The newly-formed American Rifle and Pistol Association (ARPA) will officially launch on July 4, but already skeptics are wondering if this organization is not just a new incarnation of the American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA), which turned out to be a front group for Democrats and soon vanished after the 2008 elections.
The Shall Not Be Questioned (former Snowflakes in Hell) blog already suggests that ARPA is “the latest not-really-pro-gun group.” Washington Whispers notes that the Texas-based group “hopes to set itself apart by being more focused on members” than the National Rifle Association. That’s hauntingly similar to how AHSA billed itself.
According to the ARPA website, “None of the members of the leadership team are representatives, agents, or employees of the firearms manufacturing industry in any way; nor do they claim to be firearms experts of any kind; nor are they law enforcement personnel, politicians, or firearms industry lobbyists.”
They also claim to have been “specifically created to offer a truly member-centric deliberative forum and educational portal for innovative ideas regarding SANE™ gun ownership and SANE™ firearms management. SANE™ is R+P’s acronym which represents Safety first and foremost, Advocacy on behalf of its membership (not the firearms industry), the Social Networking of its members, and Education via a wealth of informational resources, available to all Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners alike.”
And in its statement of principles, ARPA says that it “seeks to work with state and local governments to help establish effective training and licensing programs designed to increase public safety while protecting eligible citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms.”
There is something else. When contacted by Washington Whispers, ARPA CEO Waylan Johnson made an observation that reads just like it came from the Violence Policy Center’s playbook: “The NRA represents the firearms industry. There’s not a lot of membership input.”
That may surprise the voting members who cast ballots in this year’s elections for NRA directors, and it may also surprise directors who have lots of direct contact with members. It probably also comes as a shock to the firearms industry and the National Shooting Sports Foundation which represents it.
This column reached out to ARPA Wednesday but did not receive a timely reply.
But here is something to think about. AHSA timed its debut to coincide with the 2008 election cycle. ARPA will be the target of much skepticism because the 2014 election cycle kicks off this fall, and Congress still has to wrestle with gun control and the “we need to do something” crowd.
If it’s here just to fragment the firearms community, ARPA is in for a rough ride.