State Legislation

State Gun Groups Flex Muscle in State Legislatures, Bypassing the NRA

There is a growing frustration with the NRA at the state level.

That’s the conclusion of a Reuters article from this week, that says the NRA is increasingly the last group to engage in some of the toughest state level Second Amendment political fights of recent years.

In talking about Missouri’s 2016 passage of both Stand-Your-Ground law and Constitutional Carry, the article said:

The group some lawmakers credited with providing crucial momentum was not so much the National Rifle Association, the powerful national lobbying organization, but rather the Missouri Firearms Coalition, an aggressive grassroots operation founded in 2015.

With major gun-rights legislation stalled in Washington, much of the action has shifted to the states, where self-described “no compromise” groups such as the Missouri Firearms Coalition have mobilized activists in favor of pro-gun laws, according to Reuters interviews with gun-rights groups in more than a dozen states, lawmakers and NRA supporters.

 These groups have become increasingly active in promoting a pro-gun agenda in many states, unafraid of alienating lawmakers who waver on gun rights.

Being unafraid to anger lawmakers is, increasingly, a requirement for gun rights groups looking to advance pro-gun legislation or stop gun control from moving.

Missouri is just one state where state level organizations have delivered major advancements in the last couple of years.

In Iowa, Stand-Your-Ground law passed in 2017 after a state level group known as Iowa Gun Owners obliterated the state’s Senate democratic leadership and paved the way for the bill’s passage as part of a 6-year effort.

Idaho enacted Constitutional Carry in 2016, a fight led from top to bottom by the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, who have long feuded with the NRA who did not back their legislation.

And in Wyoming earlier this year, Stand-Your-Ground legislation passed into law after a fiery showdown with Senate leadership and the state’s outgoing governor. The in-state gun rights group whom most credit (or attack) for drafting and passing the bill, is Wyoming Gun Owners.

NRA critics of the groups claim that the organizations are overstating their impact, as part of a fundraising scheme.

But state lawmakers disagree.

The lead bill sponsor for the Missouri fight in 2016, Rep. Eric Burlison, said:

“It really added octane to the tank when other groups started forming and other people got involved…The biggest group clearly was Missouri Firearms Coalition. To me, all politics is local. More legislators pay attention to their local organizations and individuals.”

Current House member and renown gun rights leader Representative Jered Taylor agreed, according to the article. Taylor commented:

“It was the Missouri Firearms Coalition that was on the ground first with this…eventually the NRA came on board, but the Missouri Firearms Coalition was the one that pushed it.”

The move for more state level organizations comes at a time of growing resentment for the NRA over their perceived weakness in the face of several high-profile mass shootings, and their willingness to support gun control measures as a result.

For example, the NRA angered gun owners last year over their public support for banning bump stocks in the wake of the Las Vegas, NV shooting.

Gun rights activists say that banning accessories like bump stocks ignores the real issues, and will only lead to more infringements following future shootings.

Likewise, the gun rights community was aflame earlier this year as the NRA threw its weight behind Senator Dianne Feinstein’s FIX-NICS legislation — that creates the largest database of gun owners to date.

Gun owners were outraged about the policy implications, but even more so about the political ramifications as the momentum gun owners wanted to see capitalized on after President Trump’s election in 2016 seemed to all-but disappear.

With the NRA’s recent public statement in support of ‘Red Flag Gun Seizure’ legislation, which would allow a gun owner to lose his or her firearms through secret court proceedings before being convicted of anything — it’s likely that state level gun rights organizations will flourish more than ever.

For the sake of the Second Amendment, one can only hope that is the case.