3D Printing

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

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3D-printed Liberator handgun
Defense Distributed

Since 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 membership.

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 nonsense:

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 says.

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 members. 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 law."

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 aspect.

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 I 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 technological development might actually cause the NRA to fade away, at least in its political-lobbying persona. (Its 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 groups.

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  1. 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.

    Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

  2. The automatic assumption that the only reason gun control measures fail is the mean old NRA and their evil paymasters is completely infuriating. Do the twits making that argument have the first clue how baseless and condescending that is? That said I could never support an organization that advocates the utterly retarded notion of turning doctors into an arm of the police state.

    1. It’s especially funny given that every anti-gun campaign is currently being propped up by Bloomberg and various other millionaires while the pro-gun campaigns are being run by plumbers, electricians, and other blue collar workers.

      Look at Colorado. The pro-gun groups that ended up winning the election swere outspent 6-1 because of all the money pouring in from Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

      It not only isn’t true that pro-gun groups win because they have all the money, it’s actually the opposite of the truth. Pro-gun groups win despite the fact that their opponents tend to be vastly wealthier.

      1. Precisely. The NRA is powerful because of their membership, not their money (though that helps).

      2. Are you saying that the lefties are not arguing in good faith?

      3. This is all over the place and issue by issue. In Colorado also, they got pot legalized and then almost immediately bureaucratized the shit out of it and imposed taxes high enough to guarantee a continued black market. Both straight from the ballot box.

        Wake me up when I can buy a machine gun at the department store and pay the same tax rate on it as I do for a box of nails.

      4. while the pro-gun campaigns are being run by plumbers, electricians, and other blue collar workers.

        Ahem, AKA “bitter clingers”.

    2. What do you mean? I’m buying a new house with the buckets of money the NRA gives me every time I say something bad about gun control.

  3. 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.

    Dismissively referring to one’s opponents as scribblers three times in one article.

    Damn, JD, you made my night.

    1. If it isn’t false conscious and money being poured in by the Merchants of Death to keep their profits afloat on a river of blood, but, instead, Americans supporting anachronistic ideas through their own free choice, then America itself is irredeemable. Which means our attempts to reform her our bound to be futile!

      1. conscious conscience — shit, corrected the first time through but hit cntr-U before hitting submit.

          1. Of course, that’s right. I’m a wee bit on the TBT withdrawal and barleywine induced side at the moment.

          2. The original correction is what went through. Then I panicked when I saw the redo crap spilling forth — lol!

  4. Hilarious. Jay Carney gets asked if the president’s promise that you could keep your doctor is going to be kept. Carney says the following:

    “The president made clear throughout the effort to pass the Affordable Care Act and throughout the period in which — that continues to this day — in which Republicans have sought to repeal it that the vast majority of the American people those who have insurance through their employers, who have insurance through Medicare or Medicaid, will not see a change and that includes to how their plans allow them to get access to difference doctors. The reality of the insurance system that we’ve seen over the years is that these plans change all the time, so there are limits. If you’re building on the private insurance based system that the president is doing, using the model from the Republican governor in Massachusetts, as he did, this is not a government run insurance program,”

    I’m surprised that Jay Carney hasn’t spun himself into the ground by now.

    1. My head is spinning after reading that.

    2. Carney is a sociopath. He is incapable of feeling social emotions, such as love, empathy, guilt, or shame.

      70 years ago, he would have been complaining that the sound of crying children disturbed his sleep during his time as a concentration camp guard.

      1. Seriously – I do not understand how Baghdad Bob Gibbs and Carney can do their jobs.

        Previous presidents press goons were bad enough. These idiots have taken it to a new level.

        Of course, just when I think we’ve hit Peak Retard…

        1. Baghdad Bob’s motives are much more rational and understandable: being Saddam’s mouthpiece may mean saying ridiculous shit with a straight face but it comes with obvious benefits as far as you and your own family’s security.

          1. You missed a word:

            Baghdad Bob Gibbs

        2. Hasn’t Gibbs actually been critical of his former employer the past few weeks?

          Spin doctors are like bunny rabbits. Cute and cuddly as long as you keep them well fed, but once they miss a meal they’re going to bite you forever after.

        3. I am filled with glee that my reference to Carney as Baghdad Bob has caught on.

          He really is that bad.

      2. 70 years ago, he would have been complaining that the sound of crying children disturbed his sleep during his time as a concentration camp guard.

        Oh come on HM, let’s not be silly. That never would have happened. He would have shot all the children on his first day.

        But at least he wouldn’t have eaten them, unlike Warty.

  5. The progressives really fucking love to pretend that every non-proggy movement or organization is KOCHBROS ASTROTURFS!

    Then they go start groups like ACORN and Climate Reality.

    1. So, once again, projection. It’s always projection.

      1. It’s projection all the way down.

        1. I laughed at this really hard… that kind of chuckle that built into actual out loud laughter.

    2. I love when ThinkProgress rambles off about Koch funded think tanks. When ThinkProgress is the opposite side of the same coin.

      Just replace Cato with CAP and Koch with Soros.

      When they further ramble on about tax exemptions for partisan groups I almost always need a new keyboard.

      No self awareness whatsoever.

      1. Soros is not the same as the Kochs. Soros begins with an ‘S’, the Kochs begin with a ‘K’. You know what else begins with ‘K’?

  6. So I totally joined the NRA last year after all the Newtown bullshit. Never sent them a nickel before. I also “round up” when I purchase anything at my gun dealer, Midway USA, or anyplace else.

    I’ll be 52 in January. Never did this before. Never interested in joining in the least. This is TOTALLY as a result of the grabbers. I know I’m not the only one.

    Hope you’re happy for strengthening and growing what you hate most, assholes. The very definition of irony. I think…

    1. …and Mrs. Almanian will be getting a concealed-carry pistol of her choice this Christmas. Second year in a row she gets a gun.

      She never fired a gun, much less had a use for them, till about 5 years ago. Now she’s getting her carry permit 🙂 Ohhhhh, the tangled web the grabbers weave…

      1. Out of a kind of laziness or atrophe, I never got my CC permit, then Newtown happened and I CCd the fuck up. And bought three new guns.

    2. Same. Before Newtown I hadn’t considered owning a gun largely because I believed that if I wanted to I would have the right. After Newtown and the earnestness of the gun-grabbers I started the application process in NY and bought two pistols.

      It’s ironic – the more they agitate the more likely guns are going to end up in public hands. You’d think this would be patently obvious to them at this point…

      1. Maybe the gun industry should be donating to the Brady Campaign instead of the NRA.

  7. …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.

    Oh really? Growing and smoking pot is a private activity and the law touches that a lot.

    1. Can’t touch with much efficacy on the practice…

      1. It never was about efficacy.

  8. I don’t see 3D guns as the end of gun grabbing quite the same way you people do. Prohibition, prosecution, all that fun stuff will continue with home manufactured firearms.

        1. A new Dukes of Hazzard television show?

  9. If receiving any money from a gun manufacturer invalidates the NRA, I have to ask — does the ACLU receive any money from religious groups or book publishers?

  10. If gun manufacturers want to donate to a cause that helps their profits, the NRA is a terrible choice. They should be donating to Obama’s campaign.

  11. The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org (not part of the right-wing conspiracy, according to the latest memo)

    Oh, ye of little faith. The Kochtopus tentacles reach everywhere!

  12. I see that $12B gun industry quote. Isn’t Hollywood somewhere around $10B? Google search is unclear, mixing in international and domestic sales, box office, dvd sales and rentals, and so on.

    1. Also keep in mind that’s $12B in revenues, not profits. Mike Bloomberg took in about $9B all by himself last year and he didn’t have to produce anything in return.

      1. Didn’t produce anything? As much as I detest the guy and his politics, you sound like the typical Wall St Occupier who thinks that rich people don’t earn their keep.

        1. Leaving the question of Bloomberg’s productiveness in general aside, my point was that Bloomberg’s income is pure profit, unlike the revenues of Ruger or Smith + Wesson.

          1. Really? Investing has no overhead? He just dumps money in and forgets it? No research to find the right investments, or monitoring to make sure they stay the best?

            Criminy you are as dumb as the Occupiers.

            1. Yeah, Tulpa, those soda bans don’t write themselves.

              On a serial side note, the question relating directly to Bloomberg, however, is not how much productivity he engendered as an investor, but how much productivity he destroyed as a public servant.

  13. NRA isn’t going to support 3-D guns because it’s much easier for criminals/insane to obtain guns with that technology, and evade detection at airports etc. And the NRA has always been supportive of laws against that kind of stuff.

    1. I think you are right. They have been a law and order centered organization from the start. I would argue, the first significant gun control organization before that concept got zany and the emphasis was on gun safety, not on outright bans.

      1. I think you are right. They have been a law and order centered organization from the start. I would argue, the first significant gun control organization before that concept got zany and the emphasis was on gun safety, not on outright bans.

        The NRA supported the first ban?the National Firearms Act of 1934.

  14. Come on man jsut roll with it ok.

    http://www.Privacy-Web.tk

  15. Even if the NRA was industry funded, who is funding the industry? Gun owners…the gun industry wouldn’t exist without lots of people wanting to buy guns.

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