Compete with the NRA? Not the NSSF

In an Op/Ed published by the Baltimore Sun, writer and public health expert Sonia Pandit describes the financial and in turn legislative prowess of the National Rifle Association, which is by far the largest of the pro- (and anti-) gun groups.

She credits the success to a savvy business plan that promotes inexpensive dues and tangible benefits.

Through its careful programming, the NRA is able to maintain its strong presence in a network of over 15,000 NRA-affiliated businesses, associations and clubs. This generates the NRA significant additional revenue through means like advertising and royalties. But more importantly, this on-the-ground network — in combination with the other benefits and programming described — enables the NRA to invoke the power of its (self-claimed) membership base of over five million people to lobby against gun control.

The degree to which the NRA insinuates itself into the lives of its members eases the transformation from NRA member to politically engaged gun supporter in a way that its opposition has yet to match. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that only 6 percent of gun control supporters contributed money to an organization that supports their cause as opposed to 25 percent of gun rights supporters.

Public health evidence unequivocally supports gun control. However, the political power of organizations like the NRA has often blocked the advancement of data-driven policy decisions. Ms. Clinton’s suggestion for responsible gun owners to form a separate and alternative organization is one way to stop the cycle. However, the idea is likely to remain an idealist’s dream unless such an organization is created with a commitment to business strategy on par with the NRA’s.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade lobby for the gun industry, responded a short time later. The NSSF’s vice president and general counsel Larry Keane says in his Op/Ed that it ain’t like that.

The NSSF and the NRA are not competitors. We have different missions and members but are generally aligned on policy issues affecting both gun owners and the gun industry.

The NSSF is the unified voice of the entire firearms industry, with more than 12,000 members ranging from the large manufacturers to small family-owned gun stores. At NSSF, we are proud of our mission to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports, and our membership supports a wide variety of programs aimed at recruiting and retaining shooters and hunters. We believe that the lawful commerce in firearms allows for the free exercise of the Second Amendment. Our efforts not only deal with the right to bear arms but also many of the same issues affecting other trade associations such as taxes, import/export and labor. In addition, we run education programs promoting safe gun ownership and reducing illegal “straw purchasing.”