This will be a short piece but I want to take a minute and warn you about the tons of supposed gun rights groups that have popped up to, as they say it, “fight for your rights”. They are all fighting for your money – it’s just that some of them actually do meaningful things and others don’t. Remember that there is always more money and power to be made by creating division and thus fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) than there is on really solving the problem.
Expect Slick Marketing
All of the big gun rights firms will have slick website designers, emails and, in some cases, traditional mailings to tell you that the world is going to end and that they need your support.
You’ll see images of family, hunting, modern sporting rifles, scary politicians and evil government buildings all trying to punch your buttons. There may be a call to arms over some issue such as pistol braces or supposed “assault weapons”.
You can always bet near the bottom of that email, the link that you click on or in the end of the mailer you are reading there will be a call for money. You can be a patriot if you just act now. You can help them fight for your rights if you send them money … blah blah blah.
What Really Matters Are Outcomes
Plain and simple – you want to judge any gun rights group – do a search on them and court cases they have won (to me that is key) and lobbying efforts they were involved in – to me this second part is nice but it is hard to gauge a group’s contributions to a lobbying effort unless there is clear evidence they made a difference. Otherwise they can say they (and your money) made a difference and you really don’t know.
For example, let’s look at Oregon’s Measure 114, the Illinois Assault Weapons Ban and the unfolding brace drama. I will use Google to search on each and see who are actually spending the money to file lawsuits in those three cases and list the organization’s names so this shouldn’t be viewed as all-inclusive but to make a point.
Oregon’s Measure 114
A number of groups, including the NRA filed lawsuits. The group with an innovating argument that won a temporary restraining order (TRO) was Gun Owners of America (GOA). GOA argued that the ban was unconstitutional at the state level because it would deprive citizens of the state from owning firearms when the right to keep and bear arms is protected in Oregon’s own constitution.
Note, a TRO is a delay go give time for the state to respond, more arguments to be heard, etc. It’s not that Measure 114 has been completely stopped.
So… a number of gun rights groups filed suit in federal court but GOA and the Gun Owners Foundation really drove in well thought out wedge to get a TRO at the state level. This then creates precedent and ideas that others can use to oppose gun control in other areas.
Other lawsuits are underway from other groups including the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the NSSF is an industry trade association), the NRA, and the Oregon Firearms Foundation.
Here are sample articles:
Illinois Assault Weapons Ban
And then we have the state of Illinois introducing an assault weapons ban that also has a TRO. The TRO was granted based on a suit by four FFL dealers and 862 concerned citizens. This is a clear example of Chicago wanting to run the state with their liberal policies and the rest of the state really not wanting to play by their rules.
Attorney Tom Devore, a former Republican nomineed for attorney general in the state, won the TRO but it only applies to the 860 people named in the lawsuit and not the entire state.
Other lawsuits are also underway including the Illinois State Rifle Association and Thomas Maag (an Illinois-based attorney).
Here are sample articles:
ATF Stabilizing Brace Final Rule
The ATF’s Final Rule on stabilizing braces will make millions of braced pistol owners felons unless they register their pistol as a short barreled rifle (SBR), lengthen the barrel, remove the brace or turn the weapon in to the ATF to destroy it. The facts are that none of those steps are that easy – unless you consider giving up a pistol to the ATF to be destoryed that cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars as “simple”.
GOA was one of the first groups to point out the deeply flawed logic that is essentially creating a trap for some gun owners if they go the SBR route. GOA is preparing to file a suit. Rep Matt Gaetz submitted a bill to defund the ATF that, while it makes a statement, is unlikely to go anywhere.
Here are sample articles:
Did That Surprise You?
You can see what a quick search turned up. Did you find it surprising? There are a lot of groups out there that will mention all of these fights and more and beg you to send them money so they can afford to fight on your behalf but if you dig, they are doing little to nothing.
Sorry, but I am old and cynical at this point. To be a non-profit just means you file tax paperwork. A lot of these firms are getting rich by scaring you half to death constantly. I even got an “EMERGENCY – Open Right Away” email from one group that wanted a donation because they were going to miss their internal fund raising goals. Seriously? F-off. I have never seen their names on any lawsuits or industry trade articles. I unsubscribed from their email list and added them to my spam list.
What Should You Do?
The next time you get an email or even a physical paper mailer asking you to donate to some gun rights group, do some digging and see what is said about them.
To be very clear, their own website, trumpeting their achievements and what they are going to do does not count – of course they are going to write “press releases” saying they are fighting the righteous fight. Look for articles, government statements, lawsuits, etc. Look for action – not just words. Again, a gun rights group’s own website with pretty pages stating their opposition do not count. Notice how I am stressing that?
I have no affiliation with GOA but right now they are the only gun rights group I am supporting. I used to fund at least three off the top of my head but stopped because they do fear-mongering, maybe some online email forms where I could fill out to contact representatives via email but that’s about it. By the way, very few politicians care about all of those emails you flood them with. They have spam filters too.
1/27/22 Update: I should mention that the NRA may be going bankrupt due to all of the lawsuits and reported financial shinanigans that went on. I was a member for years but stopped some years back. (click here for an article from Newsweek). I hope they get their act together because they had a lot of political clout back in the day.
Yes, We Need Gun Rights and Conservative Lobbyist Groups
As you can imagine, I am pro-gun rights. I do want to make a difference and I do that partially by treating the funding of gun rights groups as an investment – I want to see a return.
We are increasingly seeing a clash of cultures as the big cities try and force their will and beliefs on rural America and I am firmly against that. I will also always remember that criminals don’t care about laws and all of this political drama will have next to no impact on crime – just look at Chicago and LA for example.
To counter this, we need to work together. We need our voices heard. We need the pro-gun and conservative lobbyist groups to help with this. We must still be active and not just rely on these groups but they do play a key role.
The whole point of this blog post is to tell you to be careful when it comes to picking which gun rights groups you donate your hard earned money. My email inbox is getting flooded daily by groups I have never heard of and I bet your’s is as well.
As things continue to heat up, I will continue to evaluate which gun rights groups make a difference based on their actions and outcomes. Based on what I find out, I will invest accordingly. I’d recommend you do the same.
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