Here lies the National Rifle Association; born November 17th, 1871; faded into irrelevance June 1st, 2023. The oldest and largest self-proclaimed pro-Second-Amendment organization is survived and succeeded by the Gun Owners of America (GOA), the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), and Firearm Policy Coalition (FPC), the three organizations which killed it. They are not responsible for its demise, though. The NRA did not collapse due to external pressure, it succumbed to the rot within itself.
Of course, the NRA isn’t actually dead. You can still visit its website, buy a membership, and dump your hard-earned money into Wayne LaPierre’s champagne fund. The organization still exists, but because it has failed to fulfill its purpose, it may as well be a rotting corpse with a 501(c)(3) tax exemption.
When the ATF released Final Rule 2021R-08F abandoning its own past rulings and declaring up to tens of millions of braced pistols to be illegal short-barreled rifles, Second Amendment lobbying organizations sprung into action. They filed a flurry of lawsuits protesting the rule as an unconstitutional overreach by a regulatory body grossly overstepping its bounds. With just days to spare, the GOA and SAF prevailed in securing injunctions protecting their members from enforcement of the new Final Rule, giving them time to fight back and hopefully defeat it.
What has the NRA done about the pistol brace ban? What has their army of lawyers done to push back and challenge this latest infringement? Barely anything. The most they can claim to have done is submit comments to the ATF voicing disagreement to the proposed rule before it was finalized. Any citizen can do that; more than 217,000 did, myself included. The NRA claims on its website to be “working on litigation to challenge this arbitrary and capricious attack on law-abiding gun owners,” but that doesn’t help much now that the Final Rule is in effect. No doubt they’d try bailing water from a shipwreck.
An entire book could be written on how corrupt and ineffectual the NRA has become. Its legal issues, internal power struggles, and financial improprieties are already known to the general public. The fact that it has allowed such a major piece of seriously anti-Second-Amendment public policy to take effect with no legal protest indicates that it is no longer on our side and cannot be relied upon to protect our rights.
All we can hope is that competition from leaner, more efficient 2A organizations will force the failed NRA to reinvent itself as a lobbying powerhouse for the modern era. More likely, though, it will continue its slide into irrelevance and eventually divest itself from the political fight entirely. Only time will tell. The best we all can do is refuse to fund a failure and instead donate to groups that actually fight to protect our right to keep and bear arms.