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What are the essential functions of the NRA

June 17, 2019

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Who protects the right to keep and bear arms? The National Rifle Association says it does, but the NRA does a great many things. Some of those activities are far removed from protecting the right of armed defense. That is both obvious and expected. Old organizations do things that made sense at one time, but might not make sense today. Let’s look at what the NRA does now. What is essential and what is superfluous to the right to keep and bear arms? Remember that the right to keep and bear arms goes away if an essential activity goes away. An activity isn’t essential if other people do it.. and if they do it better. What does the NRA need to do, and what activities were simply nice to have?

What does the National Rifle Association do that is essential
to the right to keep and bear arms?

The NRA was founded in 1871 to promote rifle marksmanship. It wasn’t until 1975 that the association officially recognized the political threats on the right to keep and bear arms. That is when the NRA formed the Institute for Legislative action, the NRA-ILA. That change was forced on the NRA by its members and a dissident group of directors. The NRA leadership was none too happy about it then. The NRA-ILA is still a step child.

The NRA and its members work against government infringements on the right to keep and bear arms. They lobby for pro-rights laws. The organization frequently asks their members to call their representatives at the local, state, and federal level. With over 5 million members, the NRA can generate citizen involvement. The power of the NRA comes from its members.

What else does the NRA do?

The NRA carries a large number of historical activities that are not essential. For example, there was a time when it was hard to judge your shooting ability. To solve that problem, you could get a numbered target from the NRA, shoot it, and then mail your target to the NRA for scoring. The USA has has changed a lot in 148 since the NRA was founded. The NRA continues to sponsor postal matches, though few of us live in remote areas where our only connection with the outside world is through our mailbox.

You can get instruction from the NRA on shooting black powder firearms. You can also get instruction on hunter safety and reloading your own ammunition. The NRA continues to sponsor shooting competitions that use antique firearm and modern firearms shot using antique methods. The NRA has five firearms museums which are nice to have but are not essential to the right to keep and bear arms. A 33 thousand acre shooting facility in New Mexico is not essential.

Can the NRA change with the times?

Only lately has the NRA changed its approach and recognized that armed America has changed. We’re more interested in personal protection than target shooting or hunting. There are more than 20 million individuals licensed to carry a concealed firearm in public. Millions more of us carry concealed in states that do not require a license. In contrast, there are only 5 million NRA members. Until 2007, ordinary citizens went to a non-NRA class to learn to carry concealed. Many states refer to NRA educational materials when the states require training to obtain a carry license. NRA training is far from cutting edge. Lots of organizations have excellent training programs for firearms safety and concealed carry instruction.

The NRA is also involved with training law enforcement to use firearms. These training organizations are nice to have but they are not essential to defend the right to keep and bear arms.

These non-essential activities cost the NRA more than money. These distractions are also costly in terms of time and attention.

What about state and local chapters of the NRA?

State and local chapters of the NRA often have to wait for Fairfax to reach a decision. Local chapters can’t wait weeks while the NRA approves having a local sheriff speak. Unfortunately, the NRA state affiliates are often ineffective relative to other state 2A lobbying groups. I’ve never heard of a state organization losing its NRA affiliation to a more active and effective state organization. That should happen, but it doesn’t.

I’ve worked at NRA sponsored events. I’m an NRA life member. I know several NRA board of directors. I admire their integrity and dedication. I want the NRA to regain the trust of its members and focus on the work that only the NRA can do. I think the board wants that too. The current management of the NRA may not.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. Wesley Butler permalink
    June 17, 2019 5:19 pm

    I am afraid the NRA has taken on the prowess of corporate identity and has taken on the need to further it’s existence. Similar to the medial community, where the money is in the treatment rather than the cure, the NRA has a need to progress the controversy. If the NRA focused on the fact that the Second Amendment was “Not” a grant from government, but a “Right”, inherent to everyone, we would not be discussing this. They need to keep the conflict in motion, how else will they make money and stay relevant.

    Look at what they did with the NFA. The NRA practically wrote it (and the GCA of 1968). I have the NFA and GCA transcripts to prove it.

    I say all this as an NRA Patron Member, #142103478.

    To say the least, I am disappointed. If they wanted to take up the cause, they should have gone “all in”. But then, name another “Gun Rights” organization that does. I dare you.


  2. Old LawProf permalink
    June 22, 2019 11:45 am

    I have been a state activist for 30 years and was an NRA Director for 9. Thr NRA has no “chapters” as that term is normally used for one reason — it does not TRUST its own members to OBEY the orders issued by NRAHQ without question and perfectly (“Ya, Herr Hauptman”) As recent events are making clear, members do not trust NRAHQ either. The members are correct in their distrust, NRA’s executives are not.

    Those responsible for this mess are the current NRA Directors who fail to direct and slavishly agree every time Wayne tells them “all is well, trust me”.



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