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The NRA and Me

I Got Into the NRA Because I Love Shooting. I Got Out Because of the Paranoid Politics.

"These guys think they’re going to be on their roof with their AR-15 and thousands of rounds of ammo, shooting all of the zombies, the minorities, whoever."

About 10 years ago, I got into shooting. To become a member of the range, I was required to join the NRA.

I didn’t want to belong to the NRA or give them $30 a year. I’m not a fan of special interest groups, mostly because of the unequal power they have compared to the average citizen. Even if there was a special interest group for guys named Chuck, I still wouldn’t want to give them money.

So I didn’t like that the NRA was a special interest group, but beyond that, I didn’t have much of an opinion about it. Soon after I joined, though, I started to see those guys outside gun shows. I assumed they were NRA reps because they sold memberships to the NRA. Often, if you sign up for the NRA at a gun show, you get free entrance. They’d have these crazy signs saying that if we didn’t join the NRA, our guns would be taken away.

Back then, I was actively checking gun boards to find out what to buy, what not to buy, stuff like that. On those boards, I didn’t like the company I was keeping. Some of the posters were preparing for an apocalypse — they think there’s going to be a nuclear war, or so-and-so is going to invade, which will lead to race riots. These guys think they’re going to be on their roof with their AR-15 and thousands of rounds of ammo, shooting all of the zombies, the minorities, whoever.

I was just like, I don’t need gun forums right now, so I quit that. But I kept paying my NRA membership dues every year, like $150. It was just wasted money.

After Sandy Hook, in 2012, my hobby suddenly became very expensive. Whenever there’s a high-profile mass shooting, gun enthusiasts blow it out of proportion. There was the usual talk from Republican politicians and gun buyers about automatic rifles becoming illegal, so everyone was buying everything they could get their hands on.

I used to drive by a sporting goods store on my way to work — there’d be a line outside of about 120 people waiting to see what bullets they could buy.

Project

The NRA and Me

A series of interviews with current and former members of the gun-rights organization.

So that brought my range time to a screeching halt. I had guns but, I couldn’t afford to buy any more rounds of ammo. It got to the point where I was going to have to get a part-time job just to afford my hobby.

I also had a few bad experiences with people at the range. Once, my AR-15 jammed. So this guy comes walking over, wanting us all to pause, and call the range “cold,” so we’d all stop shooting so he could set up targets. I didn’t acknowledge him right away because I was working on my gun with a screwdriver. I waited maybe two or three seconds — really that fast — before I put my gun down. This guy yelled, “What? You can’t hear me partner?”

You don’t call anyone “partner” unless you’re talking down to them. I wasn’t afraid of the guy pulling a gun or being unsafe. He was just an asshole.

The final straw, though, was the 2016 election. The NRA endorsed Trump, and I had a huge problem with that. Then I got an NRA fund-raising call from a guy who told me that if Hillary won, she was going to appoint a woman to the Supreme Court and there was a good chance she’d get one more Supreme Court Justice in her four years, and they were going to make guns illegal.

I wasn’t going to argue with them, but I was thinking, No, they’re not. They’re not going to make guns illegal. They didn’t do it for eight years of Obama. They didn’t do it for eight years of Clinton. They’re not going to do it now.

After that call, I quit the NRA. I was like, “I’m just done with you all. This is all just bullshit to me, just straight up lies.”

But people buy it, and that’s frustrating.