I attended the “Friends of the NRA” banquet with my 15-year-old son on Saturday night. I wondered prior to attending if gun control would be discussed. It wasn’t. No mention of gun control legislation occurred, because the Friends of NRA isn’t a political action group. It’s a program that raises money for the NRA Foundation. The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises and donates money to outdoors groups and others such as ROTC programs, 4-H and Boy Scouts. The foundation has no staff and pays no salaries.
In Montana, NRA Foundation support means approximately $400,000 annually is spent on youth shooting leagues (including 4-H), and many adult leagues across the state. The NRA is deeply imbedded in Montana; word has it that there are more NRA members in Northwest Montana per capita than the rest of the nation. Frankly, with its record of advocacy and support of the shooting leagues my son and many Montana youth participate in, the NRA has done more to educate the public on safe gun handling and usage than any other organization in our nation’s history.
Most folks probably don’t know the specifics of what the NRA really does outside of gun lobbying. The organization has been the focus of intense and misplaced criticism following several high-profile shootings in the United States. Placing blame on the NRA because the NRA’s gun advocacy has prevented restrictive gun legislation from passing Congress is reckless and illogical. Many of the high-profile shootings occurred with weapons legally purchased. Restrictive gun legislation in Chicago has utterly failed at deterring gun violence. Moreover, the NRA has not blocked, but has advocated for reasonable legislation such as additional regulations on bump fire stocks and additional funding for armed security guards in schools. These are reasoned approaches in response to mass shootings; if our society wants to coalesce to stop violence (all violence, not limited to gun violence) we must have in-depth analysis in our investigation of cause and effect. The NRA, despite the recent siege of unwarranted criticism, has been a leader in addressing the root cause of gun violence, advocating for proactive safety measures, all the while defending our right to own firearms.
We must require a pivot from misplaced blame for two reasons: 1) without an in-depth analysis of cause atrocities are bound to recur, and 2) when the NRA is under attack, our rights to own firearms, our funding resources for shooting sports and firearms education are also under attack. To my fellow NRA members: it is incumbent upon us to protect the NRA when it is under attack, as the NRA does for us when unreasonable legislation restricting gun ownership is proposed.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.