Michael McNulty: ‘The NRA has abandoned the sportsman in every practical sense’


Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The Washington Post published this opinion last Friday by Michael McNulty, an attorney in Tucson, and the chairman of the Gabrielle Giffords for Congress campaigns in 2006, 2008 and 2010. I am surprised that it has not been republished by our Arizona newspapers, so I will post in full here. Why killing is a profitable enterprise – The Washington Post:

It is easy to ignore the issue of gun control, given the perfect leaderlessness it enjoys in Congress. Then again, it becomes harder to ignore when your relatives or friends are murdered in the company of someone you idolize, which describes thousands of us in Tucson.

I have owned guns, continuously, since I was 6. I still own my grandfather’s pump-action Winchester, carried for decades in a scabbard behind his saddle as he rode the range where he ranched, in Wikieup, Ariz. All the guns I’ve owned have been what are quaintly called long guns. I began my brief assault on local fauna at age 12, and I had “taken” four white-tailed deer, a couple of javelina and innumerable quail and dove by the time I got my driver’s license at 16. A driver’s license is a far greater liberator than a hunting license, and thereafter, trekking around in the wilderness killing things lost its luster. It has been decades since I engaged in those adventures.

There are, today, few who hunt with handguns or assault rifles equipped with 100-clip magazines. There are even fewer reasons to do so. But the National Rifle Association’s principal focus has evolved mostly to those. It is news to no one that the NRA has abandoned the sportsman in every practical sense; if the group were honest, it would change its name. Speaking as a rifleman, I think it’s an embarrassment.

The NRA not only dependably opposes limits on assault-rifle sales but even opposes reporting bulk sales of assault rifles. Last year, the NRA went to the mat to prevent anyone from cross-checking the names of those on the terrorist watch list against the names of those buying guns. These two actions clarify beyond argument that the safety and welfare of you and yours have simply dropped from the NRA’s list of priorities. The NRA represents gun manufacturers, end of story.

Now, handguns excel at certain things. They are unequaled at killing people at close range: quite useful for law enforcement officers and drug dealers. They’re genuine security in a drawer for those who have received unambiguous threats, like my friend Gabby Giffords. They’re even a useful, if dubious, tool to defend yourself from murderers and rapists breaking in at 2 a.m. That hasn’t happened to me in the past 60 years, but maybe your experience is different. NRA President Wayne LaPierre thinks it may happen to you tonight: If you search YouTube for “The NRA’s Circus of Fear,” you’ll find a collection of LaPierre’s reasons why he lives in fear, and his arguments as to why you should, too. Personally, I think that “living in fear” is inconsistent with being an American, and I’m not going to play.

But how else are the gun manufacturers going to “grow the market,” to sell more than the 3 million handguns they already do per year? Fear is a great motivator; mass murder is great for the gun business.

Just days ago a dozen citizens were murdered and about five dozen plugged with slugs from a trinity of firearms. Setting aside the shotgun, it bears mentioning that the Glock and assault rifle James Holmes is suspected of firing in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater were being used for the purpose for which they were designed, manufactured and sold. But the gun makers have no product-liability litigation to worry about, because in 2005 Congress approved and President George W. Bush signed into law legislation providing immunity for gun manufacturers from the foreseeable consequence of building instruments of murder. Every year three times as many people are murdered with guns in the United States as were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. But blessed be the gun makers, for they are pardoned in advance.

It strikes me that the NRA is pretty comfortable when debates over mass murder devolve into intellectual discussions relating to civility vs. demagoguery, insanity vs. impressionability, and freedom vs. the tyranny of gun zealots. The more abstract, the better. In the end, however, it’s simple: The NRA shills for gun makers who profit from the murder of American citizens. If you think the country’s policies are shaped by Judeo-Christian values, you’re not paying attention.


Recently, Mayors Against Illegal Guns hired Frank Luntz to poll a sample made up of 50 percent NRA members, Luntz Poll: NRA Membership Supports Gun Sensible Control | Crooks and Liars, and found a real split between their support for sensible gun laws – and that of the rabid NRA leadership:

Mayors Against Illegal Guns today released the findings of a survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz showing that NRA members and gun owners overwhelmingly support a variety of laws designed to keep firearms out of dangerous hands, even as the Washington gun lobby prepares to spend unprecedented millions supporting candidates who pledge to oppose any changes to U.S. gun laws. The poll also dispels the myth among many Washington pundits that there is a lack of public support for common-sense measures that would help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and keep Americans safe. Among the survey’s key findings:

  • 87 percent of NRA members agree that support for 2nd Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
  • There is very strong support for criminal background checks:
    • 74 percent support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun.
    • 79 percent support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees – a measure recently endorsed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry.
  • NRA members strongly support allowing states to set basic eligibility requirements for people who want to carry concealed, loaded guns in public places. By contrast, the NRA leadership’s top federal legislative priority – national reciprocity for concealed carry permits – would effectively eliminate these requirements by forcing every state to allow non-residents to carry concealed guns even if they would not qualify for a local permit.
  • NRA members support many common state eligibility rules for concealed carrying:
    • 75 percent believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanors, including assault.
    • 74 percent believe permits should only be granted to applicants who have completed gun safety training.
    • 68 percent believe permits should only be granted to applicants who do not have prior arrests for domestic violence.
    • 63 percent believe permits should only be granted to applicants 21 years of age or older.

The NRA rank and file also supports barring people on terror watch lists from buying guns (71 percent) and believe the law should require gun owners to alert police to lost and stolen guns (65 percent).


  1. The people who pay for NRA membership fees every year are voting for the group and its efforts (and its board of directors) whether or not they happen to send in a ballot for any given candidate for its board of directors. If a NRA member didn’t support the group and its board of directors it could cast a vote of disapproval by not sending in a check.

  2. Here’s the problem with your argument. I checked into what it takes to be a “voting member” of the NRA. You must have a Life or higher-level membership for at least five years to be eligible to vote.

    Gun advocate Neal Knox writes “To their perpetual shame, the vast majority of NRA members eligible to vote simply don’t bother. . . While every NRA member eligible to vote receives a ballot in their regular NRA magazine, fewer than 7% bother to return them. That’s a pretty poor showing for the oldest and most powerful civil rights organization in the country.” http://www.firearmscoalition.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=599:nra-directors-election&catid=19:the-knox-update&Itemid=144

    “Much of the blame for this sad state of affairs belongs to the NRA management rather than its members. There is generally so little information available about the candidates that many would-be voters don’t feel qualified to cast a ballot. For decades NRA elections amounted to a rubber stamp for a good-old-boys club. The Nominating Committee would offer the members 25 names to fill 25 vacant seats. Voting was a formality.”

    “Since most members get virtually all of their information about candidates only from NRA magazines, and those magazines are controlled by people whose livelihoods depend on keeping the good-old-boy’s-club rolling, the election results are pretty easy to predict.”

    This is typical of any organization. Shareholders rarely attend annual shareholder meetings, and the few who do are loyal supporters of the board members.

    It is a fallacy to argue that the board reflects the will of the membership; it only reflects the will of the few who even bother to vote.

  3. I’ll focus on the second half of this post. The fact that the NRA continues to exist and continues to reap millions of dollars of member revenue is pretty good proof that contrary to the various polls referred to above that the NRA is in fact doing the job that its members want it to do. If there is a group that wishes to advocate for the various political positions polled for there is absolutely nothing stopping them (in this case Michael Bloomberg’s pet group Mayors Against Illegal Guns) from doing so. The proof of membership support is ongoing membership checks, not a poll question even if posed by Frank Luntz and his staff.

    The difference between the easy polling questions and the real life world of black and white laws is where the rubber hits the road. NRA members if given an option to renew their membership with the NRA and the option to send a membership check to MAIG will continue to send their checks to the NRA because just like 51% of American voters they know that MAIG and the other gun control advocacy groups want nothing more than to make it as difficult as politically possible for Americans to own a gun (long, short or medium sized) and to increase the power and staffing of gun regulatory agencies.

    While the task of limiting gun regulations and scaling back counterproductive gun laws is a monumental task the NRA (on a good day) does manage to chip away at some poor laws and manages to publicize the actual effects of some proposed gun laws.

    If the gun control lobby really were committed to getting common sense gun laws passed they would collaborate with the NRA instead of trying to pass 100 new variations of gun control laws that are really recaps of 100 old gun control laws that never worked effectively in the first place.

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