This is a very long post and has a lot of details many of you may not want to read it. I am writing this because there has been so much misinformation about recent developments that I felt obligated to try and clear up some of this up in the hopes it will help everyone get a clearer understanding about NRA and why it does what it does.
Allow me to begin with rumor that “NRA has sold out.”
To explain what has been happening it is necessary to go over some basic background information. Some most of you already know. The NRA is the only organization that is the defender of the Second Amendment. The others like to talk but when it comes to action, the NRA is the only one who walks the halls in Congress, visits the offices, works with the Congressional staff, writes proposed legislation, talks with all the governors, etc. Additionally NRA has over 180 different programs to help people who want to use firearms safely and wisely. While this may sound like it is some type, of rah, rah, rah, pro NRA there is a point to my going over this.
In 2002 McCain-Feingold bill was introduced. This bill made it illegal under penalty of Federal Prison for anyone that was a 501(c) (4) to say, print, etc anything about a candidate for office 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election. It went so far as to stop any type of discussion, print, etc about issues related to the candidates. Meaning you could not say, “ tell elected representative don’t vote for candidates bill. The stated purpose by then elected representative (names available if requested) of this bill was to silence the NRA.
NRA at that time went to house leaders and was told we will fix it. If we can’t stop it in the house, we will fix it in the Senate. As you know this didn’t happen, McCain-Feingold became law. NRA filed suit and in the next year and half we spent 10 million dollars to loose in a 5-4 Supreme Court Decision that upheld the law. Since that time NRA has been seriously hobbled in that we have only been able to use a fraction (5%) of the money we have needed to get our message out.
- Along comes 2008 primary and the United Citizens case and the Supreme Court in January 2010 the First Amendment of political speech was freed. Now everyone had the right restored and could spend money for political speech without the fear of going to Federal Prison. The victory was short lived. During the state of the union speech, Obama condemned the decision and within a very short time Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Chuck Schumer introduced the “DISCLOSE” Act. Although the Supreme Court clearly said that Congress can’t ban speech by corporations, both non-profit or for-profit. So to accomplish what McCain-Fiengold did the Van Hollen/Schumer bills would impose targeted speech bans on certain groups, along with a series of disclosure and reporting requirements so obnoxious they will intimidate people from speaking. And that “no-speech period” from the old McCain-Feingold law? Resurrected and expanded to 90 days before a primary election through the general election for House and Senate races; 120 days before the first primary through the general election for a Presidential race. Additionally, it would prohibit any organization that has a contract with the federal government of $50,000 or more from engaging in political speech. Currently we (the NRA) have a contract the Defense Department to provide firearms training for our Armed Forces Therefore, if it became law we would be forced to choose between training our military and exercising our First Amendment right to speak. Also we would have turn over our lists of donors who have donated $600 or more to the federal government. There is also no restriction on what the government could do with those lists. Lastly, we would be. required to list its CEO and top donors to the Association on all election mail, phone calls, TV, radio, and paid Internet ads. There would be no exception even for communications with our own members.
When the bill passed out of committee and went to the full House, the NRA sent a letter to Members of Congress opposing the bill in its current form and saying it would oppose House passage of the bill unless its concerns were addressed. Because the Democrats wanted so badly to pass this bill and because the pro-gun Democrats were worried, they went to Pelosi and said that the NRA should be exempted because we never hide from our ads and always clearly put our name on everything we do. The pro-gun Democrats knew that with a 40 vote majority, Pelosi could likely pass this bill over their objections without exempting the NRA. But surprisingly, she agreed to exempt the NRA from the bill, as long as the exemption was narrowed so that it only applied to the NRA and maybe one or two other large and long-established organizations.
We remain a non-partisan, single issue organization. It is our solemn and we are the only ones who have the ability and responsibility is to protect and defend the Second Amendment rights of our four million members as well as the 20 plus people who claim to follow what the NRA does. The NRA does not represent the interests of other organizations, nor do all groups fight all issues together – for example, the NRA didn’t support the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (or the Wall Street Journal) when it backed amnesty for tens of millions of illegal aliens nor did it join the Chamber when it endorsed President Obama’s economic stimulus bill. And they were on opposite sides when the Chamber supported Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court.
Just as in McCain-Feingold, congressional Republicans told the NRA to reject all offers that would address our concerns with the Van Hollen bill. They promised to fix our concerns somewhere down the line. Now, they argued that NRA’s opposition would stop the bill from passing in the House. This with 257 Democrats in the House and a Senate with 59 Democrats.
We simply cannot afford in either lost opportunity or money to go down that road again. If we have has an opportunity to protect our members right out of the gate and do not, why are we there? The stakes in this are too high, we cannot risk being silenced while the national news media, politicians and others remain free to attack gun owners.. The most potent defense of the Second Amendment requires the most adamant exercise of the First Amendment. And make no mistake about it — if this Congress eliminates the NRA’s ability to speak, it will attack the entire Second Amendment.
The Kagan nomination, this is a matter that will not require much to say. Nobody stops the NRA Board Members from speaking. We are all elected by you the members and you are our ultimate judges by your votes. Having said that when we are together and sometimes when we are not, we attempt to determine what will be in best interest of our members. Sometimes that means sending one letter and sometimes it means doing a lot of media. Everyone please try to remember we have some of the best people in DC not because we pay them so much but because our people really believe in what they are doing. Unlike so many groups the Second Amendment to use is something special, something worth fighting for.
In closing I hope I have been able to give all of you a better, truthful, no BS understanding of what has been happening.
Member of the Board of Directors
National Rifle Association of American
Member of the Board of Directors
California Rifle and Pistol Association