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Posts tagged "National Rifle Association"

h/t: Alexander Zaitchik at Rolling Stone


The NRA tries to appeal to a more diverse audience by saying gun regulations are "equally as unconstitutional" as Jim Crow laws.


The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun. Today, millions believe they did. Here’s how it happened.

“A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.

Twenty-five years later, Burger’s seems as quaint as a powdered wig. Not only is an individual right to a firearm widely accepted, but increasingly states are also passing laws to legalize carrying weapons on streets, in parks, in bars—even in churches.

Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround? Don’t look for answers in dusty law books or the arcane reaches of theory.

So how does legal change happen in America? We’ve seen some remarkably successful drives in recent years—think of the push for marriage equality, or to undo campaign finance laws. Law students might be taught that the court is moved by powerhouse legal arguments or subtle shifts in doctrine. The National Rifle Association’s long crusade to bring its interpretation of the Constitution into the mainstream teaches a different lesson: Constitutional change is the product of public argument and political maneuvering. The pro-gun movement may have started with scholarship, but then it targeted public opinion and shifted the organs of government. By the time the issue reached the Supreme Court, the desired new doctrine fell like a ripe apple from a tree.

The Second Amendment consists of just one sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today, scholars debate its bizarre comma placement, trying to make sense of the various clauses, and politicians routinely declare themselves to be its “strong supporters.” But in the grand sweep of American history, this sentence has never been among the most prominent constitutional provisions. In fact, for two centuries it was largely ignored.

The amendment grew out of the political tumult surrounding the drafting of the Constitution, which was done in secret by a group of mostly young men, many of whom had served together in the Continental Army. Having seen the chaos and mob violence that followed the Revolution, these “Federalists” feared the consequences of a weak central authority. They produced a charter that shifted power—at the time in the hands of the states—to a new national government.

“Anti-Federalists” opposed this new Constitution. The foes worried, among other things, that the new government would establish a “standing army” of professional soldiers and would disarm the 13 state militias, made up of part-time citizen-soldiers and revered as bulwarks against tyranny. These militias were the product of a world of civic duty and governmental compulsion utterly alien to us today. Every white man age 16 to 60 was enrolled. He was actually required to own—and bring—a musket or other military weapon.

On June 8, 1789, James Madison—an ardent Federalist who had won election to Congress only after agreeing to push for changes to the newly ratified Constitution—proposed 17 amendments on topics ranging from the size of congressional districts to legislative pay to the right to religious freedom. One addressed the “well regulated militia” and the right “to keep and bear arms.” We don’t really know what he meant by it. At the time, Americans expected to be able to own , a legacy of English common law and rights. But the overwhelming use of the phrase “bear arms” in those days referred to military activities.

There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention. Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the records of the ratification debates in the states. Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights. In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision. “A well regulated militia,” it explained, “composed of the body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

Though state militias eventually dissolved, for two centuries we had guns (plenty!) and we had gun laws in towns and states, governing everything from where gunpowder could be stored to who could carry a weapon—and courts overwhelmingly upheld these restrictions. Gun rights and gun control were seen as going hand in hand. Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule that the Second Amendment protected individual gun ownership outside the context of a militia. As the Tennessee Supreme Court put it in 1840, “A man in the pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms; much less could it be said that a private citizen bears arms because he has a dirk or pistol concealed under his clothes, or a spear in a cane.”

Cue the National Rifle Association. We all know of the organization’s considerable power over the ballot box and legislation. Bill Clinton groused in 1994 after the Democrats lost their congressional majority, “The NRA is the reason the Republicans control the House.” Just last year, it managed to foster a successful filibuster of even a modest background-check proposal in the U.S. Senate, despite 90 percent public approval of the measure.

What is less known—and perhaps more significant—is its rising sway over constitutional law.

The NRA was founded by a group of Union officers after the Civil War who, perturbed by their troops’ poor marksmanship, wanted a way to sponsor shooting training and competitions. The group testified in support of the first federal gun law in 1934, which cracked down on the machine guns beloved by Bonnie and Clyde and other bank robbers. When a lawmaker asked whether the proposal violated the Constitution, the NRA witness responded, “I have not given it any study from that point of view.” The group lobbied quietly against the most stringent regulations, but its principal focus was hunting and sportsmanship: bagging deer, not blocking laws. In the late 1950s, it opened a new headquarters to house its hundreds of employees. Metal letters on the facade spelled out its purpose: firearms safety education, marksmanship training, shooting for recreation.

Michael Waldman is president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. This article has been adapted from his book The Second Amendment: A Biography, published this week by Simon & Schuster. © 2014.

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Noir — a weekly program aired by the National Rifle Association as part of its efforts to reach a younger audience — has run two segments that fetishize an assault weapon as an attractive woman.

Over the past year the NRA has launched a number of initiatives to engage with womenminorities, andyounger AmericansNoir, a Sunday web series hosted by popular gun blogger turned NRA News commentator Colion Noir, is packaged for a Millennial audience, although the show has been widely mockedby critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging.

A segment during the June 15 edition of Noir opened with a black-and-white scene of a stylishly-dressed woman standing in an alley. Doing voice-over work, Noir appeared to describe the woman, ranging from her clothing (“Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it”), to her intellect (“Chess, yeah it’s a men’s game, but when she plays, men pay”), to her actions (“Flirts more than you can handle too. She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink”).

In the final shot, the woman is seen holding a Heckler & Koch MR556 assault weapon and Noir reveals he was talking about the firearm the whole time:

NOIR: Why is she alone on this dark street? On this cold night? You care, but she doesn’t. Her Jimmy Choo’s can’t be comfortable, but you’d never know it. Unaffected elegance. Too cool elegance. Not for you elegance, you say. There’s got to be something wrong with her; that attitude, high maintenance, hiding something. She’s taller than you can handle. Flirts more than you can handle too. She’s the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink. And Chess, yeah it’s a men’s game, but when she plays, men pay. Say you don’t like her, until she looks your way. She’s not easy and she’s not flawless. But she’s never wasted her time thinking about it. She is the HK MR556.

As Noir explained in the following segment, “It’s like the words really do mean what I’m saying in the video. The HK MR556 is that gun that if — it’s like that girl who’s unbelievably attractive, she has this presence about her that seems untouchable and she’s not apologetic about her beauty. But because of that it’s easy to — and she’s largely out of a lot of people’s leagues.” One of his guests took the comparison further, responding to Noir’s description of the “heavy” and “expensive as hell” gun by saying, “sounds like some of my recent experiences in Vegas like this past weekend … you still want to have fun with them and they’re a little dangerous.” Noir’s co-host Amy Robbins laughed, saying “Oh my god.”

Earlier this season Noir used a similar format of objectifying women by reducing them to descriptions of assault weapons in an advertisement for manufacturer Daniel Defense. Gun manufacturer Mossberg and Daniel Defense are the two primary sponsors of NRA Freestyle, which airs Noir and other NRA web series and is the home of the NRA’s lifestyle blog NRA Sharp.

The Daniel Defense advertisement, which aired during Noir earlier this season, also features a voice-over of Noir as he seems to describe a woman. At the end of the ad, however, it is revealed that Noir was instead describing the M4-A1 assault weapon:

This ad was panned by Wonkette, which pointed out it aired days after a California man went on a killing spree reportedly motivated by the killer’s hatred of women:

Hey, hip cool millennial hipsters! Noir, the NRA’s hip cool new web series for the Youngs, is going all Lifestyles of the Sleek and Carefully Waxed in this exciting ad touting the merits of a Perfect Companion:

She knows that she’s made it… comfortable alone, steady among others… she leaves you sad for all of the moments you missed, but grateful for the thrills ahead … because hidden underneath, is an adventure. She is: the Daniel Defense M4-A1

Hahaha, you think he is talking about a LADY, but he is actually talking about a GUN! Seems pretty classy, just a few days after a guy used a gun to get revenge on women who he treated as objects.

h/t: Timothy Johnson at MMFA 


Yet again, NRA mouthpiece and TheBlaze Dana Loesch is pandering to the fringe gun nuts by posing on the cover for her new book (Hands Off My Gun: Defeating The Plot To Disarm America, originally titled Defenseless) due to be out in October in a very offensive manner by insulting the survivors of the Sandy Hook Shooting.

John Amato at Crooks and Liars:

Dana Loesch, firebreather for Glenn Beck and other low brow conservatives has a new book out and decided to pose on the cover with an AR-15, a weapon that helped massacre so many innocent children in Sandy Hook. Glenn Beck is very excited that the cover will absolutely piss off liberals, but her crassness only proves the point I’ve been making for a long time.


Tim Peacock at Peacock Panache:

Dana Loesch is no stranger to controversy. She’s the extreme right conservative that applauded the desecration of enemy bodies overseas (urination on the bodies by American soldiers, in case everyone’s forgotten). She’s the Tea Party conservative that defendedArizona’s SB1062, a piece of legislation that would bring back a new era of Jim Crow public accommodation discrimination (which didn’t come as a surprise since Loesch supports Jim Crow in general). Loesch is the extremist that sided with Cliven Bundy even after he made (and doubled down on) egregiously racist statements in the course of his ‘sovereign citizen’ spiel. In her latest shock-jock stunt to generate publicity (and money), Loesch posed for the cover of her new book “Hands Off My Gun" (due out in October) with the same weapon used in both the Sandy Hook massacre and the Oregon high school shooting this week.  
 Furthermore, Loesch’s intentional use of that particular firearm - a firearm now nationally associated with one of the worst school shooting tragedies in modern history - doesn’t just work to incense the gun regulation crowd; rather, it serves as a snub (perhaps even a rude gesture) to those families who lost family members in both Sandy Hook and the Oregon shooting. And Loesch knows this. To say anything otherwise would be disingenuous.

 This is typical crass moronic behavior we’ve come to expect from Loesch.

 More on Loesch’s idiocy and falsehoods on Guns and the 2nd Amendment:  

(cross-posted from


In an unsigned statement published online on Friday, the NRA’s lobbying arm sharply criticized the activists, denouncing their tactics as as “weird” and “scary.” The activists responded by demanding that the NRA retract the statement, and threatening to withdraw its support of the NRA. That’s essentially what happened on Tuesday, when Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, gave an interview in which he blamed Friday’s statement on a lone staff member and apologized for “any confusion” the statement caused.

So much for the NRA looking reasonable; the group is no different than the extremist nutjobs that comprise Open Carry. They all share the same radical agenda.

(via thepoliticalfreakshow)

NRA slams ‘downright scary’ Open Carry Texas gun lovers: They ‘crossed the line’ (via Raw Story )

The nation’s staunchest defender of the Second Amendment has told gun activists in Texas who insist on carrying assault-style rifles in public places to knock it off. In a statement issued late last week, the National Rifle Association (NRA) called…


h/t: Katie McDonough at Salon


Yet another massacre occurred last night at an institution of learning, this time the University of California, Santa Barbara. The price we paid for the National Rifle Association’s “freedom” was seven people murdered and seven injured at nine different crime scenes.

A young man who Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown called “severely mentally disturbed” drove by various student hangouts to commit an act of “premeditated mass murder” apparently—according to videos posted to YouTube and threats made to women on campus—due to his anger at being “rejected” by women on campus.

The NRA wants less information and more Santa Barbaras.

Of course, this is all too familiar: a young aggrieved male, mentally disturbed, threatening others—especially women—but still able to get his hands on a high-capacity magazine of the variety used in so many other mass murders. This doesn’t happen in any other high income country with the regularity it does here; in fact, it almost never happens in any of them.

But here, in the good ole US of A, we’ve allowed a group of rich, entitled thugs who run an operation fronting for arms dealers—guys who represent a minority position on pretty much every issue having to do with reasonable regulation of firearms even among gun owners—to dictate our policies to cowardly, careerist politicians.

I already hear the outrage from the right: how can you blame the NRA? We need good guys to have guns, we have to stop the “haters” and “knockout gamers” and … I can’t even bear to repeat the infantile and inane talking points coming from cynical and callous people like the NRA’s Executive Vice President and foaming mouthpiece Wayne LaPierre.

We know how to stop these incidents, or at least greatly reduce them. We’ve seen other countries do it, such as Australia, which was averaging one of these massacres a year until their infamous Port Arthur Massacre in 1996. After which they completely overhauled their gun laws. Since then, a country with the same frontier history as the United States has not experienced one mass shooting. Not one. Their homicides and suicides have also precipitously dropped.

We, of course, could learn even more about how to stop these mass killings, as well as the everyday homicides, suicides and accidental killings that rob this nation of our youth, and everything they could have ever been. But this past week we’ve had numerous examples of how the NRA does their best to block this from happening, because they will gladly accept mass murder in Santa Barbara and Newtown, as well as an accidental bystander shooting in a neighborhood near you, if it keeps the dollars floating into their pockets from the ultimate blood-drenched 1%ers who own various staples of the gun industry

After attending the NRA’s Convention in Indianapolis, I wrote recently in these pages about all the NRA does to encourage paranoia and hatred while selling the weaponry not of self protection or hunting, but war, to anyone with a stack of bills and a glint in their eye.

But this past week we’ve seen the other side of the coin. How the NRA works to suppress information that would lead to treating a public health catastrophe that claims over 30,000 lives per year and injures over 100,000 as that very thing, while fighting to ensure we have as little access to information as possible that might help save lives.

The simple fact is, much like with their friends on the right from the tobacco industry to the oil industry to the megachurch, science and information are the enemies of the NRA. They have proven they will do whatever it takes to make sure we have less of it, and more Santa Barbaras.

The clearest example, of course, is the NRA’s labeling a bill sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) to allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to once again use its considerable expertise to research gun violence prevention, “unethical.” Yes, they actually said that.

Because anyone who does statistically significant research on a public health problem from the angle of helping people and not profiting from misery, and again and again finds obvious truths such as owning guns makes you more likely to get shot, is not someone the NRA and its allies will countenance without smearing. I debated one of these types from the Second Amendment Foundation on NPR recently regarding the CDC. It is amazing how tongue-tied they get when you present them with irrefutable information.

As for the “unethical” attack, mind you, this comes from an organization that promotes the “work” of well-traveled right-wing welfare recipient John Lott, a clown and a fraud who has created studies lacking any statistical validityhas “lost” his research when asked to produce it, and actually got busted for creating a fake online persona—Mary Rosh—to show up in comments sections where he wrote articles to say how swell and dreamy he was as a professor. Unethical (and embarrassing), indeed.

As Rep. Maloney rightly put it, “In America, gun violence kills twice as many children as cancer, and yet political grandstanding has halted funding for public health research to understand this crisis.”

The NRA’s fight to suppress information couldn’t be more apparent than it is in a rather pathetically titled column in Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller this past Friday. (Side note: As the NRA usually shuts up for at least 72 hours after a shooting, lest they remind people of their position as an accessory, having their views aired mere hours before this latest tragedy is enlightening).

The piece, written by chief NRA lobbyist and super-shill Chris Cox, was actually named, “We Love Our Moms and Trust Our Doctors, But We Still Don’t Want Gun Control.” Yes, we’re at the point where one of the top officials in the NRA feels the need to point out he has warm feelings for those who give life and those who save lives.

The reason for this, as he points out in his piece, is that he and his fellow street-war profiteers are fighting to block President Obama’s U.S. Surgeon General Nominee Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy, from being appointed. What was his crime? He has been honest about guns being a public health problem, and has made the common sense recommendation that civilians not be allowed to own military weaponry.

The NRA is worried that, like with smoking in the past, if we have a Surgeon General who tells the truth, they will see their profits plummet. In fact, they’re not even trying to hide this fact (or doing a really, really bad job), as reported by Politico:

[Murthy’s] strongly backed by several health constituencies, such as public health advocates, research organizations and physician groups. Yet the NRA, as well as some Republicans, say past Murthy statements in support of gun control indicate that he could use the surgeon general job to promote anti-gun policies. Murthy has stated that he would not focus on gun violence in the position.

Cox attacks Moms Demand Action in this piece too, because Shannon Watts and her group have also used available information in the age of social media—in this case photos of lunatics open-carrying long guns in family establishments and intimidating customers—to get Chipotle to tell the gun fondlers they don’t want them bringing their weapons in their stores. And now Chili’s and other eateries are considering taking similar action.

Also this past week, the House’s answer to untreated rabies, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), attempted to force more guns on military institutions that don’t want them. Once again, we were forced to look at the NRA’s enemy: actual information—some of it bravely provided by top military brass both active and retired,standing up to the lies of the NRA and its allies.

Retired Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, M.D., even took the step of authoring a strongly worded letter to Congress, which laid out his thinking as follows:

As someone who has had to make the tough decisions about how best to manage service members under my command, I urge you to oppose Mr. Gohmert’s Amendment. This amendment will only cause more stress, confusion, and danger on military bases.

Later that night, Gohmert went to the House floor, defeated, and pulled his amendment.

Sadly for the NRA, we are in the Information Age, and the truth is starting to regularly get past their efforts to thwart it. But sadly for the rest of us—and at this moment, most tragically, the victims at Santa Barbara—the NRA have been so successful at bullying, threatening and obfuscating for so long, that we likely have too many more UC Santa Barbaras to come.

Source: Cliff Schecter for The Daily Beast

H/T: Eric Lach at TPM

new web series for young people produced by the National Rifle Association is being widely panned by critics as a phony and out-of-touch attempt at messaging. And for good reason — the NRA’s Noir is really about the same themes the NRA has been ranting on for decades, that the NRA is the only group that can stand up for persecuted gun owners and save America in the face of machinations by anti-gun elites.

Recently launched on the NRA’s new “Freestyle” network, Noir promises to report on ”the latest on firearms, fashion, pop culture and other hot topics.” The show is hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir — best known for his bizarre claim Martin Luther King Jr. was a gun proponent — along with co-host Amy Robbins and is sponsored by gun manufacturer Mossberg. 

Early reviews of Noir report that it reeks of inauthenticity. Indeed the 16-minute premiere episode is rife with product placements and lame pop culture and sports references, all awkwardly interspersed between features on high-powered, expensive-looking firearms.

In one cringe-worthy moment, Noir complains that the cardboard box his $5,000 rifle came in looks like “a Build-A-Bear beginning set of a homeless guy’s apartment.” During a glowing review of a compact Smith & Wesson handgun, Noir analogizes the pistol to Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson: “Sure he is small and unimposing, but the moment you drop your guard he will tear your ass up.” There is also an obligatory twerking reference

This fakery led Gawker’s Adam Weinstein to describe the show as “hilariously bad poser garbage.” Writing for Vocativ, Mike Spies summed up the show as “public-access television: Think Wayne’s World, but with a focus on sleek weapons” and concluded that “NRA employs millenial-friendly tropes to attract younger members — and fails miserably.” While Spies imagined the show being “produced by aliens who spent an hour studying American pop culture,” Weinstein poked fun at “the cringe-inducing ‘urban’ script copy dropping out of Noir’s mouth like it was written by a white Mitch McConnell intern on summer break from Liberty University.”

As the reviews of Noir invariably point out, millennials are less likely to own guns and more likely to support regulation of firearms, compared to older generations.

Beyond the widely noted production and messaging problems, the NRA has failed to create a different message that can resonate with young people with Noir. The NRA must realize that young people are unlikely to embrace the bombastic paranoid rants of its executive vice president Wayne LaPierre. But as the video below shows, Noir is more of the same from the NRA, only delivered with a less abrasive tone and buried between pop culture references.

h/t: Timothy Johnson and John Kerr at MMFA

h/t: Mark Follman at Mother Jones 

NRA uses Nigerian girls’ abduction to promote itself and slam ‘Pajama Boy’ liberals (via Raw Story )

The National Rifle Association has seized upon the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls as a means of promoting itself and slamming liberals as soft, weak people who watch MSNBC talk show host Chris Hayes. Media Matters reported Saturday…


NRA swag

INDIANAPOLIS— The theme of last week’s National Rifle Association annual meeting was an odd one: maternity.

It was not an official theme in the way macho slogans like “All In” and “Stand and Fight” have formally defined recent NRA congresses. But it was a thick running thread, one that signals the quickening of a broad shift underway across the gun rights movement, from the gun makers to the grassroots.

Red schwag set the tone. At tables throughout the complex, NRA staffers handed out “I’m an NRA MOM” buttons and t-shirts. At the building’s main entrance hung an enormous banner of a woman, looking a little pouty, next to a populist taunt of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently said he would spend big on behalf of the gun safety movement.

While it is unclear if the woman is an NRA mom, she is notably not NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre or board member Ted Nugent. The billboard captures perfectly the NRA’s double-pronged messaging campaign of the moment, best summarized as “Glocker Moms against Mayor Mike.”

NRA banner

For years the role of women in the politics and business of guns has been growing. We may look back at 2014 as the year it flipped. In Indianapolis, women constituted a full quarter of NRA attendees for the first time — up to a five-fold increase over the past decade, according to the group.

The NRA is pivoting quickly to adjust, and for the first time its convention program featured two major events for women. In addition to the $250-a-plate Women’s Leadership Forum Luncheon and Auction, the group held the first annual Women’s New Energy Breakfast, where female gun owners and NRA moms mixed and networked over a $15 breakfast buffet.

These same women are the target of a female-oriented media push, anchored by a running NRA web series called “Armed and Fabulous.” An early episode looks admiringly at the Potterfield women of the Midway ammunition empire, whose scion, Larry, is one of the NRA’s biggest industry donors.

The women-and-guns motif carried over into the male-dominated dog-and-pony show known as the Leadership Forum, where 2016 hopefuls bragged about their wives’ gun racks. Rick Santorum boasted that his wife owns more guns than he does, and that his five-year old daughter is already an NRA member. Indiana Governor Mike Pence talked about falling in love with his wife for her handgun. Florida Senator Marco Rubio bemoaned the paperwork required for his female staffers to carry and conceal. And after two years in which Glenn Beck delivered the keynote, this year’s honor fell to the pistol-packin’ Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.

What’s going on? The modern NRA is, above all, a thinly veiled industry group. Its “mom” offensive reflects basic gun industry economics: manufacturers’ continued growth depends in no small part on making up for the duck and deer hunting demographic, which has been static or declining for generations.

The industry hopes that women can be their growth market. Thus far its degree of success is anyone’s guess. Anecdotal evidence and some polling shows an increase in female gun ownership in recent years. But according to the General Social Survey, the gold standard for survey research, only 12 percent of women owned guns in 2012, a lower level than in the mid-1990s.    

Whether or not there’s a real demographic sea change at hand, the transformation is unfolding in the gun media, both popular and trade, where designers and analysts discuss the need for new models representing the past and future of the industry. Gun makers are rolling out more rifles fitted for arthritic fingers, as well as handguns like the Pavona pistol, “designed for the discerning woman.”

Gun swag

There is also a political dimension. Following the Sandy Hook massacre, Shannon Watts opened a new front in the gun debate by founding Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, which now claims 130,000 moms as members and chapters in all 50 states. The group’s calls for common-sense gun-reform sparked new life in a grassroots gun-reform movement that needed a boost. Last year Watts’ group merged with Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, giving it money to go with its grassroots muscle. Watts’ success created a frame that put the gun lobby on the wrong side of the gender divide.

The result was the image makeover rolled out in Indianapolis. A couple of years ago, in St. Louis, the group unveiled a testosterone-heavy election 2012 media campaign centered around Chuck Norris and R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey, best known as the donut-hating drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. Last weekend, the NRA unveiled a modern look: slick ads that prominently featured women and people of color.

After drawing criticism in the wake of Sandy Hook for the paranoid ranting of white male spokespeople like LaPierre, the NRA has spent the last 18 months building a diverse bench. It now employs seven commentators for its NRA News media wing, including three women (Natalie Foster, Gabby Franco, and Nikki Turpeaux), an African American (Colion Noir), and Chris Cheng, an Asian-American who has declared himself “gay for guns.”

Meanwhile, young women like CNN’s S.E. Cupp, The Blaze’s Dana Loesch, and Fox News’ Katie Pavlich regularly appear on cable news to provide the NRA’s line on the gun issue.

The NRA mom meme isn’t just a top-down thing coming from Fairfax. While strolling the gun show floor — a 40,000 square-foot maze of merchants exhibiting everything from gun insurance to fully automatic, sub-compact “greasers" — I ran into Kyle Coplen, the affable young CEO of the Armed Citizen Project, a non-profit that offers free shotguns and training to residents of high-crime neighborhoods. He was handing out his own mom-themed schwag, and said he’d been doing it for months. The shirts he designed show a female silhouette holding a child’s hand with one arm, a shotgun with the other. With a nod to shirts found in the tourist shops of South Beach and the French Quarter, it reads: "I support single moms."

Coplen explained that he’s currently arming all kinds of moms. “We’ve trained and armed women in wheelchairs and women with special needs children,” he said. So far, his donated shotguns have all been traditional steel and wood, but he’d have no problem handing out guns in the increasingly popular hot pink. “The idea of banning pink guns is part of the liberal anti-gunners ‘war on women’,” he said.  

I’d heard the same thing earlier that morning in a park opposite the convention center. There, a coalition of new pro-gun mom groups took advantage of perfect spring weather and rallied under the slogan, “Armed Moms United to Protect.” Suburban and middle-class, they were textbook Glocker Moms. There weren’t many of them, but they all seemed to have their own mom group.

Whether these groups were letterhead organizations or represented a genuine phenomenon among the brassroots is hard to say. But they do seem serious. Most have registered as 501(c)3’s and some are also functioning as PACs. The groups sponsoring the Saturday rally included Moms With Guns Demand Action, Indiana Moms Against Gun Control, and 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control. Some of them had mom-guns in their mom-jeans.

I asked one of them, Linda Elliot of 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control, how many mom groups like hers had sprung up. “Too many to count probably,” she said. “The rhetorical terrain is shifting toward women, so our message is that it’s okay to be a mom and own guns. I hate to give Shannon Watts any credit, but when she threw such a tempter tantrum, it kind of exploded.”

The Glocker Moms’ message may be tailored for women, but they are going to have trouble with that broad political hinge group once famous as Soccer Moms. As I approached their rally, the gun lobbyist and hard-right operator Larry Pratt, who runs the NRA rival Gun Owners of America, was praising Cliven Bundy as an American hero (this was after Bundy’s comments on the state of “the Negro”).

Pratt, who has consorted with neo-Nazis and other extremists over the years, may be the scariest mother of them all. If Linda Elliot wants to cultivate non-rural female gun ownership and activism, her group might want to stop associating with people with long records of conspiratorial and racist commentary.

Pratt is a minor obstacle if the goal is bringing more women to the gun movement. The NRA’s board of directors tolerates a culture shot through with misogyny. Earlier this year, Nugent became the subject of a firestorm of controversy after he was invited to campaign with the GOP’s candidate for governor of Texas and state Democrats responded by highlighting his inflammatory commentary on women.

Larry Pratt

Later that afternoon, back at the gun show, I asked Jan Morgan of Armed American Women about this tension. Morgan had keynoted the “Armed Moms” rally with a speech that blended gun-policy with attacks on liberals and abortion rights, delivered while wearing a pistol prominently strapped around her calf. She said pro-gun women should make their case in the context of protecting life, and that means tying it to anti-abortion politics. “Look, if anti-gun liberals are going to talk about banning guns to protect children, then they need to look at abortion,” she said.

Whether most women agree with her on abortion or not, she said there was no stopping the surge in women buying guns. “Women [gun owners] are the largest growing group because of the level of crime, the number of mass shootings,” she said. “They understand the best way to protect yourself and your children is with a gun. They’re gonna have a huge impact on the movement. Shannon Watts and Bloomberg are going to regret opening up the language of ‘moms’.”

Shannon Watts, the original Gun Debate Mom and an Indianapolis native, was in town for the weekend. On Saturday, she led a 300-mom strong “stroller jam” in protest a few blocks north of the convention center. On Sunday, she unveiled a Mothers Dream Quilt and released a new report, “Not Your Grandparents’ NRA.” The latter was written under the imprimatur of her new group, Everytown for Gun Safety.

Watts’ report focused on the NRA’s growing political radicalism, but the gender shift is leaving pink streaks that are also unlike anything in the group’s history. Few were the exhibits on the gun show floor that did not feature products catering to women. We are now well past the novelty of a pink AR-15 here, a sparkled pistol there. Today’s woman has holsters and targets of her own. In Indy, the Law Enforcement Targets booth had already sold out of its bestselling pink shooting target, sales of which benefit not the NRA’s “round-up” program, but breast cancer research and awareness. “Our new line of female targets is selling like crazy,” said a company rep. Down the aisle, the first company to market exclusively to the woman shooter, the Ontario-based Packing In Pink, likewise did a brisk trade.

"Industry is finally catching up with us," said Linda Elliot of 1 Million Moms. "A few years ago it was hard to find a holster or gun that fit a woman’s hand."

As the convention was winding down on Sunday afternoon, I chatted with Alan Gottlieb, the man who anticipated all of this. Gottlieb was sitting unassumingly in his trademark bowtie, signing up new members for his gun-rights group, the Second Amendment Foundation. Most NRA members have never heard of Gottlieb, but he is among the most important figures in the development of the modern gun-rights movement. His group, not the NRA, built the legal team and the strategy behind the landmark Supreme Court gun cases of McDonald and Heller, not to mention dozens of important state-level suits. Among the literature arrayed before him was the current issue of a magazine called Women and Guns, which he has been publishing since 1989. A long-term strategist, Gottlieb dismissed the “mom” boom as a silly marketing arms race and a distraction from larger trends.

"It’s not just about ‘moms,’" said Gottlieb. "The future is about all of the non-traditional groups: single women, the LGBT community, people living in cities, Hispanics who come to this country to enjoy our freedoms, including Second Amendment rights. Those are the only places we can grow. That’s where you find the future of the gun-rights movement."

As he began packing up his materials, I asked Gottlieb if the rapid adoption of maternal messaging — by the NRA, by the Glocker Moms, by industry — might not betray a fear, or at least a nervousness, that suburban women and mothers, if unchallenged, could swing the political momentum toward serious gun reform.

"Fear? Look around," he said, gesturing at the bustling arms bazaar extending in every direction.

"No, I really don’t think these guys are too worried about their future." 

h/t: Alexander Zaitchik at MMFA

From the 04.29.2014 edition of AFR’s Focal Point:

h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW