The 2022 National Rifle Association of America (NRA) convention took place this past weekend in Houston, Texas. I was there as both an attendee and as a member of the association’s Board of Directors. Over the course of three days, as tens of thousands of people wandered through the exhibit hall and meeting rooms, I once again witnessed the NRA for what it is — an organization comprised of millions of men and women from all walks of life who believe in and cherish our country, our history and the American people.
The NRA was founded 151 years ago, and remains to this day an organization focused on protecting the Second Amendment to our Constitution. Notwithstanding that focus, its members and the men and women who direct its affairs, understand and support the entire Bill of Rights, including the right of the protestors who congregated outside the convention hall in Houston to level baseless and ridiculous charges against them.
The men and women of the NRA also understand human nature, perhaps better than do those who protest them, or at least more honestly than those detractors. NRA members know that despite the basic goodness of the American people, and the fact that the vast majority of them are law-abiding and cherish life, there are exceptions — people who commit wrong, unlawful and sometimes truly evil acts. The difference (or at least one of many differences) between these NRA members and those who accuse them of complicity in the actions of last week’s mass murderer in Uvalde, Texas, is that the association’s members do not blame other, unrelated individuals or entities for the evil acts of one such person.
While the direct and continuing focus of the NRA is protection of the Second Amendment, its members do not check their common sense or reasoning ability at the door when they sign up. They know, both instinctively and from history, that the sins of one are not the sins of all. They do not, for example, suddenly upon sending in their NRA dues, come to believe that, simply because members of the ACLU advocate for the constitutional rights of criminals, each and every member of and donor to that civil liberties organization is culpable if a person nonetheless commits a criminal act. NRA members know also that every donor to a candidate for political office is not himself or herself guilty of every bad act that might have been engaged in by that candidate.
Guilt by association, however, has become one of the many troubling, if not defining characteristics of public discourse in today’s society, along with an intolerance for differing viewpoints. For the Left, this has come to manifest itself in willful blindness to both the reasons why individuals commit horrific acts such as a mass murder of innocent victims, and to possible steps that could be taken to guard against recurrences.
Far easier is it to blame a visible organization such as the NRA, which advocates for the freedom to possess a firearm (not a mandate but a freedom), than it is to tackle the deeper and more complex issues that have come to trouble the minds of so many young people in society to the extent they lose all sense of humanity, reason, compassion, and self-worth.
Importantly also, the vast majority of NRA members are active politically, and seek to exercise that responsibility and privilege to elect men and women who, unlike protestors yelling slogans and untruths, understand and will use their power as elected officials to finally implement actual solutions to address the problem of youth alienation and endemic mental instability in contemporary American society.
Simply because so many of those public officials, on both sides of the political divide, have thus far failed to actually implement programs or appropriate funds to address these deep-rooted problems, does not diminish the need to continue to press their implementation. And surely it does not justify demonizing organizations and individuals who see in the Second Amendment a way to protect individuals and families and not as a justification to commit criminal acts.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.