News that the National Rifle Association is being buffeted by questions of possible financial misconduct could not come at a worse time.
Last week, NRA President Oliver North stunned the group’s members by suddenly stepping down and warning in a letter that financial mismanagement by senior NRA officials threatened the groups nonprofit status. “There is a clear crisis,” North wrote, “it needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment.”
North is right about that.
For activists on the left and Democratic politicians, the NRA is a bogeyman like no other. Its great political power, they claim, is a major cause of violent crime in America, like Saturday’s San Diego synagogue shooting with an AR-15 that left a woman slain.
To a great many law-abiding gun owners, usually associated with non-urban “fly-over country,” however, the NRA holds a very high moral standing, fighting hard to guarantee their constitutional right to keep a deadly weapon for self-defense on their person or in their home.
An Esteemed Status
The organization for many years has made the most of its role as crusader on behalf of the individual against the heavily-armed, heavy-handed state, and that’s an esteemed status worth maintaining.
A perfect example came after the 1999 Columbine, Colorado, school shooting, when liberal Denver politicians demanded the NRA cancel its long-scheduled convention in that city. Then-NRA president Charlton Heston responded with emphatic adherence to the group’s principles.
In the speech he gave at the gathering, the famed actor said, “what saddens me the most is how that suggests complicity. It implies that you and I and 80 million honest gun owners are somehow to blame, that we don’t care, we don’t care as much as they do, or that we don’t deserve to be as shocked and horrified as every other soul in America mourning for the people of Littleton.”
He pointed out, “NRA members labor in Denver’s factories, they populate Denver’s faculties, run Denver corporations, play on Colorado sports teams…And yes, NRA members are surely among the police and fire and SWAT team heroes who risked their lives to rescue the students at Columbine…
“Don’t come here? We’re already here,” Heston declared with some of the thunder from his portrayal of Moses telling the Israelites that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. “This community is our home. Every community in America is our home. We are a 128-year-old fixture of mainstream America. The Second Amendment ethic of lawful, responsible firearm ownership spans the broadest cross section of American life imaginable.”
The Danger of a Weakened NRA
If the NRA were ever morally disarmed, and consequently found its political influence lessened, not only would an important constitutional right be in greater danger, but innocent lives would unquestionably be lost.
For instance, lives were undeniably saved – possibly many lives – by the lawful owner of a semi-automatic AR-15 a year and a half ago during the deadliest shooting in Texas history at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, east of San Antonio, which left 26 dead.
NRA firearms instructor Stephen Willeford, in his bare feet, wounded the fleeing gunmen, flagged down a vehicle, then chased him at high speed until the mass murderer pulled over and turned his gun on himself, preventing further carnage.
Even some centrist Democrats, like Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, are eager to ban such weapons. “Americans across the nation are asking Congress to reinstate the federal ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” she said early this year. “If we’re going to put a stop to mass shootings and protect our children, we need to get these weapons of war off our streets.”
But had Willeford only had a handgun rather than a supposed “weapon of war,” he would certainly have missed his mass-murdering target because of his distance away. A so-called assault rifle like the AR-15 is far more accurate at longer range.
Yet presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are all co-sponsors of Feinstein’s gun ban, as is Democrat leader Chuck Schumer of New York.
And Democrats have banned handguns when they could get away with it. Feinstein herself banned them as mayor of San Francisco until the courts – and the Constitution — caught up with her. Moreover, about half of rank-and-file Democrats want to ban all guns, even if that takes repealing the Second Amendment. Plus, the Blue Dog Democrat minority that respected gun ownership is almost all gone in Congress now.
NRA critics claim their radical gun-control laws would save lives, but tell that to the women who have saved themselves from assualt, robbery or death by simply producing a legal handgun in the presence of an assailant.
Risking Its Non-Profit Status
So an at-the-top-of-its-game NRA is more important than ever in 2019, which is why it is distressing to hear that after less than a year in the post, NRA president North is out, warning that financial improprieties by high-ranking officials in the organization could imperil its non-profit status. New York State’s liberal attorney general just launched a probe into the conservative group’s finances.
Executive vice president and probably the NRA’s best-known public figure, Wayne LaPierre, claims North was seeking to force him out. The details and the offenders will be identified in time, but all those in NRA leadership should have made a point of never allowing this embarrassing soap opera to occur – of which this, judging by appearances, may be only the beginning.
Nothing will embolden those who seek to disarm law-abiding Americans more than the sight of a crippled NRA.