Anti-Gun Rhetoric Boomerangs,
Drives NRA Membership
By Jim Burns
CNS Senior Staff Writer
21 May, 2000
CHARLOTTE, NC (CNSNews.com) - Political denunciations of gun owners and negative media portrayals of firearms in society have provided a significant boost in the National Rifle Association's membership, according to NRA officials.
Membership in the pro-Second Amendment group has jumped by 200,000 in the past six weeks alone, according to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, who said the number of dues-paying members is growing by the hour.
LaPierre also predicted another 400,000 people will join the NRA by Election Day, bringing total membership to an estimated four million.
During a speech to the NRA national convention in Charlotte Saturday, LaPierre said President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were major factors in the hefty increase in the group's membership. "Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton, you've picked the wrong freedom to condemn and you picked the wrong organization to abuse," said LaPierre.
Some of LaPierre's toughest language was aimed at Gore for his portrayal of gun ownership in America, and he accused the vice president of trying to create a "fictional nightmare of a non-existent world."
LaPierre said Gore would have people believe that "guns are escaping onto our streets and flooding through quiet
neighborhoods," and that "guns are secretly multiplying out of control and should bring shame upon their owners."
"Well, it's a big, stinking, dangerous Al Gore lie," said LaPierre, who also challenged the major broadcast networks and weekly newsmagazines to report his remarks and additional facts about gun ownership. "I defy you to argue with the truth," said LaPierre.
But NRA spokesman Bill Powers said negative reports on the gun issue by the national news media have played a role in increasing the group's membership. "I think we've been aided by the often times biased anti-gun reporting by the national news media," said Powers.
"The more the Gore campaign and the Clinton White House have focused more and more on restrictions against lawful gun owners, this has caused the American people's minds to become more focused on the gun issue and the Second Amendment right to own a firearm," said Powers.
Powers said most people have a clear picture of the mission of the NRA in spite of the negative accounts of the group, its membership and the issue of owning firearms. "Americans understand that what we're talking about is what works and they agree with us," said Powers.
Another factor fueling growing NRA membership is the organization's law and order approach to crime. "With respect to criminal violence on the streets, we believe in full, tough prosecutions and enforcement of laws on the books today against violent, armedcriminals," said Powers. "That's what most Americans believe in."
The statistical decrease in gun prosecutions during the Clinton Administration runs counter to what most Americans support, according to Powers, who said voters are "disappointed that the Clinton-Gore Administration has decreased those prosecutions by 50 percent over the last seven and a half years."
Powers also said the law and order aspect of the gun control debate has prompted more people to become NRA members. "As the debate has become more focused on this issue, they're signing up and joining," said Powers.
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