A number of conservative bloggers, from BlackFive to RedState to The American Thinker have been dumping on the NRA because it dropped its opposition to the DISCLOSE act after a special carve-out was added to exempt them from its limits on free speech. They say that it is a betrayal of the NRAs libertarian conservative principles to fail to oppose the act on the basis of the act’s effects on free speech. After all, they say, the First and Second Amendments are inextricably linked — each supports the other.
That attitude displays a fundamental misunderstanding of what a lobbying organization is. For people like me, “supporting” or “opposing” a bill means complaining about it during lunch, or maybe writing about it in my blog. Maybe I’ll write a letter to my Congrescritter. Usually, a position on one single bill will not change my vote — it’s one straw added or removed from the back of the camel. For a lobbying organization, “opposition” isn’t just expressing a preference. It means that it will *do* something substantive. It will decline to contribute to a campaign, or contribute to an opponent. It will do opposition research. It will make TV and newspaper ads. It’s not just waving its hand; it’s swinging a knife.
The NRA is an effective lobbying group because it is so single-minded. A politician can be a baby-eating, spouse-cheating, jerk who double-dips the salsa and chips at the dinner table, but if he or she supports gun-rights, the NRA is his or her friend. That’s a rock-solid guarantee that allows that NRA to get support of gun rights from people all over the political spectrum from the secular progressive left to the conservative religious right.
Now, pundits want the NRA to throw that all away because they don’t like the way the legislature is acting regarding corporate speech. They want the NRA to put itself in the position of saying “Hey look, you know how we said that if you were a friend of gun rights, we are a friend of yours? Well, er, that’s not really the case any more. ” They want the NRA to be in the position of campaigning against a gun rights proponent in order to support an enemy of gun rights because of a vote on a completely different issue. That’s crazy.
The NRA opposed the DISCLOSE act because it impeded its ability to support Second Amendment rights. When that impediment was removed, even though by a carve out, that removed the objection. That’s entirely appropriate. The NRA doesn’t have a dog in the free-speech fight. It has a dog in the gun rights fight. And it is no more appropriate to demand that the NRA dilute its voice in protecting Second Amendment issues than it would be to say we should stop supporting the EFF because it doesn’t take a position on concealed carry.
The NRA, by being focused on its single issue, has been a profoundly effective force in securing Second Amendment liberties. That’s why I support it. And I don’t want it to shoot itself in the foot by diluting that focus on other issues. Just like I support the EFF. And I don’t want it to shoot itself in the foot by diluting that focus on other issues, either.