3D Guns May Sideline the NRA, But Not Because It's Funded by Gun Makers

3D-printed Liberator handgunSince 3D-printed guns first emerged on the scene,
clearly promising to render gun regulation more irrelevant than a
mandatory missionary-position law in a world full of blackout
curtains, scribblers phobic about things that go BANG!
have found solace in one small hope: At least it’ll cripple the
National Rifle Association! Their hopes rest on the repeated
assertion that the NRA is industry-funded, and DIY-gunmaking will
deprive nasty Merchants of Death™ of their customers, so then they
won’t prop-up their puppet astroturf organization. The NRA may or
may not lose relevance with the advance of technology, but it won’t
be because of bogus assertions that it’s a front group for the gun
industry, no matter how often the mantra is chanted.

The most recent assertion of the delusional meme comes from Rob
Enderle at TGDaily,
who wrote

The NRA, which is pretty rabid about any form of gun control, is
silent on this issue largely because it is funded by gun
manufacturers who really don’t want people printing copies of their
product rather than buying one. 

Josh Sager at Salon engaged in the same sort of
wishful thinking at Salon

Despite its claim to be a sportsmen’s civil rights group, the
NRA is funded in large part by gun manufacturers, whose motives and
goals don’t always overlap with those of the organization’s

And then there’s Adam L. Penenberg at PandoDaily who
wrote back in January

Does the NRA represent the views of its 4 million members, or is
it a front for the $12 billion gun industry comprised of
manufacturers, firearms dealers, and ammunition makers, whose
interests may diverge from those of the common member? Let’s follow
the money.

The problem with all of these lazy assertions is that they’re
not true. They appear, really, to be exercises in wishful thinking
by people who can’t believe so many Americans could support and
fund a civil liberties organization with views so opposed to those
of right-thinking scribblers.

Right-thinking scribblers who don’t bother to do any
fact-checking, that is. In fact, there’s a handy place they can
investigate their thesis: The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s
FactCheck.org (not part of the right-wing conspiracy, according to
the latest memo). Way back on January 15,
FactCheck.org debunked the NRA-as-a-tool-of-the-gun-industry

In arguing that the NRA “represents gun manufacturers” and not
“gun owners anymore,” Sen. Christopher Murphy discounted NRA
membership dues as “less than half” of NRA funding and instead
elaborated on how the NRA makes “tens of millions of dollars off of
the purchases of guns.” He said, “They pay their salaries off of
these gun purchases.”

But gun customers voluntarily decide if they want to
contribute to NRA organizations when they purchase a gun, just as
they voluntarily decide to join the NRA and pay dues. And much of
the contributions made during gun sales is used to fund community
programs, such as gun safety, law enforcement training and hunter
education — not salaries.

The piece went on to point out:

The NRA Foundation and the NRA Institute of Legislative Action
each operate separate fundraising programs that allow gun customers
at participating gun stores to “round up” the purchase price to the
nearest dollar as a contribution. Some customers may be asked
instead, depending on the company making the sale, to “add a buck
for shooting’s future” — much in the same way that some food stores
ask for small donations to fight cancer or hunger when customers
check out. …

The NRA Foundation’s 990 form filed with the IRS for 2010 shows it
raised nearly $23.4 million in total revenue and provided more than
2,200 in grants for community programs for hunters, competitive
shooters, gun collectors, law enforcement, and women and youth
groups, including the Boy Scouts and 4-H clubs. In all, $21.2
million went for grants — most of it (nearly $12.6 million) to the
NRA itself for “[e]ducation, training, range development, youth
programs, [and] equipment,” while the rest went to the community
programs and groups.

The NRA Foundation has no staff and pays no salaries.

The NRA-ILA, which is the lobbying arm of the NRA, operates a
“round-up” program with fewer participating companies, although it
has been in existence for longer. Its program was the brainchild of
gun store owner Larry Potterfield, the founder and CEO of Midway
USA in Missouri. In a video on his website, Potterfield says he
started the program in 1992 and the money raised from his customers
goes into the “Endowment for the Protection of the Second
Amendment.” A few other companies have since joined the program,
but Midway customers are still the largest contributors by far. In
a Dec. 7, 2012, press release, the company said its customers have
donated $7.6 million to the NRA lobbying group since 1992. The
program has a balance of nearly $9.5 million, including
contributions from gun customers at other stores, the press release

The National Rifle Association itself, independent of the
educational foundation and the lobbying group, collected almost
half of its $227 million in revenues in 2010 from membership dues
and and program fees.

Keep in mind that the organization has
five million members
. The American Civil Liberties Union, by
contrast, the preeminent civil liberties organization in the
country, has around 500,000
. That’s not to belittle the ACLU—it does excellent work
(and some things with which I strongly disagree, as does the
NRA)—but it’s not that hard to raise hundreds of millions of
dollars when you have millions of members.

The NRA does get industry contributions, but
FactCheck.org points out that it’s on the order of a million bucks
here and there. It’s a membership-driven organization, whether or
not other people like what those members support.

But all of these articles sighing hopefully over the eventual
death of the NRA have another thing in common: Recognition that 3D
printing is making the old policy arguments pointless by making the
manufacture and ownership of guns a private activity that the law
can’t touch. This is likely going to be true of all
physical objects. As TGDaily’s Enderle writes, “the more folks try
to make printing guns illegal the more creative ways 3D printer
users will likely come up with to get around or actively avoid the

He adds, “This might actually end up accelerating the move away
from traditionally purchased guns because you could do things like
custom design them…” Again, this could well be true of
manufacturing all sorts of items, turning the creation of
smaller physical objects into a DIY activity, with design and
larger, more-complex manufacturing retaining a commercial

Why is the NRA “silent” on this issue? I’m not sure that it
is—I’ve repeatedly discussed the issue on NRA News’s Cam & Co., and they’ve

linked to my pieces on the issue
along with other issues. But
do think the organization, along with almost everybody else, has
been blindsided by a fast-evolving phenomenon that’s less than a
year old. The first 3D-printed Liberator was fired in the spring of
this year.

And this fast technologicvelopment might actually cause the NRA
to fade away, at least in its political-lobbying persona. It’s
original character as an educational organization likely has a
future no matter what. After all, when an activity slips beyond the
reach of policy, there’s no reason to engage in or fund policy
debates. If laws and regulations are rendered irrelevant, there’s
no incentive to expend resources on changing them.

But then, the same can be said of the gun control

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/11/19/3d-guns-may-sideline-the-nra-but-not-bec

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