Hurting The NRA Isn't Same As Hurting Gun Rights

For many people, the National Rifle Association is synonymous with the gun rights movement. When they lash out at the NRA, they’re using the organization as a proxy for gun rights activists as a whole. They typically ignore the other gun rights groups that also serve as a thorn in their sides, mostly because they can’t be bothered to recognize that there actually are other groups.

Why does this matter?

Well, because New York Attorney General Letitia James is going after the NRA.

You see, while we know James has a grudge against the NRA, we also know that so many of her fellow travelers can’t separate the NRA from the gun rights movement as a whole. There’s plenty of reason to believe James is among those.

Yet, even if James obtains a complete and total victory, she won’t stop the gun rights movement.

Democrats rejoiced at the news that the New York Attorney General is aiming to dissolve the National Rifle Association. Mondaire Jones, the progressive rising star expected to win New York’s 17th Congressional District seat, Thursday summed up the prevailing Democratic view: “Dissolving the NRA would remove one of the biggest impediments to gun safety measures at the state and federal level.”

But that’s a dangerous assumption for Democrats to make. Even if the NRA is gone or tied down by litigation, about 43 percent of Americans will still live in gun-owning households. A fervent gun rights culture of hunters, collectors, open carriers, militia members and self-defense enthusiasts would still persist. Conservative media outlets would still cater to their fears. Other competing gun rights groups such as Gun Owners of America, National Association for Gun Rights and the Second Amendment Foundation would still channel the views of the gun rights grassroots to elected officials and new organizations could crop up to do the same.

Besides, the new lawsuit probably won’t kill off the NRA in six months’ time. And while it had already been suffering from internal strife, weak fundraising and staff layoffs, the easiest way for the NRA to rekindle its fundraising is to start 2021 with a Democratic president, Democratic Senate and Democratic gun control legislation.

And don’t be surprised if a Democratic presidential victory will spark a spike in gun sales, which is what happened in 2008 when Barack Obama won. Already this spring and summer, we’ve experienced the biggest gun sale surge in 10 years, in panicked reaction to the pandemic and the racial justice protests. Such frenzied buying is a reminder to politicians that the gun owner constituency remains present, intense and engaged.

Author Bill Scher isn’t a fan of the NRA, to be sure. In fact, the way he sings Joe Biden’s praises later in the piece, I have to wonder if he’s even sane.

That said, he’s absolutely right about the outcome of dissolving the NRA.

It’s important for people outside of the gun rights world to understands a few things. First is the fact that while the NRA is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the gun rights movement, it’s not universally beloved on this side of the fence. While anti-gunner vilify them for their unwillingness to compromise, the NRA is far more willing to accept the fact that they’re going to lose a few fights and try to mitigate those losses. That means many see them as too willing to compromise.

That’s right, there are people who think the NRA is too squishy when it comes to gun rights.

If you dissolve the NRA, then all that funding isn’t going to vanish. It’s not suddenly going to be redirected to the arts or to pay teachers’ salaries. This isn’t how things work. These are private donations that will be redirected toward other groups that the donors feel will defend gun rights as well or better.

Instead of making the gun rights world implode, the donors will rally behind another group, one that’s going to drive an even harder line with politicians of any side.

Oh, James might get the NRA dissolved, though I don’t think that’s likely. Yet if she does, she’s probably not going to like the political landscape afterward.