Less than one week after the terrible Las Vegas massacre, the National Rifle Association has come to the table with an offer to allow further government regulation of so-called "bump stocks" – attachments that for all intents and purposes turn semi-automatic guns into fully-automatic ones.
While many are applauding the NRA for their swift action, there is more to the story.
First, the NRA compromise appears to be a bit self-serving.
Sources say the association is pushing for a review by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency – not Congress. That's because NRA leadership believes they have a better chance of ATF keeping the regulations the same, or at least close to the same, regarding bump stocks. It is a shrewd move by the savvy organization: garnering public relations points with the public for seeming open to compromise, while not subjecting the gun parts to any serious new regulation. After all, it was President Obama's ATF that allowed bump stocks to be legal. (In more than one way, Obama turned out to be quite friendly to gun owners.)
Second, while the NRA may make some gains in public opinion for its compromise, the NRA has ruffled the feathers of its board members who claim the association did not notify its full board of directors before hitting the airwaves late Thursday with the announcement. Board members complain they were left in the dark on Thursday and that they should have known about the shift in position as they routinely bear the brunt of NRA policy decisions.
Third, one vocal caucus may underscore a longer-term problem for the NRA just as it has for President Trump.
At least one NRA member familiar with the "bump stock" discussions said that the push for additional regulation came at the request of the House Freedom Caucus, of all places. One has to wonder why the Freedom Caucus, whose own Facebook page states their mission is to uphold the Constitution, is interested in tinkering with the Second Amendment. It could be simply the caucus' latest attempt to flex their muscle, and while their exact motive remains to be seen, it's worth noting that their calls to NRA leadership were successful in getting the NRA to move swiftly on the matter.
Lastly, the NRA's rank-and-file were also surprised by Thursday's announcement.
On social media and pro-Second Amendment message boards such as AR15.com overnight, rank-and-file NRA members said they vehemently disagreed with the organization's offer to compromise. The NRA itself often repeats and plasters the phrase, "…shall not be infringed" in their convention halls, speeches, and website. Their decision on Thursday seems to go against that. Some members of "ARFCOM" – the nickname for the site – were even circulating a petition to recall leadership of the NRA.
Moreover, one of the NRA's friendly competitors, Gun Owners of America, says the NRA is wrong to offer up such a compromise. The group says it simply "opens the doors to new rules" which could be applied to the Second Amendment and that it's a slippery slope.
Whether the ATF will take up the NRA's request to review bump stocks and spare it from the torturous process of review through Congress remains to be seen.
Whether the NRA will now have to answer to its members' angst – in the form of letters, recalls, a contentious annual meeting next spring, or losing members to more staunch associations such as Gun Owners of America – also remains up in the air.
Jennifer Kerns (@JenKernsUSA) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. A GOP communications strategist, she served as spokeswoman for the NRA-backed Colorado Recalls defending the Second Amendment. Previously, she served as a writer for the 2016 U.S. presidential debates for FOX News.
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