by John Boch
I get that “Where’s the NRA?” question a lot. It seems my peer at the Illinois State Rifle Association gets the same question. Our answers, however, remain starkly different.
ISRA’s Rich Pearson wrote this in a January 12th email “update”:
Lots of folks seem to think that we receive support from the NRA and there has been a lot of misinformation about their involvement in the legislative process.
The NRA and ISRA are completely separate organizations. They do not support the ISRA financially or with other resources. As for the fight against the firearms ban, the NRA lobbyist did testify at a subject matter hearing in December 2022 along with several other groups including the ISRA. They did not testify at any hearings on the legislation itself during the time it was making its way through the Capitol in Springfield, nor did they testify at any of the public JCAR hearings in November 2023. [Emphasis original.]
Nothing like throwing the NRA under the bus with lies, half-truths and well, you know the rest. The ISRA might be a “separate” organization, but it remains the NRA’s official state-level association.
As for the ISRA’s claim that the NRA doesn’t support ISRA? So when ISRA asks NRA to solicit its NRA members in Illinois to join the ISRA every year, that’s not “support”? What’s more, NRA does that at its own expense.
Hey ISRA, if you think being tied to the NRA is such a ball and chain, please resign your state affiliate status. Guns Save Life will be proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the NRA and its Institute for Legislative Action instead of throwing them under the bus. The NRA isn’t perfect, but then again we don’t walk on water either.
Did the NRA testify at hearings that served no purpose but to rubber stamp gun control legislation? Nope. Neither did GSL. Like most, I don’t urinate into a hurricane force wind to see if I can somehow part the wind like Moses parted the Red Sea.
Yes the NRA has been scarce in Springfield of late. During COVID, lobbyists couldn’t get into the capitol complex and the pols were laying low in their hotel rooms when not “working” during the day. Why show up if you can’t work? Just to say you were there? That’s just symbolism over substance.
And speaking of “being there,” at least the NRA wasn’t fighting for a “seat at the table” in negotiating the Protect Illinois Communities Act like ISRA was when they gave us the “FOID Modernization Act” which ended private gun sales. How many lobbyists did it take for ISRA to give us FOID Modernization Act? Five? Seven?
What’s more, after they finished “negotiating” the bill, their lobbyists testified as NEUTRAL on it – imagine taking a “neutral” position as a gun rights org on a bill that ended private gun sales.
When the NRA-ILA’s pros gave me a crash course in lobbying years ago, they made me well-aware of a golden rule: Don’t help the other side make a bad bill better. Terrible bills make for easier court challenges and outright defeat in close floor votes.
Remembering back, how many lobbyists did it take when Pearson’s ISRA negotiated our Red Flag law under Gov. Rauner? At least one ISRA lobbyist was present at the bill signing, and three if the Rowes worked as ISRA lobbyists at the time. Was ISRA proud of their work to give us Red Flags too?
You want to know who wasn’t there? The NRA and GSL.
The candid reality is that the NRA is strapped for cash. The NRA-ILA isn’t quite as strapped, but budgets are tight. That’s why the NRA-ILA isn’t more active with more litigation. Each of those suits costs six figures, easy. Hopefully in the coming months that will change with Wayne LaPierre’s departure along with his cronies in leadership.
If Letitia James wins her civil corruption trial against the NRA, LaPierre and his buddies, look for big changes in NRA’s management. There may be other changes too, including state affiliates. Time will tell.
Hopefully the NRA will become better able to direct resources towards gun rights advocacy, lobbying and litigation and less towards gold-plated lawyers defending WLP.
As for lobbying and the scarcity of NRA and GSL in Springfield? What purpose does it serve to send lobbyists to Springfield when the capitol building is closed to all but members and staff? Or to appear in front of committees where minds are already made up? You can have a whole army of paid lobbyists in Springfield, but if you don’t have the votes to back them up, is that the best use of your time and resources? Just to say you’re there?
Great, you’re there. Harmon, Pritzker and Welch don’t care. You’re not even a pothole on the way to work for them.
Instead of throwing the NRA under the bus, let’s work together to win this fight no matter where it takes us.