One of its former regional political directors charges the National Rifle Association with being “a cynical, mercenary political cult.”
Feldman, an avowed supporter of the right to bear arms, thought he had landed the perfect job when the NRA hired him in 1984 as a state liaison for its lobbying arm. Within about three years, however, he ran into serious conflicts with his boss, whom he depicts as a narrow-minded functionary jealous of his successes in the field. Feldman was forced to quit, but his subsequent position with the firearm industry’s trade association kept him in touch with the NRA; he was a political consultant for the organization in both New Jersey and Virginia and later coordinated efforts to defeat the Brady Bill on Capitol Hill. The scope of these campaigns and his personal role in them are detailed with gusto. Feldman provides a capsule history of the NRA from its 19th-century sporting origins through its burst of growth after World War II and its emergence as a powerful lobbying force in the 1970s. He devotes considerable attention to internal struggles for control and to the advertising agency that became its in-house public-affairs department. His major complaint is what he sees as the organization’s manipulation of members in order to enhance its political power and enrich its senior executives. It is not, he claims, interested in solutions to problems, but in prolonging conflict over issues. Citing its reaction to such events as the 1984 Bernhard Goetz shooting in a New York subway and the shootout at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, he concludes that the NRA relishes fights with anti-gun groups because such controversies increase membership and stimulate contributions. Throughout, Feldman pulls no punches, naming names and calling names.
A breezy, easy-to-read exposé, though the author’s staunch pro-firearms position may alienate readers who are anti-gun as well as anti-NRA.