Josh Powell is a gun guy who spent November 14, 2012, talking to the management of Cerberus, the equity group that owns a bunch of gun companies, including Bushmaster and Remington Arms. The next day he woke up and learned that a loony 21-year old in Newtown, CT had walked into an elementary school and killed 26 adults and kids using a Bushmaster gun.
Four years later, Powell found himself working as the right-hand guy for Wayne LaPierre, and three years later he found himself unemployed. He claims he is now putting together a group “from both sides of the political aisle to research gun violence without bias, using the best available tools and approaches.” In the meantime he’s just written a book, Inside The NRA, which is supposed to tell us how and why America’s ‘most powerful political group in America’ has become undone.
Unfortunately, Powell spent so much of his NRA time sweeping out the detritus from under Wayne-o’s desk that even though he relates all kinds of juicy gossip about the battles between the NRA and its enemies as well as some of its friends, the book suffers from being too focused on all the trees in the forest but the forest itself remains somehow out of sight.
When it came to the political pro-and-con about guns, the NRA and its pro-gun allies had the field to themselves until Sandy Hook. Clinton did get a background-check bill through Congress, but everyone acknowledged that it was, at best, a marginal response to gun violence. Ditto the assault weapons ban which disappeared after ten years.
What changed after Sandy Hook was the beginning of the first, real grass-roots gun-control organization thanks to Shannon Watts and her gals, with another thanks to Mike Bloomberg and his dough. There is no question that Wayne-o’s angry, almost apoplectic defense of guns a week after the Sandy Hook massacre was the event which began to tun the tide.
Powell claims that the increasingly alt-right rantings and polemic delivered by Loesch and other NRA-TV actors upset some members of the NRA Board, but what evidently brought about the split between McQ-A and the NRA was the pathetically-low number of viewers who watched a video channel with production costs running into the millions every month.
What neither Powell nor anyone else either at the NRA or at their PR agency seemed to grasp was that moving the NRA’s messaging towards hysterical liberal-bashing and away from the folksy, good-ol’-boy image of family, hunting, friends and guns was not going to draw more supporters into the NRA fold. The biggest problem with NRA’s video effort was that the video productions that pushed the political messaging were just so boring, never mind dumb.
Here’s a one-minute video spot by Dana Loesch. Watch it once, fine. Watch it a second time? Give me a break. Now here’s an ad for NRA’s hunting division. You may have absolutely no interest in hunting, but who wouldn’t want to watch this ad and send it around to friends?
Given the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency, the NRA’s decision to endorse Trump and stoke his campaign with a huge cash infusion was not such a bad idea, . But the organization’s decision to compete in the media circus dominated by Breitbart and Alex Jones couldn’t have been any worse.
I have been going to the NRA annual show since 1980, and at that show a Republican Presidential candidate named Ronald Reagan showed up and gave a brief speech. Everyone at the how knew that at some point Reagan would be endorsed by the NRA and frankly, nobody cared. For most NRA members the whole point of their membership isn’t about politics, it’s about guns.
What Powell seems to miss is that the NRA is ultimately a social, not a political entity. If he’s hoping to develop a new gun organization in the wake of the NRA’s demise, it’s not going to attract gun owners by supporting ‘unbiased’ research. Gun nuts don’t like research. They like guns.