The National Rifle Association’s Backward Strategy [Opinion]

Ethan MillerGetty Images

Late last week, news broke that the National Rifle Association, through spokesperson Dana Loesch, issued yet another advertisement for the NRA’s commonly dubbed “clenched fist of truth campaign,” a bafflingly counter-productive communications effort that unashamedly deals in blatant hyperbole. While the newest installment didn’t embrace the comprehensive fear-mongering specter of its predecessor, it did take aim at the media, ominously promising to “come after” the New York Times, a publication it apparently deems as being an “untrustworthy rag” driven by a desire to “protect its Democrat overlords.”

Once a highly effective lobbying organization determined to safeguard the critical liberty enshrined within the Second Amendment, the NRA seems to be steadily progressing down a sensationalist and conspiratorial path. However, the key to fulfilling the tenets of its very charter does not lie in capitalizing on a trendy division in society, but in enlarging its coalition through inclusion. To that end, the realization of its mission can only be accomplished by cultivating a broad base of support, not an unnecessarily narrow one.

The NRA can continue to cater to an ever-dwindling segment of American society through pushing an unusually adversarial communications campaign if scoring some short-term financial gains, or consolidating increasingly impotent power amongst a small group of people, are its incredibly shortsighted goals. But, if the objective is to preserve firearm ownership rights, the NRA might want to hastily arrive at the readily apparent conclusion that they need to expand their membership horizons and capture otherwise largely untouched markets of potential support. Yet, when one of the organization’s leaders stands on the stage at CPAC and uses bombastic language which charges “leftists” with wanting to “destroy Western civilization” and effectively assist ISIS with the establishment of a caliphate, it becomes particularly difficult to enlarge the prospective membership tent.

Wayne LaPierre addresses the audience at CPAC.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addresses an audience at CPAC in 2017. [Image by Alex Wong/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Alex WongGetty Images

Feel free to use social media to promote inflammatory commentary like a recent Townhall article which broadly and sloppily painted women as hypocrites. Although it’s a particularly unwise move given that women constitute over half the American population, and according to a CNBC report, represent one of the fastest-growing groups of gun owners in America. Full steam ahead with the exhibition of a bizarre form of coolness and indifference toward minority populations. Go ahead and largely hold your tongue for over a year after concealed-carry permit-holder Philando Castile was killed, and as the Washington Post reported, waste little time wading into the sensitive wake of mass shootings. Forget the fact that NPR indicates minorities will collectively supplant Caucasian Americans as the ethnic majority within the coming decades.

Guests at the 2016 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum.
Guests applaud Wayne LaPierre at the 2016 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum. [Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]Featured image credit: Scott OlsonGetty Images

By all means, keep trotting out tired terms like “liberal elite” and impugn all liberals in the process, even though scores of social liberals—a broad array of Americans which stretches from conservative Democrats to Libertarians—support firearm ownership rights. Sacrifice the support of largely purple and red state Democrats that the Washington Post has identified as possessing overwhelmingly positive ratings from the NRA. Throw individuals like Senators Manchin (D-WV), Warner (D-VA), Donnelly (D-IN), Tester (D-MT), Heinrich (D-NM), Heitkamp (D-ND), and Casey (D-PA), under the political bus. Pay no attention to the reality that their support is required to safeguard your legislative agenda in the all-important policy battleground known as the U.S. Senate.

If the NRA’s goal is to isolate itself and forfeit the success of its mission, go ahead and rely on a tenuous level of control over a Supreme Court, the maintenance of which requires that either Justice Kennedy or Justice Ginsburg retire while a Republican occupies the White House. Continue to supplant well-reasoned arguments with divisive clickbait, and accept diminishing legislative returns in exchange.

However, if the goal of the NRA is to actually advance the cause of firearm ownership rights, then it needs to expend more energy looking downfield than it does fixating on the area near the line of scrimmage. If the cause actually revolves around protecting a core liberty, the NRA needs to overhaul its exclusionary communications program and pull its proverbial head out of the 1950s-era strategic sand.

[Featured Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]