Opinion: The NRA needs to be fixed, not ditched

The National Rifle Association is a long-standing organization that seeks to represent the opinions and ideals of gun owners while protecting the rights given to us as citizens under the Second Amend­ment. They influence politics and leg­islation around guns and gun owner­ship unlike any other organization, both pro-gun and pro-control. They also provide many different forms of outreach such as gun safety classes and information regarding such, including online materials and training on how to be a certified firearms instructor. They are credited as being one of the largest organizations to push wide­spread safety awareness and training from new to experienced shooters.

While they have been influential in maintaining our rights — to bear arms and how we choose to arm ourselves — they are not without criticism. Many have seen them as a gargantuan affront to “common sense” firearms regula­tions that could restrict certain types of weapons or buyers from the market. Some see them as profiteers of gun-related deaths and violence, only rep­resenting a portion of gun owners but stifle any conversation stating that fact.

However, many pro-gun individu­als recognize their pitfalls as well, and recognize that the NRA isn’t the perfect gun-rights-oriented organization that it claims to be. While its cause is im­portant to defend, many feel that the NRA either provides a poor public image and — most importantly — a lack of an offensive strategy to restore gun rights where they have been re­stricted. Other organizations have stepped in to represent what they won’t, and are beginning to gain more recog­nition as the NRA’s esteem drops.

While it is understandable that pandering to certain minority groups could make their more conservative base somewhat uncomfortable, the lack of focus regarding minorities is some­what off-putting. There are large con­tingencies of people of color, LGBTQ persons, those with liberal leanings and other minorities that want their right to keep and bear arms protected. While the NRA is made up of diverse members and a diverse board of direc­tors — and certainly don’t discriminate outwardly — their lack of direct out­reach to these groups is a subliminal yet noteworthy observation. There ap­pears to be a lack of conversation sur­rounding these communities and their significance in defending the Second Amendment — hypothetically due to fear of driving away conservative NRA members by making them uncomfort­able. Many of these demographics have gun organizations that do cater to their needs and opinions. These other orga­nizations focus on their experiences and community-specific issues, such as easing stereotypes about people of color with guns — as somehow being more criminally prone — or LGBTQ persons fears of hate crimes or violence. It would be wise of the nation’s largest gun-rights advocacy groups to focus on these members in a way that bonds them with the rest of their members and provides these discussions in a way that promotes inclusion rather than surface-level acceptance.

The other major issue with the NRA is that they have failed to keep their promises when it comes to reversing gun laws that are either poorly written, ineffective, or otherwise infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. Espe­cially in liberal-leaning states, restric­tions on “assault rifles,” the restrictions or even bans on carrying guns on your person — in any manner — and other laws that restrict Second Amendment rights still stand, despite the all-reach­ing lobbying of the NRA to reverse these laws. The organization — due to declining public image in the face of recent mass shootings — has lost its ability to fight for our rights and is now on the defense. It has even recently given concessions for certain restric­tions to become law — with their sup­port. Most notable of these instances were the support for the banning of “bump-stocks,” which allow semi-au­tomatic rifles to fire faster without vio­lating the 1934 Gun Act or the Hughes Amendment, which both severely curtailed the ability of citizens to own machine guns or select fire weapons along. Both acts were challenged in the past by the NRA, but now the NRA has an almost blatant support of these re­strictions. One would think that a pro-gun organization would at least have some interest in redefining these laws.

The NRA should put its supporters’ money where its mouth is. Either defend the right of the people to keep and bear arms, or let another organization — one that’s more inclusive and apt to have conversations about guns — take their place.