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.