The Politics of Commitment
“There's not a gun law that's ever been written to promote gun safety,” Bob assured me. Bob is white, in his late forties, grew up in the South, attended a military school, and works in a family business involving precision diagnostics. He has been an NRA member for more than twenty years and is currently a consecutive five-year voting member. Bob has been to many NRA annual meetings and is active in the organization “financially and physically.” He donates money to the NRA, writes to legislators about gun rights issues, volunteers for the NRA's political lobbying wing, participates in the NRA's Eddie Eagle program (directed at gun safety practices for young children), and is an instructor for the NRA's self-defense program. When I asked Bob why he is so active in the NRA, he responded without hesitation, “Because I believe in the Second Amendment to the Constitution.”
Bob would like to see unlimited gun rights but knows that the public does not feel the same way. He is a political pragmatist and is committed to the NRA, because they are “more realistic” than other gun rights organization's: “We can't have everything we want all of the time.” For example, he thinks that guns should be allowed in schools so that armed citizens can respond to campus shooters, but he concedes that this “good idea” is “bad publicly” and a “lost cause” that will not help the image of gun owners or the NRA. Bob's main criticism of the NRA is that it is too focused on “image control” and “very heavy damage control” in response to negative media depictions of the NRA as ignorant gun lovers who are unsympathetic to victims of gun violence. NRA employees' dossiers reveal a “very diverse, politically correct bunch,” he told me, adding that the organization is always looking for “college-bred” people, sometimes at the expense of applicants who are more committed to gun rights. He understands the NRA's concerns about its image. “[It's] because of the press. They're at our jugular every day.” Overall, Bob is a highly committed Critical Mass NRA member.