Another Gun Expert On The Death Of The NRA.


              As a member of the National Rifle Association since 1955 and currently a Patriot Life Benefactor (whew!) Member, it pains me to consider the possibility that the power and influence of America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ may be coming to an end. At least this is what E. J.Dionne, an academic know-it-all, believes may soon occur.

              Here’s the announcement from atop Mount WaPo: “Taken together, the events of 2016 and the results of the 2018 election will be remembered as the beginning of the end of the gun lobby’s power.”

              As a former academic know-it-all, I would like to politely disagree. And I would like to disagree because Professor Dionne’s argument is based on information being produced, promoted and believed by individuals and organizations who would like the NRA to go the way of the dial telephone and the do-do bird; in other words, they simply don’t like guns.

              Dionne’s argument about the de-fanged NRA kicks off with the case of Maria Butina, the Russian poster-girl who is pleading guilty to the charge that she used her connections in the gun business to promote Russian governmental interests; i.e., she was an ‘agent’ for Russian political interests and part of the grand scheme to get Trump elected in 2016.

              What’s glossed over again and again in the Butina story is the fact that her handler,Alexander Torshin, happens to be a Board member of the bank which finances a company called Izhmash, which happens to manufacture the original AK-47 assault rifle, which happens to be the single, most popular gun sold anywhere in the world today. The Russian gun maker has been trying, so far without success, to bring the rifle into the American market. If they could pull it off, the deal would probably be worth at least $500 million in net profits.  Right now, an American gun nut who wants to own an AK-47 has to buy a gun slapped together with crummy, after-market parts from Rumania or some other place. The real-deal AK would easily sell 5 million units to Gun-nut Nation, and a markup of $100 bucks would still leave the sticker price in the affordable range.

              Since Professor Dionne writes about guns from time to time, perhaps he should spend a day at an NRA show to learn something about the business which he postures himself to be an expert on the pages of WaPo.  In fact, I’ll meet him at the 2019 show in Indianapolis, walk him around and introduce him to God knows how many overseas visitors who, just like Butina, have some kind of gun-related product they want to promote.  Know why Americans own at least 40% of the small arms floating around the globe?  Because we are the only country which has a retail gun market, okay? Professor Dionne can also chat with Wayne-o, who makes a point of stopping at the booth of every vendor to thank him for supporting the show. How do you think Maria Butina first met Wayne LaPierre?

              Dionne’s other argument about how the NRA’s power is waning is based on the fact that what the NRA put up as political contributions in 2018 was a substantial decrease from what they gave out in 2016, mostly having to do with the $30 million they handed to Donald Trump. But what Dionne doesn’t mention is that,on average, the NRA contributes less than 3% of the money which GOP office-holders spend on their campaigns.  Even the total amount that the NRA gave it’s A+-rated, House members in 2018 was less than this same bunch received in political donations from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

              What happened in the last election cycle is that national gun-control organizations like Brady and Everytown have been energized by the attention paid by the media to the kids from Parkland, whose national tours were basically the handiwork of a certain, former Mayor of New York City whose first name begins with M, not R. But something else about guns has been happening in the last several years which E. J. Dionne seems not to have noticed at all.

In 1990 and 1992,two remarkable scholars, Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara, published research which indisputably showed that access to a gun increased the risk of suicide and homicide in the home. Know how the average American reacted to this news? The  percentage of Americans who believe that a gun in the home is more of a benefit and less of a risk continues to go – up!  And given the fact that, at most, only 40% or less of American homes contain one or more legal guns, obviously there are lots of non-gun owners who also buy the NRA’s basic argument about the positives of owning a gun.

              If E. J. Dionne wants to inform us about the state of the gun business, maybe he would attempt to explain this remarkable case of cognitive dissonance, which is a much more important harbinger of the long-term health of the NRA. But the truth is that E. J. Dionne will stick with his usual bromides because his audience doesn’t like guns.

The Russian Spy And The NRA: The Story’s Fading Fast.

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If there is still anyone out there who still believes that the Keystone Cops story about Maria Butina running around as a secret Russian agent trying to help Sleazy Don rig the election, last week’s New York Times story should finally put all that nonsense to rest. In fact, what has now been revealed isn’t the Keystone Cops – that’s way too professional.  It’s really a script right out of Laurel & Hardy, or maybe Cramden & Norton. But whatever it is, the idea that this half-witted little playgirl got together with the NRA to somehow subvert our political system is beyond absurd.

25butina_dc-jumbo   butina2           Even the NYT reporters, who had previously been pushing the Mata Hari storyline, felt it necessary to cover themselves by admitting that “during her time in the United States, she surrounded herself not only with high-profile American conservatives but also with dubious characters who seemed bent on making a fast buck — and it was not always easy to tell one from the other.” Not easy to tell one from the other – no sh*t Sherlock.

On the other hand, to cement the image of a nefarious NRA leadership hell-bent on doing whatever illegal or unethical things were done to promote Sleazy Don’s campaign, we now have the appearance of yet another suspicious character whose agenda was also being shaped by a connection the pro-gun gang, in this case none other than Donna Keene, wife of David Keene, who happens to be a former President of the NRA.

Donna Keene is described in the NYT article as a ‘well-connected Washington lobbyist,’ whose connections – surprise, surprise – all happen to be on the Far Right. She currently makes appearances for an outfit called The Leadership Institute, which was founded in 1979 as a place where young conservatives can learn how to promote the right-wing message on college campuses, social media, political movement, the whole bit.

The way she got involved with the Russian ‘spy,’ however, had nothing to do with politics, or lobbying, or the NRA, or anything else.  Keene reached out to Maria Butina because she allegedly was fronting for some guy who wanted to buy Russian jet fuel and, after all, since  Butina had taken husband David on an NRA junket to Moscow, why not ask her for help?

Why not? Because Butina didn’t know anyone who had any connections at all in the Russian energy industry, and she was so obvious in her attempts to promote herself and make a buck that even her boyfriend, or her ex-boyfriend, or whatever he is, another two-but hustler named Paul Erickson, admitted that he actually wrote all the emails which Butina then cut and pasted so that it looked like she knew what to say.

The whole, stupid deal collapsed because there never was a deal. All that happened was that Butina asked Donna to put up $25,000 as a ‘good faith’ payment; we all know where that money would have ended up.

Let me break it gently to my good gun violence prevention (GVP) friends. The NRA was founded in 1876 to promote gun ownership and the safe use of guns. For reasons having absolutely nothing to do with Trump, or Putin or anyone else, gun owners have always been politically conservative and are easily persuaded that political liberals are against gun ‘rights.’ If you want to come over here from anywhere else and try various shlock schemes that will appeal to folks on the right, my suggestion is that you’re wasting your time going to a meeting of the local chapter of moveon.org.

So far, super-spy Butina has tried to promote the AK-47 assault rifle without any success; she’s now tried to make a connection between an unnamed American and an unidentified Russian who may or may not be able to come up with some jet fuel for sale. This is how you get the NRA to help you subvert the American political system?  As my grandmother would say, “gai mach,’ which means blow it out your proverbial rear end.

Latest Chapter In Butinagate.

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Now that one of the ongoing Russia-gate investigations has finally connected some actual Russians to the Russian government in an effort to swing the 2016 election to Trump, the most important thing is to ramp up the PR to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake. I’m referring to the announcement made last week that the prosecutorial team leading the attack against Butina, Torshin and the NRA has added yet another ‘expert’ to its ranks, in this case a prosecutor who has vast experience in gun trafficking and related affairs.

butina2              The expert in question, Will Mackie, evidently was involved in a gun-trafficking case brought against an Arizona arms dealer named Marc Turi, who may or may not have violated an arms embargo against shipping weapons to Libya during the heady days of the Quadaffi regime. Like all these weapons shipments that are going one place but end up somewhere else, the facts are never all that clear. The story invariably reads like the script of a le Carré novel turned into a movie (e.g., The Night Manager) and the characters involved are usually somewhere between extras from Central Casting to guys who hang around outside supermarkets hoping that some old lady needs help taking her groceries out to her car.

Here’s how exporting guns works. First, you apply to the ATF for a Federal Firearms License because otherwise you can’t keep any guns around that you are planning to ship either to another location within the United States or anywhere outside the USA. Then you apply to the State Department for an export license which lists the types of weapons being shipped, the country where the guns will end up, and the name of the individual or company who is receiving the goods. Some countries engage in licensing gun importers the way we do it here; other countries don’t. Allegedly the Office of Export Controls at State checks out the outfit who will receive the guns, as well as certifying that the country itself isn’t on a list of locations to whom we will not sell arms.  The exact same procedure and the exact same forms are used whether you want to sell an AR-15 abroad or an F-15 jet. As far as the State Department is concerned, it’s the correctness of the paperwork that counts.

Why is the paperwork so important? Do you actually believe that when your container arrives at dockside in Bayonne or Baltimore on its way to some customer overseas, that the customs guys at the port are going to interrupt their lunch to open up your container and check to make sure that the guns you claim to be shipping to wherever are actually what’s inside the shipping cartons about to be loaded onto a ship?  Give me a break.

So now we have yet another paperwork expert being added to the Butina/Torshin investigation because, after all, the gun trafficking efforts of our Russian spies are just as much a threat to national security as when Julius and Ethel allegedly shipped the Soviet Union an atom bomb.

Except there’s only one little problem. Maria Butina hasn’t been involved in any kind of gun trafficking at all, ditto the ‘oligarch’ Torshin. The latter happens to be the owner of the company that manufactures the original AK-47 in Russia, and to bring the gun into the United States market they have set up a factory in Florida, following all the import laws and rules as defined by the ATF. Now the problem is that Torshin’s Russian company has been hit by sanctions first imposed by the Obama regime fand recently again by Trump. But that issue has absolutely nothing to do with gun trafficking at all.

Whether it’s Ambler, le Carré, Daniel Silva or Alan Furst, give me a good spy novel and I’ll read it through without taking anything except a bathroom break. But I’m still waiting for the best spy novel  yet to be published, which will be the final report of the Department of Justice’s investigation of Maria Butina and her gun-nut friends.

Here We Go Again: More ‘Fake News’ From Gun-control Nation.

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I really hate to use the phrase ‘fake news,’ but the recent attempts by Gun-control Nation to rev up the noise level, first Butina, then plastic guns, seems to me increasingly to embrace a narrative which is simply not true. First, we had a big ta-ra-rum about the alleged backdoor funneling of Russian money to the Trump campaign via the NRA; now we have the bigger ta-ra-rum about how plastic guns are a national security threat.

butinaToday we’re back to Butina again in the form of a Buzzfeed story making its rounds through Gun-control Nation, a story which alleges that Butina and her boyfriend, a sleazy so-called political consultant named Paul Erickson, were laundering all kinds of dough as part of a “Russian campaign to influence American politics.”  Federal investigators have now leaked the fact that they are looking at the transfer of more than $100,000 from Butina’s Russian bank account to American accounts, much of the money then pulled out from ATM’s and spent God knows where or how.

What does all of this have to do with Russia and the NRA?  Practically speaking, next to nothing. First of all, the amount of money handled by Butina, no matter where it went, is chump change to the point that if the Russians thought they would get an inside edge with Trump by using the NRA as a cash conduit to his campaign, they never bothered to ask themselves how much political campaigns actually cost.

And by the way, the $30 million which the boys in Fairfax gave Trump may have represented about 9% of all the money he raised but taking that much dough out of the NRA piggy bank didn’t even dent the balance sheet of America’s first civil-rights organization at all. Know how much money the NRA was sitting on at the end of 2016?  Try over $200 million bucks, and that was after giving The Donald his $30 million rake-off, okay?

In other words, the NRA needs to fool around with illegal Russian money like it needs a hole in its head. And despite what Mother Jones thinks, the fact that Butina helped pay for a bunch of NRA supporters and stooges to go to a fashion show in Moscow, from the point of ‘influencing’ the election, doesn’t count for zip. The NRA goes out of its way to encourage foreign gun owners and foreign gun makers to get involved with the domestic firearms market. After all, the NRA’s job is to build support for private gun ownership, remember?

The most interesting aspect of the latest Butina noise from Gun-control Nation is that, if anything, the Buzzfeed story contradicts the idea of Butina and Erickson acting as conduits for Russian influence over the election because almost all of the suspicious cash transfers being tracked by investigators took place after November 2016. Here’s a Buzzfeed quote: “In summer 2017, the two made about $93,000 in wires, checks, transfers, and cash transactions that were deemed suspicious, including more deposits to Butina’s Russian account.” What do these transfers have to do with the election? Not one thing, as in nothing.

The story goes on to say that Butina’s handling of cash, including paying a D.C. limo service, is not only being examined by banking investigators, but is also being look at by ‘counterintelligence officials’ who want to figure out how the funds were used. This little twit, Maria Butina, is the subject of a counterintelligence operation? If that’s really true, then I have to agree with Trump when he said that the intelligence agencies’ claim about Russian interference were running the flag up the wrong pole.

I’m not saying that the Russians didn’t try to tilt the election towards Trump – the evidence is overwhelming that something was going on. But if Gun-control Nation wants to really do something constructive about gun violence, get real and start talking about something which matters and stop spending time on Maria Butina and plastic guns.

Sorry, But Butina-gate Isn’t What You Think.

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Gun-control Nation couldn’t be more ga-ga over the news that a young Russian woman who has been hanging around the NRA for the past several years has been indicted not once, but twice by the Justice Department for ‘Conspiracy to Act as an Agent for a Foreign Government,’ according to the indictment itself. And the conspiracy consists of ‘developing and executing a plan to identify and exploit personal connections with U.S. persons having influence in American politics, who were in positions to advance the interests of the Russian Federation.’

butina             So now we finally have the connection between the Russian government and the Trump Administration, a linkage fostered and developed through our friends at the NRA.  What could be a better story for stoking up anti-NRA (and anti-gun) feelings than doing what Robert Mueller hasn’t been able to do in  fourteen-month investigation, namely, show that Trump is now controlled by Putin via connections made at various NRA events? Wow!  Just as the Parkland kids seem to be fading off center stage, we’ve got a new media personality named Maria Butina whose behavior can be used to energize Gun-control Nation to rally against the ‘rights’ of Americans to own guns.

Yesterday our friends at Everytown issued a press release demanding that the boys in Fairfax answer six questions about the organization’s relationship with Ms. Butina, starting off with this: “Have any NRA officers, directors, employees, or affiliates testified in front of the Grand Jury or otherwise been questioned by the FBI?” Since the head of Everytown, John Feinblatt, happens to be an attorney, perhaps he should tell his PR staff that the whole point of appearing before a Grand Jury is that such activity requires an absolute guarantee of secrecy on both sides.

But since when does legality or honesty have anything to do with how Gun-control Nation or Gun-nut Nation frame the issues which they want their followers to believe? The indictment of Maria Butina is a God-given gift to Gun-control Nation because no matter what anyone says, the bottom line is that: a) she evidently was working for a foreign government; b) she was hanging out with persons who had ‘influence’ in American politics; and, c) these influential persons could therefore ‘advance’ the interests of the Russian Federation.

Except there’s only one little problem. According to the indictment, Ms. Butina was working for Alexander Torshin, a buddy of Putin who had been in the Russian legislature and then moved over to a position in the Russian Central Bank.  But the Bank isn’t actually part of the government; it’s an independent entity which operates very similarly to the way we operate our Fed, namely, it’s responsible for currency and making sure that the country’s banking system runs in a stable way.

Now granted, Maria may have lied on her visa application when she stated that her employment as a representative for Torshin and the Central Bank ended in 2016. But the fact that she stayed in contact with Torshin and used his flopping around at NRA meetings to promote herself and her cocky little organization that supported Russian gun ‘rights’ (talk about a contradiction in terms) doesn’t necessarily mean that she was representing anyone at all other than herself.

I’m not trying to deny the possibility that Russia actively intervened in the 2016 election; Mueller didn’t indict 12 different Russian operatives for stealing and disseminating politically-sensitive emails without having some degree of real evidence that this bunch was up to no good. But Butina has been at NRA meetings at least since 2014, she led a delegation of NRA somebodies and gun nuts to Russia in 2013, and Torshin’s Central Bank happens to be a major investor in the Russian arms company which has now set up an AK-47 manufacturing plant in Boca Raton.

The indictment of Maria Butina doesn’t prove anything about a connection between Trump, Russia and the NRA. Frankly, if I want to promote myself in the gun business, I’d also go to the NRA show.

What’s The NRA – Russian Connection? It’s Called The AK.

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Since everyone in Gun-control Nation is piling on the Marina Butina case, I’ll offer my two cents as well.  The Brady Campaign, for example, issued a press release saying, among other things, that “we have serious concerns about a Russian national with deep ties to the NRA, an organization that helped fund and elect President Trump, being arrested on charges of espionage.”  Shannon Watts posted photos on her Twitter of Butina with Wayne-o, Scott Walker and former NRA President David Keene.

AK47             The arrest of Butina for allegedly trying to connect various Russians with various Americans tied to the Trump campaign, is the latest in a swirling mass of interesting NRA– Russian tidbits which, according to our friend Ladd Everitt, who has compiled an online dossier of these contacts, goes back at least to 2010. The big question, of course, is whether the Russia-NRA connection resulted in back-door money going from Russia to the MAGA, insofar as at least $30 million went from the boys in Fairfax to the 2016 Trump campaign.

In fairness to the Fairfax bunch, it should be pointed out that there is little, if any evidence which ties payments to the NRA from Russian citizens, which would be a violation of American law were such payments made in the form of political donations which then found their way into any American political campaign.  A major story in Rolling Stone (and cited by Everitt) paints the picture of a conscious Russian effort to ‘infiltrate’ the NRA and use the organization to promote various right-wing politicians with the intention of becoming and ultimately directing the shape of American politics from within the political system itself.

Is this behavior any different from what the Soviet Union attempted to do when it infiltrated the American Communist Party and used this connection to set up various front-organizations before and during the Cold War?  After all, didn’t an American President named Richard Nixon owe most of his political success to unmasking an alleged Communist spy within the U.S. government named Alger Hiss? So Russian meddling in the American political system is hardly new, but I have yet to see any actual evidence of how, when and where all this secret Russian money actually changed hands.

What is clear, however, is that the Russians have designs on another important American activity for which an NRA connection can’t hurt at all, in this case the activity happens to be what the NRA is all about, namely, convincing every American to own a gun. And the gun which the Russians would love to see in the hands of every American is the AK-47, without doubt the single, most popular small arm ever made.

Down in Boca Raton there’s a little factory called Kalishnikov – USA, which almost got a nice tax break from the Florida state government until it turned out that the company’s owners back in Russia were the same bunch whose gun company was hit by U.S. sanctions after Russia invaded the Ukraine. And along with those investors, another Russian has been deeply involved in the finances of this company, a banker and political buddy of Putin named Alex Torshin, whose payroll also includes a young lady named Maria Butina – gee, what a happy coincidence for all concerned.

The Kalishnikov company had a booth at the 2018 SHOT show but has yet to actually produce or ship the gun. On the other hand, their advertising sets the retail price for the AK-47 at $1,300, give or take a few nickels and dimes, which would probably net the company about $300 on the sale of every gun.

If the AK-47 finally gets into retail stores, and if the gun tests out as well as it should, the Kalishnikov company could easily sell 50,000 units every year, which means a net profit of 15 million bucks – believe me, the Kalishnikov brand is that strong. And that’s enough of a reason for the Russians to try and get into bed with the NRA.

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