe we wouldn't have so many "anti-union candidates".

    As an American conservative, I, and others like me, have suffered an enormous amount of criticism, verbal abuse, threatened physical abuse, vandalism, property damage, and other undeserved actions at the hands of our "union brethren". The last union I belonged to screwed me out of a 6 figure job.

    Unions have outlived their purpose(s). They used to stand for workplace safety, competitive wages, better working conditions, and the principle of "an honest days' work for an honest days' wage".

    These days, they are out to control the markets, demand ridiculous wages and benefits, and in general screw over anyone that will not buckle to their extortionary tactics.

    If unions were so concerned about a beeter way of life, why do they ALWAYS support the unAmerican, lying, cheating, arrogant, power hunger wannabe dictators like Clinton and Obama?

    Posted by TSgt B, 04/19/2012 10:55am (3 years ago)

  • "However, when the largest advocacy group for this right is right wing, it poses a problem to leftists who believe in this right."

    Only in your own mind. If you are so narrow minded that you cannot see that a simple human right can be defended by both sides of the political spectrum, then you will deserve the helplessness being foisted upon you by your fellow travelers.

    Posted by Jim In Houston, 04/19/2012 10:35am (3 years ago)

  • I agree. As a communist, I believe the right to own arms a fundamental right of the people. However, when the largest advocacy group for this right is right wing, it poses a problem to leftists who believe in this right. On a similar note, it is a shame that the democrats are often trying to limit this right, as a true leftists should support more freedom.

    Posted by Jason , 04/18/2012 7:10pm (3 years ago)

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