NSSF Revokes SRA's Membership

A Response From Our Central Committee

by Central Committee | July 23, 2019 2:21 PM

On Friday, July 19th, the Socialist Rifle Association became an official non-profit member of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The NSSF conducts expansive industry research, provides grants to colleges for firearms sports, and is the largest firearms trade association in America. The decision to become a member of the NSSF was made with the intent of living up to the SRA's goal of arming and training the working-class for self and community defense. While we understand the NSSF to be a fairly reactionary institution, our hope was to introduce the concept of left wing gun ownership and advocacy to the larger firearms community, especially through participation in events such as SHOT Show. Our announcement of membership in the NSSF was met with broad support from our members, who, like all proponents of the right to self-defense, want to ensure the protection of Americans' second amendment rights.

On Monday, July 22nd, the SRA received an email informing us that our membership in the NSSF had been rescinded and our $200 nonprofit membership dues were refunded. In a followup email, a representative of the organization claimed that the NSSF stands for "free market capitalism" and that a socialist organization being a member of their trade association would be contrary to their "core values". Further, they claimed both publicly and in the followup email that the SRA had joined through their "automated membership system", with the clear insinuation that they had accepted our membership without knowledge of our organization's values and purpose.

First, a point of fact. The SRA joined via the NSSF's online form, however we followed up with both phone and email correspondence to set up our account and spoke to an individual claiming the title of "Manager, Retail and Range Services". While setting up our online account, an NSSF employee even created the temporary password "Socialist1" for us. While the NSSF board may have been ignorant of our membership, their staff was clearly aware and comfortable with socialists joining their organization. The NSSF board appears to have been notified of our membership Monday due to a social media and phone campaign organized by members of the forum "AR15.com". While we don't wish to generalize the opinions of all members of AR15.com, the thread where this campaign was organized contains antisemitic memes, an individual proffering dox on one of the SRA's board members, and at least two death threats. One of the participants in the thread left a message on the NSSF's voicemail and received a response confirming our expulsion.

The decision by the NSSF to rescind its sponsorship of The Socialist Rifle Association follows a flurry of angry forum posts from those opposed to the SRA on issues unrelated to legal gun ownership. We at the SRA are greatly dismayed that the NSSF has allowed a minuscule, albeit vocal minority of supposed guns rights "activists" to dictate their membership policies to them. The SRA not only represents gun owners who align politically to the left, but also minority groups and members of the LGBTQ+ community who feel unwelcome in many circles that claim to support the Second Amendment rights of ALL Americans. The people that make up these circles represent the same voices that seem to have scared the NSSF away from its initial decision to broaden its scope to include a large contingent of gun owners that feel voiceless in regards to mainstream gun politics.

It is worth questioning the NSSF's wisdom in barring socialists from participating in their trade association. Free market capitalism is deeply unpopular – a 2018 Gallup poll found that a majority of millennials prefer socialism to capitalism, with the latter becoming less popular every year. While many of these millennials may define "socialism" as some form of social democratic system, it is undeniable that "free market capitalism" is not a winning message with the soon-to-be majority age demographic in America. If the NSSF wishes to preserve the right to bear arms, they would be well served by casting as wide an ideological net as possible, so as to avoid becoming irrelevant.

There is a misconception among many conservatives that liberalism and socialism are synonymous, and that both necessarily entail the disarming of the populace. But this is not the case. Gun control is a fundamental component of neo-liberal capitalism and its tendency to commodify, infantilize, and enslave working-class people. Socialism, on the other hand, is a philosophy concerned with emancipating working class people and allowing for their greatest development of individual will and expression. And the right to bear arms for self and community defense is a critical component of that mission. It's a common saying on the left that, "If you go far enough left, eventually you get your guns back." Indeed, there is a long tradition in both socialist and left-anarchist theory of supporting the right to bear arms.

"Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary." – Karl Marx, author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital

"Recollect that in arming yourselves, as you are bound to do unless you are willing to be forced into abject slavery, you are safely within the spirit and letter of the law." – Eugene V. Debs, five-time US Presidential Candidate

"The rifle is the weapon of democracy. Not for nothing was the revolver called an 'equalizer.' Egalite implies liberte. And always will." – Edward Abbey, American anarchist author

"That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there." – George Orwell, author, member of the P.O.U.M. militia in the Spanish Civil War

"Any unarmed people are slaves, or are subject to slavery at any moment." – Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party

While conservatives may doubt our conviction, or believe that our support for gun rights is temporary or conditional, we assure you that we are quite sincere. The right of self and community defense is essential, and firearms are the most practical and equalizing tools for securing that right. If the NSSF and other gun organizations are serious about preserving the second amendment, they would do well to set aside their petty partisan instincts and work to build a diverse coalition that protects the right of all working people to defend themselves.