EthanBenn, Staff Reporter
After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, many turned to the National Rifle Organization (NRA) to respond to yet another national tragedy. Interestingly, some members of the NRA and other firearm owners have hurriedly dropped their memberships and surrendered their weapons to the authorities in the hope of avoiding another such tragedy. I
spoke to one former member of the NRA (and full disclosure, my father), Adam Benn, about his own experiences to better understand this complicated issue and the decisions gun owners make in the aftermath. The interview below has been edited for clarity:
Ethan Benn: First off, thank you for taking the time to discuss this issue with me. So, when did you join the NRA?
Adam Benn: It’s my pleasure. About 10 years ago, I think.
Ethan: So, about 2008?
Adam: Yes, although it’s been a year and a half since I stopped renewing my active membership with them.
Ethan: What were the requirements for membership, then?
Adam: Well, it was really whether or not you were willing to pay the fee.
Ethan: So it really is a paid member organization? I’ve seen the NRA as more of a lobbying group than an organization of members.
Adam: Well next to the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), to my understanding, it’s the second largest paid member organization in America.
Ethan: Now that we’ve talked about you joining and later leaving the NRA, was there a- or what was the- certain breaking point when you decided to leave the NRA?
Adam: The NRA was vehemently opposed to really allowing any change to what’s been touted as “common sense” gun laws. Even things that were so simple that someone shouldn’t or couldn’t object to; it was like they were going out of their way to object to everything, even things that wouldn’t go against the Second Amendment. Their feeling was carte blanche: you should have the same rights as any other American citizen, even if you were on a No Fly List or something. There was an opposition to anything and everything, but you can’t always be right.
Ethan: I think that’s something that a lot of people who aren’t in the NRA feel, too. Could you elaborate on your carte blanc statement?
Adam: The NRA is fine with you getting guns even when you’re on a No Fly List. These guys aren’t protecting the second amendment. Rather, they are protecting firearm manufacturing companies and munitions companies. They only have the interests of Remington, Winchester and other multi-billion dollar companies in mind, but not the interests of the individual gun owners or American patriots at heart.
Ethan: That’s quite harsh. Normally, the NRA would sent out its spokesperson Dana Loesch or Wayne LaPierre to beat things like that back. So, what about Wayne LaPierre? Why do we always hear about him?
Adam: Part of his position is to be the spokesperson for the NRA- he interviews well, he speaks well, and he’s essentially the poster child of the organization.
Ethan: Do you think any one person, like Wayne LaPierre, might be responsible for the radicalization in the NRA?
Adam: Well, I think what it really came down to was after the end of the Clinton assault weapons ban, the NRA became self-aware that they have a very large ability to lobby- they can bring in a lot of financial support and tons of money to control politicians for themselves and their own financial benefit.
Ethan: Would you say that the NRA conflates being pro-gun control with being anti-Second Amendment? Have their lobbying and large donations blurred the line and forced politicians to toe a line between the two?
Adam: I think they associate anything that bans any and everything related to firearm use as being anti-Second Amendment. My problem is that the Second Amendment needs to be adapted to relative times and relative terms. For example, bump stocks aren’t guns- they’re pieces of plastic which modify the gun. But bump stocks aren’t being accurately reported and people are being misinformed, both by the media, lawmakers and the companies which manufacture them.
Ethan: Speaking of firearms and their modifications, would you support the banning of certain weapons or add-ons?
Adam: I would literally surrender every gun I own and do everything in my power to convey to people the message that giving up your firearms is worth it to save just one life. If someone wants to take a life, though, they’re going to anyway. My instinct is that it’s not going to make a difference. In 1986, the National Firearms Act pulled fully automatic weapons from the shelves to inflate their value and limit their availability. The weapons out there today all do the same thing- you pull the trigger once, one bullet comes out. The difference is that these assault style weapons have larger magazines, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there. To some extent the NRA tries to educate the media, but nobody wants to listen to them.
Ethan: If the NRA is trying to educate the public, do you think there’s anything the NRA could do to fix its reputation and image?
Adam: I do- they could stop supporting the multi-million dollar firearm companies. They need to get back to their roots and teach youth how to use sport and hunting rifles safely and responsibly. Things like how to clean and maintain a weapon or hunt humanely and have pride in ownership, and especially self defense, were really their mantra.
Ethan: What are your thoughts on the “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” line? That’s something the NRA seems to promote after mass shootings.
Adam: I agree to some extent, as I own firearms for personal protection and to protect my family, but trying to stop the bad guy from getting guns in the first place is a better idea. I think the NRA’s response is just to sell guns and give guns to everybody, and I think that’s part of the problem I have with this. Selling a gun to an 18-year-old is asinine. At the end of the day, the people we have to be considered about aren’t going to listen to anyone else about limiting firearms- they’re going to steal or buy everything and anything they want for the purpose of doing as much harm and destruction they want. Banning certain weapons or munitions will only negatively affect lawful gun owners: the rules can’t just apply to law-abiding citizens because as long as bad guys have this stuff, there’s no point.
Ethan: That’s certainly one way to look at it. I don’t think that there’s just one solution to this deep-rooted issue, and you’ll have to correct me if I’m wrong, but we’re of the same opinion on that. Hopefully, more conversations like this might push our country closer to a solution. Thank you for your time!
Adam: And thank you for having me.