Home

NRA versus NPR. Who Wins? The NRA.

Leave a comment

              You may recall that back in July 2018, the FBI arrested a Russian moll, Maria Butina, and charged her with spying by trying to infiltrate the Trump Administration through contacts she had made with the NRA. Just what America’s ‘oldest civil rights organization’ needed as it was about to be engulfed in a massive political fight between Wayne LaPierre and Oliver North, the results of which are still going on.

              North got booted out as NRA President in 2019, and then there was a big fight between NRA and its long-time PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen, and then an abortive bankruptcy, and then a still-active investigation by New York AG Letitia James, and then the cancellation of NRA-TV, and then the collapse of revenue, and then the articles by Mike Spies, and then and then and then, all of my Gun-control Nation friends were overjoyed and assumed the NRA was to quote Grandpa fartig (read: finished) and toyt (read: dead.)

              Meanwhile, I still get my weekly emails from Wayne, my monthly magazine shows up in my mailbox on time, the online clothing store has a new line of polo shirts which means that my golf club will shortly allow me out to play, and when all is said and done, things at NRA headquarters in Fairfax seem to be back to where they used to be.

              How did all this happen? You might want to read a new book by NPR’s investigative correspondent Tim Mak, Misfire, Inside the Downfall of the NRA, which purports to explain the events of the last five years. The book has received rave reviews from some of the usual suspects, including David Frum and Olivia Nuzzi, I’ll get to those reviews and what they really mean below.

              In the meantime, let me just say that the book is completely and totally wrong. And it’s wrong because the author may be someone who knows all the political ins and outs of the D.C. scene, but he doesn’t know anything about guns, or the people who make guns, or the people who sell guns, or the people who buy and own guns. Which is kind of standard for what happens when someone in Gun-control Nation takes an allegedly ‘inside’ look at the ‘other’ (read: pro-gun) side.

              So, the result is that someone like Tim Mak ends up interviewing all kinds of people, but he has no ability to determine whether they are telling him the truth, or some of the truth, or none of the truth. The fact that you ask two people the same question and get two different answers is about as valid a way to figure out why something did or didn’t happen as the man in the moon. 

              So, in this book, Mak begins by relating a conversation with a ‘trusted’ source who told him that Maria Butina “infiltrated the NRA in order to promote Russian interests.” [p. 112] But what exactly were those Russian ‘interests?’ Here is where Mak completely misses the boat and takes his book off in a direction that it shouldn’t have gone.

              Butina came to the NRA show for the same reason that lots of foreigners come to the show every year – she was looking for an importer and/or a manufacturer who could help her get the AK-47 assault rifle into American gun-owning hands. Her boss, Alexander Torshin, was on the board of the Russian bank which funded a Russian gun company, Izhmash, which makes the AK-47 for the Russian military.

              Why did Izhmash want to get into the American gun market?  For the same reason that companies like Glock and Sig have gotten into the American gun market, because the American market happens to be larger and potentially more lucrative than all the other commercial gun markets in the world combined.

              That’s the reason that Butina was at the NRA show in Orlando, that’s the reason she tried to ‘infiltrate’ the NRA, and none of what I just said is mentioned or even hinted at in Mak’s book. Did he attend the NRA show?  Of course not. Why bother to go to the NRA show when you can have breakfast with a trusted ‘source’ in D.C. and get all the dirt?

              Butina ended up trying to make something more of herself than just being a sales-person for the AK-47 by moving to Washington and getting mixed up with a small-time political consultant who had been involved in some state-level campaigns. She used some of this guy’s connections to begin promoting herself as a ‘representative’ of the Russian government which is when she violated the law about registering as a foreign ‘agent’ which then got her arrested by the FBI for being a ‘spy.’

              Now for me, being a ‘spy’ means that you are doing all kinds of secret stuff to get information which otherwise you’re not supposed to have.  She never did anything like that. She just forgot to register herself because the truth is that she wasn’t employed by the Russian government at all. She was peddling a consumer product and by telling Torshin that her sales gig was opening up important doors, she was able to increase her salary and make more charges to her expense account.

              And that was it.  That was the whole story about Maria Butina and her connection to the NRA.  Do you get any of this in Tim Mak’s book? Nope.

              I could have sat in my living room in Massachusetts and done all the so-called ‘investigative’ journalism which Mak claims he did for this book. You can do it too. Just go to this website, Home – NRA Watch, which contains all the documentation from the various legal proceedings involving the NRA and you’ll find virtually every so-called ‘interview’ which Tim Mak claims provided him with the content for this book.

              That’s not investigative journalism. That’s shabby journalism and it’s not made any less shabby by the fact that three of the five blurbs on the book’s back cover were written by current or former colleagues of Tim Mak when he wrote for The Beast.

It’s Not Just The Supply Of Guns That Creates Gun Violence – It’s Also The Demand.

6 Comments

              All of a sudden, after wandering in the wilderness for lo, these many years, it appears that the lost gun-control tribes may finally reach the Promised Land and get a gun bill passed through Congress and signed by a Democratic President in 2021. Of course, this chain of events assumes that Sleazy Don will continue to lag behind in crucial swing states (OH, PA) and that the blue team doesn’t screw everything up by nominating another version of the person who ran the single, worst national campaign of all time in 2016.

              Nevertheless, I’m willing to take the short odds on the possibility that what I am predicting might come true, which leads to the most important question, namely, what kind of gun bill should be passed? And if nothing else, what seems to be the consensus among all the men and women who want to quarterback the blue team, is that the bill should expand background checks to secondary transfers and sales.

              The reasons behind this consensus have to do with two things: 1) everybody, even gun owners, seem to support some kind of expansion of FBI-NICS; and 2) if all gun transfers must be qualified before they take place, it stands to reason that less guns will end up in the ‘wrong hands.’ After all, even the NRA has always made common cause with ‘law-abiding’ gun owners, right?

              Unfortunately, the research standing behind any and all attempts to regulate gun ownership through legal means fails to come to grips with one, very important thing. And this is the fact that none of the studies which examine the degree to which gun laws work or don’t work to reduce gun violence ever take into account one, fundamental issue, namely, the issue of demand.

Whether we like it or not, the events which constitute at least three-quarters or more of every instance of gun violence every year; i.e., fatal and non-fatal gun assaults, reflect an ongoing retail market for this particular product, even if it’s a retail environment quite unlike the local gun store. And while our friend Phil Cook and others have studied this market in terms of product pricing and product supply, the possibility that this market could be somehow controlled by more stringent laws governing legal gun access and ownership, flies in the face of every such governmental effort when confronted with unabated product demand.

The War on Terror has only been going on since 2001, but the War on Drugs was announced by Nixon in 1971. How much money, time, effort and legislative activity has been expended to reduce illegal drug trafficking over the past fifty(!) years? And whatever the answer, what we have gotten is another drug epidemic called ‘opioids.’ And is it just coincidence that as opioids appear to be increasingly common, that the rate of gun violence appears to be going back up?

Last week, with the usual 48-hour brouhaha which always accompanies another aimless rant by John Donahue against John Lott, the Stanford economist once again tried to tell us why we have a crisis called ‘gun violence’ without so much as mentioning or even acknowledging the issue of demand. And as an economist, not a public health researcher, Donahue should know better than that. But why bother to bring the most obvious and necessary issue to bear when discussing how and why guns get into the ‘wrong’ hands?

I can’t read a single issue of a gun-control news aggregator like The Trace without seeing at least one article bemoaning the failure of gun regulations to cover the myriad ways in which guns move from the ‘legal’ to the ‘illegal’ milieu. Which is why everyone in Gun-control Nation is touting the idea of comprehensive background checks (CBC) as the first and most obvious method for reducing the violence caused by guns.

So let me break it to you gently. Unless a way is found to reduce the demand for illegal guns, I guarantee you that the market will find a way to negate the impact of CBC. Guaranteed.

Is America’s Love Affair With Guns Coming To An End?

4 Comments

              I have been connected to the gun business one way or another for more than sixty years, and for the very first time I am seeing something about the business that I have never seen before. What I am talking about is the fact that the latest release of background-check data from the FBI, the numbers for February, confirm that so far the sales slump which followed the inauguration of Sleazebag Trump has continued well past the 2018 election which brought about an abrupt change in gun politics on Capitol Hill.

              The very first thing that the new Democratic majority did (or maybe it was the second thing) after the 116th Congress convened on January 3rd was to pass H.R. 8, calling for universal background checks on the transfer of all guns. This was followed at the end of February with another bill extending the time for the FBI to complete a background check from 3 up to 20 days, Now the fact that neither of those bills will probably get through the Senate, and even if they do, will probably languish unsigned on Sleazy Don’s desk doesn’t alter a new political dynamic that has clearly emerged, namely, that gun control as a viable point of political discussion has once again reared its ugly  head.

              Now you would think that these developments would do for the gun industry what such developments have always done in  the past, which is to say, provoke a mad rush into gun stores to clean off the shelves before the dreaded government comes along and gets rid of all the guns. And despite what the ‘experts’ told a Congressional hearing last week (they weren’t under oath so they couldn’t be accused of lying to Congress), if you implement universal background checks for all gun transfers, sooner or later you wind up with total gun registration. And we all know what happens when the government can identify everyone who owns a gun, right?

              So how come gun sales continue to slide into the toilet, no matter how busy the gun-grabbers seem to be?  At the end of August last year, Smith & Wesson stock was selling for less than $10 a share. It closed at $13.60 the day of the election, it’s now drifting back down to under ten bucks. Before all the votes came in, the market was anticipating the possibility that the political return of the tree-huggers would produce a new surge in buying guns. The market has turned out to be wrong.

              We need to wait another couple of months before proclaiming the great de-coupling of fear and demand as the driver for the purchase and ownership of guns. But if things keep going the way they are currently going, from the perspective of America’s love affair with firearms, a new age may have definitely dawned.  There’s a website out there which sells ammunition delivered direct to your door. Right now they are advertising 500 rounds of the best, 22LR ammo on the market for $16.99.  I remember when you couldn’t find any 22LR ammunition because of the hoarding and over-consumption which occurred during the heady Obama days. The ammo is now so cheap that they can’t even give it away. And nothing is a more accurate barometer of the state of the gun market than the cost of 22LR.

              The one thing we continue to get from various public-opinion surveys is that the percentage of Americans who own guns hasn’t really increased; it’s more likely that the average gun owner now owns more guns. But at some point, even most of the die-hard gun nuts just can’t find the space, or the money, or simply the interest to go out and buy another gun. Remember when every kitchen had something called a Mixmaster? Maybe some day my grandchildren will visit the Smithsonian and walk past an exhibition of ‘vintage’ guns. I can just hear one of them saying, “Didn’t Grandpa used to own those things?”

%d bloggers like this: