The Great Compromise: Why I Joined the NRA

Two words: Stephen Willeford.

I joined the NRA on November 6, 2017, the morning after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas.  When I had learned that the man who stopped the shooter was an NRA firearms instructor, I knew I needed to step up off the sidelines and do something.  For too long I yelled at the NRA from the bleachers about how they were too pro-gun control (I still think that) and refused to join. Other groups, like Gun Owners of America, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the Firearms Policy Institute have far better records on standing up for our 2nd amendment rights, but they have, whether they’d admit it or not, not even a fraction of the lobbying power of the NRA.

I decided I wanted more tactical and defensive gun training and I wanted to support an organization that provided those things.  I decided I wanted to join an organization dedicated to fighting for hunters and providing hunter education and gun safety training for kids.  The NRA does those things.  Sure, I disagree with some things they do still.  A lot of people refuse to compromise on this, I understand, but I ask those people, “Do you disagree with your wife or husband about things?  If so, why not divorce them, after all they’re not perfect and apparently that’s your standard for supporting something.” That maybe an extreme example, but all of us occasionally disagree with our pastor and don’t leave the church. And don’t get me started on political parties – I don’t know anyone who agrees with their party of choice lock-step, but they still vote for that party every two years.

I’m glad I joined the NRA and I plan on remaining a member for a long time. I have taken some tactical training in the last year and plan to take more.  Having firearms in your home is good, having your concealed carry permit is better, but having tactical training in addition to firearm ownership is the best you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community. If you’re a gun owner, I highly recommend joining this organization and having your voice heard – both inside the NRA and in your community.  There’s a lot of silent gun owners out there, especially in places like Boulder, Colorado near me.  It’s time that we’re heard, it’s time we take our training seriously and it’s time we start being pro-active in our communities.  

The NRA vs. the World

It’s the age-old argument.  Something isn’t right, do you tear down the whole thing, or do you work within the system? Do you focus on the trees or on the forest?  Maybe, there is no right answer.  Maybe, that’s the problem.  However, it doesn’t stop us from needing a solution.

Ron Paul, who is a libertarian hero, ran as a Republican for most of his life in public service.  His son Rand Paul, who is perhaps more conservative than his father, is a sitting U.S. Senator and also is a Republican.  While these two men are out of step with many Republicans on a number of issues, they feel the ideals of liberty are better served with them in Congress than with them running as Libertarians and gaining somewhere around 3% of the vote.  They know that simply running as a third party means having zero influence on national policy. The Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition, as well as many others, are always criticizing the much, much larger National Rifle Association for being too lenient on gun control, much as Libertarians are constantly criticizing Democrats and Republicans.  

Much like both Dr. Pauls, I have chosen to focus on the forest, rather than every individual tree.  I criticized the NRA for years, and still do when it is warranted, but two years ago, after the Sutherland Springs shooting, I broke down and joined.  When I saw an NRA instructor take down the lunatic shooter, I knew which side I wanted to be on.  I wanted to get more involved and be a part of the solution rather than sit on the sidelines and hurl insults that no one will hear.  

I have written about the need for solidarity amongst outdoors people in spite of our differences, but I think it is equally important that all firearm owners band together as well.  Sure, we can debate our differences, but the in-fighting, insults and division need to be mitigated by our common goal of protecting our God given and Constitutionally protected rights.  We all know the gun grabbers’ agenda is “death by a thousand cuts” and I don’t think posting memes of elephants defecating on social media is going to hold back the tide of the emotional, illogical, fear mongering gun control zealots.  

As much as I respect the work of these smaller, more hardcore, gun rights groups, the reality is the NRA is the only organization that has a voice on a national level.  Furthermore, the NRA does an overwhelming amount of good work from the Eddie Eagle program to free hunter education programs to its legislative work.  For example, do I agree with their support of a bump stock ban?  No, but thinking a libertarian or anarcho-capitalist utopia is possible is just as naïve as the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez’s idea that socialism would work if we just tried it one more time.  

Much like other parts of life, it’s complicated, nuanced and sometimes contradictory, but would you rather slow the erosion of your rights to a trickle or lose them altogether?  No organization is perfect, especially an organization as large as the NRA. However, gun owners criticizing the NRA for not standing up for every little thing while going to the polls and voting for constantly compromising Republicans every two years is a bit of a contradiction all to its own.