The NRA’s False Choice

Cross-posted from

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing, but this article written by Marine officers (there are no former Marines) is just too “on target” (please pardon the pun) not to share. I have nothing to add other than I agree entirely, especially with these two sentences:

“Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.”

“We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.”

The NRA Has Entered the Province of Cowards
by Joe Plenzler,
As Marines, we fought to defend the U.S. and its freedoms. The NRA’s new video campaign is dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance undermining freedom.

Over the past few weeks, the National Rifle Association has deployed several hyperbolic, incoherent, irresponsible, and divisive videos demonizing half of the American population in their efforts to recruit new members—beginning with Dana Loesch, followed by Greg Stenchfield, and most recently by U.S. Navy veteran Dom Raso.

Such fear-based incitements to hate and violence are the province of cowards.

These ads are official NRA TV products sponsored by Ruger and Kimber, both firearms manufacturers.

The NRA, founded by Union officers after the Civil War, was established as an organization dedicated to civilian marksmanship, gun safety, and Second Amendment rights.

However, this recent video campaign is a crescendo of increasingly partisan rhetoric on the part of the NRA, demonstrating that they are now dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance that increases polarization and discord within American society.

In tone and content, the videos are eerily reminiscent of the thugs and bullies that have historically executed violence in support of authoritarian regimes.

These NRA ads are a clear and sophisticated effort that use well established propaganda tricks to appeal to scarcity, fear, and the basest of human emotions. For instance, the unnamed “they” at the beginning of Loesch’s video establishes a cognitive frame for the viewer to insert their own personal boogeyman.

Moreover, the videos conflate the American public’s right to peacefully assemble, protest, and criticize their government with the violent criminal behavior of a small number of rioters.

The NRA props up the Second Amendment by undermining and vilifying the protections afforded in the First, and paints everyone who may disagree with the current administration, our country’s justice system, or the NRA’s partisan political position with a very dark and unjust broad brush.

The NRA ads depict a dystopian, violent present whose danger can only be met by heavily armed citizens, when in fact a recent 2016 FBI report shows violent crime in the US to be at a 20-year low despite the more than 33,000 gun-related fatalities in our nation every year.

Additionally, the NRA’s use of stock riot footage misrepresents the character of the anti-administration protests. The data on the protests since the inauguration show that less than 0.5% of all protests have resulted in any property damage, and even fewer have resulted in physical injury.

To the NRA, we ask Qui Bono—to whose benefit? This fear-mongering certainly does not benefit the American people.

The truth is that the NRA is engaging in shameless fear tactics to increase membership so they can put more money into the pockets of politicians in Washington so firearms manufactures can increase sales resulting in profits and returns to shareholders.

They are selling a false narrative that there is only one right way to be a patriot.

This divisive rhetoric is amplified by their deafening silence on the killing of Phillando Castile, a law-abiding gun owner.

They are preying on a fearful public, and this is unethical.

While we would expect Loesch and Stinchfield to engage in such paid partisan hyperbole, we are embarrassed that a fellow veteran like Dom Raso would stoop to partisan fear-mongering and denigrate himself in the same manner.

We expect more from our veterans.

You see, while we have spent the past 16 years fighting real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, extreme partisans on both sides of the political spectrum have been intent on waging a culture war at home.

It is time for this to stop.

During our combined 56 years in the United States Marine Corps, we served with Americans from every conceivable political, ideological, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic background—including foreigners who joined our military and helped fight our wars so they could earn a shot at U.S. citizenship.

Our experiences serving in every clime and place have taught us to be grateful for our ever evolving experiment in democracy, and have also shown us that there is no one right way to be Americans.

Indeed, true patriotism is not partisan, and the love of country and exercise of Constitutional rights is not the purview of any one group.

Each of us who volunteer to serve swore an oath to defend the Constitution and all of its amendments for every American—even those we may disagree with.

While we deplore the riotous violence of a few—completely overblown by the NRA—we respect the rights of the people to peacefully assemble and protest. We also respect peaceful civil disobedience. These rights are the cornerstone of our democracy, codified as the First Amendment to ensure that we can disagree, protest, and express our views without resorting to the violence of the past.

We also reject the most recent phenomena of labeling anything disagreeable as false or fake news. We believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, but nobody is entitled to their own facts.

We renounce the false choice presented by the NRA that Americans need to pick a team between the First and Second Amendments.

We believe that the use of intimidation, fear-mongering, and threats of violence to crush the people’s right to peaceful assembly, redress grievances, and maintain a free press is the first step in the march towards authoritarianism.

We believe that ALL of our civil liberties are worth defending for ALL Americans—including protection from the use of excessive lethal force by those sworn to protect and serve our communities.

We reject extremism in all of its forms—both emanating from the right and the left.

We believe that the way forward to bring our Nation together does not come from a clenched fist, rather it comes from an extended hand and a commitment by sane, common-sense, and courageous people to meet in the center and work toward the common good.

We believe that veterans, given the military’s cultural emphasis on service, nation before self, and teamwork can be useful in encouraging respectful civil discourse to solve our nation’s toughest problems.

We strongly believe in the sentiment first expressed by Edmund Burke, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing.

We believe that the majority of NRA members deplore the hate and fear-based tactics of the NRA leadership yet their dues and donations continue to resource the NRA’s incitements to hate and violence.

The silence of these good men and women is deafening.

What will you do?

Craig Tucker is a retired Marine Corps Colonel and decorated 25-year combat veteran. His combat command of RCT–7 in Iraq spanned 14 months and included the first and second Battles of Fallujah, numerous smaller actions and a Purple Heart for wounds received in combat action north of Husaybah Iraq.

Kyleanne Hunter is an 11-year Marine Corps combat veteran and decorated AH–1W Cobra helicopter gunship pilot. She served combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a tour as the Marine Corps’ Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives. She is a former NRA member.

Joe Plenzler is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and decorated 20-year combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He served from 2010 to 2015 as the spokesman, speechwriter, and staff group director for the 34th, 35th, and 36th Commandants of the Marine Corps. He is a former NRA member. ■

23 thoughts on “The NRA’s False Choice”

  1. “…Selling more guns for their ‘real’ members, the firearms industry, by any means necessary.”

    You display a profound misunderstanding of NRA membership, Bruce. I hold a very high level membership in the NRA, and I have never doubted for an instant that the goal of the NRA is to protect the 2nd Amendment, promote the safe handling of firearms, and to encourage marksmanship training throughout the Nation. It is, of course, in the interest of firearms manufacturers to support the NRA because their future depends on exactly what NRA does. It is also in my interest for firearms makers to remain healthy and solvent to support my collecting and shooting interests. But the financial contributions to the NRA by firearms manufacturers is minimal. The vast majority of financial support for the NRA comes from us, the members.

    The reasons people buy guns are as varied as the people who buy them. You say it is out of xenophobia, but I don’t think so. I think the fear is from a fear that the 2nd Amendment is under assault and they need to buy firearms while they are available. You probably haven’t noticed it, but since Trump came to office, firearms sales are down, and there is a glut of firearms for sale and BIG bargains are available. That doesn’t sound like xenophobia to me.

    “As a nation we now calmly accept that a lunatic with a high-powered rifle can walk into a school and murder kindergarten kids and nothing substantive will be done, it’s just ‘bidness as usual’.”

    That is simply not true. What doesn’t happen (Thank goodness!) is what you call “substantive”. What you want is ridiculous “feel good” laws that would do nothing to change what happened from happening again, or what would happen in the future. We know this is true because some states have passed what you would call “subtantive” laws and they have had ZERO effect.

  2. The relationship between the 1st and 2nd amendments i8 is very simple: without the 2nd there would be no 1st.

      • “Surely you can come up with a better comment than a cheap bumper sticker slogan.”

        Why? He said it all in very few words. I would agree with the old saying that brevity is the soul of wit. He had nothing more that needed to be said, “cheap bumper staicker slogan” or not…

        • Shirley the good Senator is capable of answering for himself. Or are you his designated lickspittle?

          • “Shirley the good Senator is capable of answering for himself.”

            Of course he can answer for himself, but I have noticed he doesn’t usually respond to smaller comments like yours, and I couldn’t resist. I happen to think that bumper stickers are very interesting because they are short, concise, and pack a lot of meaning into few words. When I read his comment, I liked it and may have seen it before on a bumper sticker. Thus my response to you.

            “Or are you his designated lickspittle?”

            You are very welcome! I don’t often give you easy opportunities for gratutitous personal insults. I hope you enjoyed it! ;o)

        • How about “Live free or die?” Upps, that is a license plate slogan. Do you think that is a cheap slogan? Or “Give me liberty or give me death?

          • Hi John,

            The Shirley was addressed to Steve and the correct reply is “Don’t call me Shirley”; or have you never seen the movie Airplane?

            And please don’t equate NRAesque nonsense with legitimately revered phrases from our nation’s history. Thank you.

  3. every time it is put up to a vote do you want to control guns or gun control advocates the voters vote to control gun grabbers. how many great democrat office holders have we lost in the last 40 years because they listened to the syren song of the gun grabbers. bernie sanders dominated white male voters in the primaries over this issue. wisconsin, michigan, pennsylvania and nearly minnesota ring a bell? in the latest poll. polling everyone including non citizens to get trumps negatives up. 58% don’t support trump ;but 57% don’t support gun grabbing democrat party! the polls show the democratic party can stick russian/trump election collusion where the sun don’t shine! only 1% more say trump sucks worse then gun grabbing democrats! get rid of 2 amendment or get rid of gun grabbers the voter say get rid of you!

  4. Lynda,

    I was not referring to you when I referred to leftist extremists who will use the Marines article to their advantage. I consider you to be a reasonable person with strong convictions, not an extremist. I just wanted to make that clear.


  5. I feel extremely bad that these Marines are being used by one of the extremist groups they are speaking out against. There is much wisdom in what the Marines said and – because it appears to give them an opening – the far left has jumped right in behind them, pretending that they agree with the Marines about all the extremist rhetoric. You see, the Marines, in speaking the way they do, easily appeal to the conscience of the right, primarily because there is a conscience there. There is nothing similar to a conscience on the left so it will have no effect on the left except to provide an opening for further and harsher attacks on the 2nd Amendment because of the “extremists” in the NRA that are “outside the norm of decent human beings”. After all, if you can damage the NRA, you can damage the 2nd Amendment.

    And make no mistake, the Marines failed to understand that their calm and reasoned voice was going to be usurped by voices on the far left and used to erode rights under the 2nd Amendment. In three months those Marines are going to feel quite sheepish and foolish that their words are beings quoted widely and misconstrued greatly. They will not recognize what they wrote when given the ways it will be twisted and misused by the left in furtherance of their goals of eliminating any rights under the 2nd Amendment. These Marines are decent people who can’t imagine what is going to happen to them now that they have entered the left’s political sphere of influence and have no way of knowing just how badly they are going to be mauled by the process. They thought fairness and honor were the issues; they will soon realize that fairness and honor have NO place in leftist politics. I feel bad for them.

    And for you yahoos that think, “Hey, it’s the 2nd Amendment, who cares?” Remember that these same leftists are the same cretins that want the 1st Amendment gutted, as well. They don’t like free speech; they don’t like similar minded people who think differently from them gathering together; and they aren’t very hot religion, either.

    Yes, what the Marines said is nice and it would wonderful if we could function that way. But anyone who truly thinks that is how we can win debates today isn’t paying attention. Extremism is the way of the day and anyone who moderation will carry the day is in for some severe disappointment.

    • Steve,
      I totally don’t get how you can say there is no conscience on the Left. I feel that way about those in charge of the GOP. My initial reaction to your words was WTF??? And FYI, there may be a fair number in “The Left” who don’t like the 2nd Amendment, but the vast majority of us realize it is a right guaranteed by our Constitution and that it is not going away. Many of us also own guns and hunt and/or recreationally shoot. What we want is responsible gun ownership that helps reduce the senseless deaths and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that. No need to try to turn it into some diabolical plot on the part of “The Left.”

      • “I totally don’t get how you can say there is no conscience on the Left. I feel that way about those in charge of the GOP.”

        First, I should have written a caveat for my opinion: “This opinion does NOT reflect my opinion of most of the posters on this blog. Rather, it is my opinion of your more radical brethren and only a couple of the posters here.” I was not not thinking of you when I wrote this, Linda. Like most posters here, you hold strong opinions, but you don’t seem to mind hearing the other side and arguing a good argument defending your opinion.

        Although you didn’t intend to, you answered your own question within your question. I firmly believe within the ranks of the left are many extremists who have no concience and believe the only thing that matters is winning. Just as you believe the leadership of the NRA has no concience. We each have segments of our support that will go too far in trying to achieve victory. It is too that group that I addressed my opinion peice. I firmly believe they will distort what the Marines wrote to their own ends without regard to what the Marines were actually trying to say.

    • I don’t get it, Steve. You hold “the Left” in such contempt, yet you spend a significant amount of time at this blog trying to engage the very people you despise.

      Why bother?

      • I have told you many times, Liza, I do not hold people here in contempt. I hold certain leftists in contempt, but there are only a couple posters here that come close to that level of leftism. I find most of the posters here to be quite reasonable and very hospitable. Even when discussions get heated, almost everyone here keeps it in proportion and doesn’t take it personally. So, once again, I don’t hold people here in contempt…I like most of the people here. That’s why I bother, Liza!

  6. I heard a tale of a guy who owned a firearm, got licensed, got a concealed carry permit, and got pulled over for a busted tail light. He told the officer that he had the firearm and permit with him and was reaching to show the officer the permit when the officer freaked, drew his firearm, screamed “Put your hands where I can see them” and then fired 13(?) shots, killing the guy. According to the police video the time from the driver telling the officer he was reaching for his permit to the shots being fired was a second or two.

    Overreaching government authority resulting in the murder of of a citizen licensed to concealed carry a firearm. Seems the NRA would be throwing one of their loud fits over it? Pretty much crickets.

    Did I mention the driver was a black man named Philando Castile and the officer was white?

    • “Did I mention the driver was a black man named Philando Castile and the officer was white?”

      And because the passenger in the car was black and the officer was white, you assume the officer was at fault. You ignore the many reviews that the Officer went through that found he was in the right for his actions. And you ignore the video tape showing that Castile refused to do what the officer told him to do and created a situation where the officer felt his life was at risk. In short you imply the officer was at fault because Castile was black and the officer was white.

      I have gone on more than 200 ride-alongs with various Police Departments around the Valley and one thing I have notices is that a high percentage of blacks, when pulled over or found at a crime scene, feel no compulsion to do what Police Officers tell them to do when told to do it. Not all of them, but easily more than half. That creates are tremendous amount of risk for Police Officers because they have no idea what that failure to comply means. Does it mean the person encountered is harmless and just wants to do things their own way with no harm intended? Or are they intent on doing something bad to hurt the officer and get away? I have seem remarkable restraint on the part of officers when dealing with blacks under these tense circumstances.

      I firmly believe that if everyone who encounters a Police Officer would remain calm and comply with what the Officer asks, these bad encounteres could be reduced to almost zero, regardless of the races involved.

      I also firmly believe that all of these people who think they know so much about Police Officers on the job and what they should do, should go on ride-alongs with their Police. I cannot imagine how you can speak knowledgebaly on the subject until you do. And I am positive it would open some eyes as to what the Police encounter and how it affects their job performance.

      • Steve, Steve, Steve. You miss the point. Philando calmly did everything he was supposed to, was complying with the officer and got murdered for this trouble. The point is the NRA has been pretty silent on this while if the murdered man was white they’d be screaming from the rooftops about the injustice of it all.

        You would understand that if you weren’t such a sanctimonious twit.

        • Philando calmly did everything he was supposed to, was complying with the officer and got murdered for this trouble.”

          He was NOT complying with what the Officer told him to do. That was the reason he was not held responsible for the shooting. Castilo did not put his hands on the dash as he was told to do. Instead he went reaching for his paperwork (we assume because he said that was what he was doing) and the Officer thought he was going for the gun and shot him. That is the point I was trying to make about blacks not feeling they need to comply with what the Police tell them to do.

          “The point is the NRA has been pretty silent on this while if the murdered man was white they’d be screaming from the rooftops about the injustice of it all.”

          You have ZERO evidence to say that and ZERO historical precedence to base it on. Nothing. Zip. Nada. Your entire reason for saying it is you hate the NRA. You create an evil strawman and then act as if it is real. You just made it up, Wileybud.

          “You would understand that if you weren’t such a sanctimonious twit.”

          Really? Again, you dislike me so you make something up and act as if you really know something when, in fact, you know nothing about what I “would understand”. And, of course, you make a sweeping assumption that you are correct and there is something to “understand”. You are not some magician with deep insights as to what might have been.

          In other words, Wileybud, you are making this whole thing up based upon your prejudices and biases. Unfortunately, you seem to think that they are facts and are presenting them as such. That just doesn’t work, Wiley…

  7. ” they are now dedicated to a xenophobic policy of violent hatred and intolerance ”


    Guys, they’ve been dedicated to just one thing ever since Wayne LaPierre and his merry band of sociopaths took over the organization:

    Selling more guns for their ‘real’ members, the firearms industry, by any means necessary.

    They’ve been ginning up racist, xenophobic fear to sell guns since the 90’s, and it clearly works, because the US is awash in firearms.

    As a nation we now calmly accept that a lunatic with a high-powered rifle can walk into a school and murder kindergarten kids and nothing substantive will be done, it’s just ‘bidness as usual’.

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