How the NRA went crazy

"Steady and relax," I whispered as my cheek fused to the stock of my .22-caliber rifle, waiting for the shot to break...

Posted: Mar 24, 2018 2:13 PM
Updated: Mar 24, 2018 2:13 PM

"Steady and relax," I whispered as my cheek fused to the stock of my .22-caliber rifle, waiting for the shot to break and launch a round at 1,800 feet per second toward the paper target downrange.

This would be merely one of thousands of rounds I fired in youth shooting-club practices and competitions while growing up in rural Texas. While some kids spent the majority of their extracurricular time on the ball field or practicing music, my interest was firearms.

If mastering challenges makes us better people, my formative years on the shooting range taught me countless lessons in self-control as I steadied a rifle, arrested my anxiety through controlled breathing and worked toward the goal of mechanical precision, round after round. Replicating that proficiency over and over was tangible evidence I was good at something.

In shooting sports, as in life, one can always improve. When I started as a special agent trainee at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, I was once again reminded that learning is a lifetime endeavor. As I stood on the firing line, day in and day out, flanked by two hotshots who never seemed to miss their targets, I felt that same positive competitive spirit I had when I was a kid, and was again reminded how influential firearms had been in shaping and improving my character.

Although I don't remember ever formally signing up to be a junior member of the National Rifle Association -- perhaps it was included in my shooting club membership -- I do remember receiving membership literature in the mail and proudly telling my friends. To me and my fellow shooting club members, the NRA represented a bond shared by firearms enthusiasts who appreciated responsible gun ownership.

But it was never political.

Today's NRA is simply unrecognizable from the days of the 1990s. If you were to ask me then -- when I was showing off my membership card -- if I could have predicted a day when the organization would find itself at odds with the friends and family members of shooting victims, I would have responded to the question with sheer bewilderment. Never would I have predicted seeing the NRA's chief spokesperson sickly accuse the press of loving mass shootings.

What exactly happened to the organization? How did a group originally founded by responsible gun owners to promote marksmanship evolve into an entrenched political faction picking fights with high school students? I suspect that somewhere along the way the NRA was corrupted by political operatives who recognized the electoral benefits of peddling fear to its members.

Although a sinister calculation, think of the political and financial benefits the organization would reap if it succeeded in convincing its members that they were under attack by a government seeking to rob them of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Get like-minded leaders elected, and you ensure your continued existence. Convince members they are perpetually under the threat of physical attack -- which can only be countered with a gun -- and their fears will never subside.

Although many have focused on NRA political contributions as proof of a corrupting influence, I think our primary focus should be less on donations to individual elected officials, and more on the organization's larger efforts to brainwash its members into voting en masse against candidates who support responsible gun reform.

As Vox recently reported, while gun reform groups have often focused on matching the NRA's mammoth fundraising efforts, the larger threat the organization poses is actually its ability to mobilize voters.

One tactic the organization uses to foment anxiety within its ranks is to perpetuate the notion that the government is attempting to seize the weapons of law-abiding citizens, and so any compromise would represent a slippery slope toward a total ban on firearms.

For proof of the lucrative effect of fearmongering, look no further than the historical spike in gun sales after mass shootings, which I believe can only be explained by efforts of groups like the NRA to instill fear in their members to stock up on guns now before the government regulates them out of existence.

Another favorite NRA technique is the "whataboutism," usually reserved for conversations about the actions of Russian intelligence services

Sure, the San Bernardino attack involved a firearm, but what about the attackers' radical terrorist motivations? OK, so the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter had an assault rifle, but what about the fact authorities may have failed to properly investigate him? These somersaults of logic and linguistics are creative, but they fail to admit that the common denominator in gun violence is the gun.

Just as important as identifying how the NRA operates is focusing on the reason it engages in these tactics. The question NRA members should ask themselves is whether the organization exists to serve the interests of gun owners, or simply those of gun manufacturers.

If the latter, the public would be right to watch the organization's efforts with suspicion and to be on guard for manipulation. As long as the organization continues to receive revenue from the sale of some gun purchases, it will be tough to convince a skeptical public of its purity.

Fortunately, there is an antidote to the fearmongering: it is the hope generated in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, shooting by the thousands of students and responsible gun reform supporters who have determined enough is enough and the time for real action is now.

These students have inspired a wave of public support and give many of us hope that we can agree on ridding our streets and schools of weapons of war without threatening our Second Amendment rights.

For its part, the NRA can either get onboard, stop its vicious attacks on those working to save lives, and return to its roots, or it will find itself even further along the road to becoming a relic its former members once celebrated.

Contrary to the NRA's current narrative, the path to sensible gun reform isn't a slippery slope, it's simply uncharted terrain. And with support from those around us, we can all take a step in the right direction without falling down.

Huntsville
Clear
49° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 47°
Florence
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 51°
Fayetteville
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 41°
Decatur
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 45°
Scottsboro
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 46°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 242874

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31944500
Mobile19687361
Madison13065148
Tuscaloosa12983154
Montgomery12286236
Shelby1020377
Baldwin860398
Lee773566
Morgan653850
Calhoun6240119
Marshall621355
Etowah621066
Houston523038
DeKalb481336
Cullman435442
Limestone420645
St. Clair415855
Elmore404564
Lauderdale400454
Walker3634111
Talladega349054
Jackson313423
Colbert309342
Blount288840
Autauga271642
Franklin251033
Coffee242615
Dale231854
Dallas225932
Chilton221938
Russell22143
Covington218534
Escambia197931
Chambers176550
Tallapoosa175791
Pike158314
Clarke158019
Marion137936
Winston132323
Lawrence127336
Pickens122318
Geneva12138
Marengo121024
Bibb117317
Barbour117110
Butler115341
Randolph102021
Cherokee101524
Hale96131
Clay91124
Washington90919
Fayette89816
Henry8526
Lowndes79529
Monroe78711
Cleburne77114
Macon73122
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69419
Conecuh68414
Perry6846
Lamar6718
Wilcox63218
Sumter57722
Greene42418
Choctaw42113
Coosa3414
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 356716

Reported Deaths: 4526
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby47088658
Davidson42057419
Knox18467149
Rutherford17439160
Hamilton16555152
Williamson1116779
Sumner9573136
Wilson731678
Out of TN721051
Montgomery649683
Sullivan630096
Washington5844106
Maury578367
Putnam578282
Blount540660
Madison5275110
Bradley508435
Sevier476831
Unassigned449222
Robertson371052
Tipton357738
Hamblen340860
Dyer316051
Gibson315064
Greene300672
Dickson284833
Anderson283328
Coffee277641
Bedford270130
Carter266055
Lawrence263934
Obion260449
Cumberland248536
McMinn244555
Roane230929
Warren229419
Loudon224519
Hardeman223237
Jefferson222732
Fayette219138
Weakley212636
Monroe207444
Franklin204434
Lauderdale202523
Trousdale190212
Hawkins189834
Wayne189110
Henderson181533
Macon179228
Hardin174825
Marshall171520
White170918
Carroll169234
Rhea162931
Haywood160830
Cocke159530
Lincoln157914
Cheatham155317
Overton152935
Campbell152723
Henry149317
Giles143949
Johnson141321
Smith140919
McNairy138733
Fentress118920
Lake11656
Hickman116219
Bledsoe11595
Crockett113326
DeKalb111322
Marion107719
Scott10507
Chester101120
Grainger95416
Decatur93713
Unicoi83626
Claiborne8029
Benton78714
Grundy76914
Lewis74714
Cannon7293
Morgan7096
Union7065
Humphreys6948
Jackson67510
Polk65015
Houston58620
Stewart58415
Clay54018
Sequatchie5215
Meigs48313
Perry47721
Moore3893
Pickett38413
Van Buren3482
Hancock1563

Community Events