The NRA is a Huge Swamp Creature


New Orleans   The National Rifle Association or NRA is rarely confused with anything that would seem soft and fuzzy given its hard edge, take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs attitude about anything that might even vaguely resemble gun control.  When President Trump speaks of cleaning up the Washington DC swamp of lobbying and influence peddling, he pretty much has his hands behind his back and his fingers crossed, but if he were serious, the NRA is proving that it is a huge swamp creature.

They are now being investigated on a number of fronts, most seriously by Leticia James, New York State’s attorney general and the former Public Advocate in New York City.  James believes that their incessant lobbying and political work might disqualify them from enjoying a tax exemption.  A former head of the IRS Tax Exemption Section was quoted in the New York Times saying that “The N.R.A. is willing to play fast and loose with tax regulations,” indicating that there is likely fire underneath all of this smoke.

So, what’s up?  Well, it’s not the usual pro-gun, anti-gun thing.  It’s something way more stinky, according to current reporting.

On one hand its internal conflict at the board level of the NRA, and they are giving information directly to the New York Times.  Yes, I know this sounds like fake news, but none of this is anonymous.

Partly it has to do with the NRA’s top brass going way overboard and linking hands with the screaming banshee part of the rightwing.  A weird television enterprise called, not surprisingly, NRATV, which has been involved in flat out hate-mongering via their wild-eyed spokeswoman, Dana Loesch.   She ran a children’s show with KKK hoods, and quoting the Times, she referred to

gun-control advocates as “tragedy-dry-humping whores” and vowing to combat the left with what she called the “clenched fist of truth” — a body part that the comedian John Oliver said was located “a little past the bent elbow of nonsense.” In one video, she warned The Times, “We’re coming for you”; in another, she threatened to burn a copy of the newspaper.

Guns or no guns, let’s agree, that’s some wild over the top stuff!  Even Wayne LaPierre, the NRA EVP and master of their aggressive strategy was supposedly “livid” and “embarrassed” by this stuff on their channel, and he is never embarrassed, even by mass shootings of children!

On the other hand, there seems to be a pile of self-dealing and personal enrichment within the NRA as well.  The Ackerman McQueen ad and PR firm that has been flacking for the NRA for decades and receiving millions and millions by the boatload has also given work to relatives and LaPierre’s wife through subcontractors.  Board members are unsettled by all of this as well, and

…have also expressed concern about the size of payments to the ad firm that produces NRATV, Ackerman McQueen. The firm and its affiliates pocketed $40 million from the N.R.A. in 2017; billings directly to Ackerman have increased nearly 50 percent since 2015.

There’s an old saying about bullies that if you slap back, that run screaming.  The bullies of the NRA may be about to take exactly that kind of whipping.


Shoot to Learn

shootingLittle Rock    At dusk we rode to an abandoned area miles from people and highways and placed targets on old logs nestled up against a large hillside berm.  The uncle and brother-in-law had been a gun safety instructor in the National Guard, and carefully explained to each one of the novice shooters who had never fired pistols and hardly ever touched a shotgun, how to load, where to carry the firearm, and how to work the safety, before they pointed down range and took their shots.   Later, across a patch of indented valley, everyone took shoots at the skeet, until they were able to hit one in the air.  And, everyone learned something, including how much of living and dying is luck, and, let’s tell the truth, they all thought it was both fun and exhilarating.

The National Rifle Association, the fabulously right wing NRA, and politicians of the same persuasion were highlighted recently for running raffles to harvest names of potential supporters by giving away tricked up shotguns, and then using the names of the losers to launch their foaming at the mouth fundraisers.  There’s nothing illegal or unethical about that.  My brother-in-law, sometimes sympathetic to their pleas, has never swallowed that bait or joined the NRA, not trusting what might happen, and that’s probably smart as well.   I was a gifted member as a boy, given a membership free for a year after having taken a gun safety instruction at Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in New Mexico when I was 13 years old.

Watching one movie after another and TV series of every description, guns seem like toys and part and parcel of some kind of magical realism, where death becomes more colorful than real.  In our cities,  the OG’s, rap culture, guns blazing, is part of the constant comment.  Wildly, various legislators want to arm teachers and pretty much anyone and everyone else wherever they are and whatever they were doing for reasons unknown with abilities untested.

How do we put all of this together, rationally?

People need to understand how dangerous guns are.  Simply being afraid of them isn’t enough.  They doesn’t quite dispel the exotic or teach the respect, and defeat the mystery, which can be compelling and attractive.  People need to feel the kick, and reckon with the fact that they have so little control on the course and direction of the bullets, even in the best of situations.

And yet, the issue for the gun folks is the desire to either carry a concealed weapon or to brandish one openly.  What warped romanticism imagines in a modern, high tech society that an atavistic, Thunderdome world of armed and dangerous people would make anyone safer?

Wilderness skills, hunting and gun safety, and similar competencies are invaluable, but our mothers were right, “there is a time and place for everything,” and contrary to the fear deep in the heart of so many, that’s not in either cities or public places, where the armed, become mainly the dangerous, and the truly dangerous are perhaps still able to distinguish the amateurs from the professionals, and life and death are important to keep very separate in harmony and balance, none of which works down range.