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An Intended Insult to NRA, But A Mission Statement for NSSF

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In an op-ed published in the Houston Chronicle during the NRA convention, gun-control proponent Mark Kelly critiqued the NRA in advance of its annual convention in Houston. Kelly appears to be working to become the most prominent national spokesman for gun control, and his rhetoric ramped up considerably in the wake of the Senate votes to defeat the wide-ranging gun control agenda. In this particular op-ed Kelly went so far as to suggest it was time for new leadership at NRA.

The record setting attendance of more than 80,000 NRA members didn’t appear to agree, but while Kelly is free to voice his own personal position on the issue of gun control, his piece in the Houston Chronicle contained an outright falsehood. In essence, Kelly argues that the NRA is working on behalf of the firearms industry, instead of its membership.

Kelly summarizes the point by saying, “The NRA leadership’s top priority is to make sure the corporations that make guns and ammunition continue to turn huge profits. Their top priority isn’t you, the NRA member.” And this outright lie is gaining more traction through its repetition, as seen here in a subsequent editorial in the same paper.

Of course, the NRA is not, nor has it ever been, the representative body of the firearms industry. The NRA is an organization of individual members advocating on their behalf. And while this paper and many others apparently consider the insinuation to be some kind of insult, NSSF proudly claims the role as the true representative of the firearms industry.

NSSF is the industry’s voice – representing more than 8,000 manufacturers, wholesalers, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, and more. NSSF keeps close tabs on the legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry and goes to bat every day to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports industry.

So in a letter to the editor shown below, we tried to keep it simple by illustrating the difference between NRA members and NSSF members at a venue like the NRA convention. And then we pointed out there’s really no reason to be surprised when the legislative objectives of the NRA and NSSF overlap.

So far the paper hasn’t published the letter, but if the media can’t understand these simple points, I suppose that next we’re going to have to draw them a picture.

To The Editor:

Of the thousands of words you printed during last week’s NRA convention, none were more inaccurate and ill-informed than your parroting of Mark Kelly’s claim that the NRA is catering to its “paymasters” in the gun industry, versus its own membership.

The voice of the firearms industry is the National Shooting Sports Foundation, with a record number of more than 8,000 members ranging from the largest manufacturers to the smallest family-owned gun store. At NSSF we are proud of our mission to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. The lawful commerce in firearms allows for the exercise of the Second Amendment.

The NRA, on the other hand, works for its now five million individual dues paying members to protect the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. If its members disagreed with the NRAS’s actions its membership rolls would be decreasing, not increasing. In fact, polling of NRA members reflects overwhelming support for the group’s positions.

Here’s the key difference. If your reporters visited the NRA’s exhibit hall last week, the people in the aisles were NRA members. The people manning the booths and the companies they represent were NSSF members. Given the obvious fact that the NRA’s members are also our customers, it shouldn’t surprise your editorial board to learn that NRA’s and NSSF’s respective legislative positions are often aligned.

Larry Keane is senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @lkeane.