Ready, Aim, Fire: What We Can Learn from the NRA

Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

Posted on October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri 5776

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

 
Ready, Aim, Fire

What can the Jewish community learn from the NRA organizing model?

The National Rifle Association has been identified as one of America’s most successful and effective lobbying institutions. While this article seeks to unlock some of the operational principles that drive this major national organization, my research must not be seen as a statement endorsing the policy positions of the NRA. The premise for writing this piece is based on the idea that it is possible to learn from an array of institutional sources concerning core operating principles in order to perfect one’s own advocacy strategies and techniques.

The events covering Newtown, Columbine, Charleston, and most recently, Roseburg (Oregon) have certainly elevated the debate on gun control and have challenged the standing of the NRA. As a recent “New Republic” article has suggested that the “NRA’s power has been more a matter of entrenched wisdom than actual fact.” Indeed, for many years the NRA had few contenders to its political position; today this is no longer the case, with the emergence of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA.

Singularity of Focus: As with AIPAC and an array of other Jewish advocacy organizations, the NRA has created a defined agenda, namely to “protect our Second Amendment rights,” a distinctive advantage, as their message becomes their identity. In the last few years the NRA reported revenues in excess of $225 million, with a significant portion of these funds being generated from “sales, advertising and royalties” in addition to fundraising. Less than half of the organization’s income is dependent on membership dues; corporate sponsors include a broad group of sporting goods firms and firearm manufacturers.

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