John Lott: NRA turmoil is not a threat to Second Amendment but THIS could do real harm

The announcement Saturday that Oliver North is stepping down as president of the National Rifle Association – following news that the New York attorney general is investigating the group’s tax-exempt status – has sparked overwrought media speculation that the NRA is in danger of shutting down.

It’s not.

Try as they might, those on the left cannot wish the Second Amendment out of existence. But if they can silence the NRA they will deprive the amendment – and every American – of an important defender of our freedom.

NRA PRESIDENT SAYS HE WON'T SERVE SECOND TERM AMID TURMOIL IN GUN RIGHTS GROUP

Anti-gun groups regularly try to win the approval of legislation that violates our Second Amendment rights, but the NRA has gone to court and talked with elected officials to block unconstitutional restrictions on gun rights.

North’s resignation was announced at the NRA Convention in Indianapolis, which I am attending. A letter from North was read in the convention hall saying he was stepping down because he was told he would not be nominated by the NRA Board for another term as president.

In his resignation letter, North said the NRA faces “a clear crisis” that it should deal with “immediately and responsibly.” He said he had recently created a committee to investigate allegations of improper financial actions at the organization.

What happened to force North out?

It turns out that North and longtime NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre got into a power struggle. LaPierre came out on top.

But don’t expect any real changes. That’s because the presidency of the NRA – the post North held – is part-time position and the president is largely a figurehead. LaPierre has run the NRA full-time for almost 30 years, and will continue to do so.

The fight between North and LaPierre may be getting more attention because both men are well-known public figures.

The conflict has also turned personal. LaPierre claims North extorted him by threatening to release “damaging” information if he did not resign. North’s supporters say that North was merely offering LaPierre a way out that wouldn’t require a messy battle about his handling of NRA finances.

Look at the big picture and you’ll see that once again, the fate of the Second Amendment hinges on the election that will select the president of the United States – not the president of the NRA.

Meanwhile, the NRA is suing media company Ackerman McQueen, which pays North for hosting a TV program. LaPierre alleges that North’s accusations against him were motivated by personal financial interests.

The messy infighting is unfortunate, but, by itself, won’t get in the way of the NRA achieving its objectives.

Look at the big picture and you’ll see that once again, the fate of the Second Amendment hinges on the election that will select the president of the United States – not the president of the NRA.

The balance of power on the Supreme Court is still precarious, and Democratic presidential candidates have made their intentions clear. If a Democratic president installs anti-Second Amendment justices on our nation’s highest court, our gun rights will be in grave danger.

The NRA has faced numerous challenges in recent years. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gives hundreds of millions of dollars each year to fund his gun control organizations, fund research that supports gun controls, and support political campaigns of candidates hostile to allowing individuals defending themselves.

This past year, Bloomberg spent $110 million just on Democratic campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives. He devoted similar amounts to state-level races.

The state of New York, where the NRA is incorporated, has been particularly hostile to the nonprofit organization. State Attorney General Letitia James is investigating the NRA’s nonprofit status. Her office sent letters to the NRA and affiliated entities Friday to preserve relevant records for that investigation.

This action by James is reminiscent of how the Obama administration used the Internal Revenue Service to deny tax-exempt status to those it disagreed with politically and tilt the 2012 election toward Democrats.

New York state has gone so far as to make regulatory threats to force insurance companies and banks to stop doing business with the NRA, which has suffered tens of millions of dollars in losses as a result.

Even the liberal American Civil Liberties Union has joined the NRA in fighting what the group views as New York's outrageous actions, saying: “Our position in this case has nothing to do with our opinions on the NRA’s policies – it’s about the First Amendment rights of all organizations to engage in political advocacy without fear that the state will use its regulatory authority to penalize them for doing so.”

The NRA helped President Trump to victory in 2016 by rallying support among the large gun owner populations of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – all states that Trump narrowly won against Hillary Clinton.

The $30 million NRA supporters spent in the election might look paltry compared to what Bloomberg spends, but it nevertheless made a difference.

Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning for restrictions on gun ownership that range from gun bans to fees and taxes that will clearly limit gun ownership – especially among poor minorities who are the most likely victims of violent crime and who benefit the most from being able to protect themselves and their families.

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But if one of these Democrats is elected president in November 2020 and appoints like-minded justices to the Supreme Court we might say goodbye to these rights. This is real cause for alarm.

So in the long run, Oliver North stepping down as president of the NRA will be a footnote in history. But if Democratic politicians use this internal NRA battle as an excuse to further hobble their political enemies all Americans will come the losers.

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