I have a lawyer bookcase, one with glass doors that swing up and open. A small bronze sculpture is on the top shelf. It shows a minuteman from the colonial era, who stands next to a framed and embossed copy of the second amendment to the constitution directly above the NRA logo. A tiny plaque screwed to the wooden base contains my name and my apparent status as a lifelong member.
I’m keeping this statue to remind myself that anyone can be made to believe nonsense. If you’ve followed this column from the start, you will know that I belong to the 14 percent of Americans who own an unhealthy number of guns. Guns are a part of life where I grew up. Children are taught marksmanship (as a teenager, I shot twice at the Wolf Creek rifle range built for the Atlanta Olympics). Guns in rural America are seen as important, necessary, and essential to life itself.
I believed that for a long time, even when I voted for a Democrat. In my early 20s, I spent $ 500 in the NRA to become a lifelong member. At the time, I felt that the NRA was about hunting, camaraderie with other people who enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle, and educating young people about gun safety.
I was blind to the toxicity that was already there in the NRA back then, but after the federal offensive weapons ban expired in 2004, things started to move quickly. The folks in the gun community did their best to hoard any newly available high capacity magazines. I took part without really knowing why. I didn’t ask what kind of legitimate need I could possibly have to shoot more than 10 rounds in a row. The once rare AR-15 style rifle that would have been alien and out of place on a civilian firing range became increasingly popular. The number of firearms made annually in America has nearly quadrupled in 12 years.
In the meantime, America suffered mass shootings after mass shootings. The NRA’s solution has always consisted of more guns, but Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, adopted a particularly absurd tone after Sandy Hook. My disenchantment with the arms subculture grew. I began to read how Australia has successfully addressed its Port Arthur mass shootings problem. I read about many other countries where gun control worked. Most of them still allowed athletes like me to hunt with hunting rifles and shotguns instead of military weapons that flooded into American homes. I saw Jim Jefferies. The increasingly hysterical flyers and emails asking for more donations to the NRA, warning of impending gun control measures that were never actually carried out, kept coming but fell flat. If you’ve dug into a credible source of information that wasn’t the NRA itself or one of its many right-wing allies in disinformation, it became disturbingly quickly apparent that everything the NRA was saying was ridiculous, utter nonsense.
I got rid of my AR-15. I got rid of my 9mm Glock. I am letting my wear permit expire. I was a member of an organization whose main job was to spit out untruths. I had grown to despise the NRA. This is what happens when you finally realize that you have been fed a lot of lies your entire life. The NRA’s lies have successfully stolen my money so that money on a high-end lifestyle could be wasted on their leaders and used to spread more lies to other people. I was angry.
However, for some reason it took me a long time to end this lifetime membership. One reason, I suppose, was the Byzantine method – after sending many unanswered emails, I eventually learned that, pursuant to Article III, Section 10 of the NRA Bylaws, I had to send a physical letter to an address in Virginia to get on waive my membership. Which I ended up doing way too late after a new wave of disgust hit me after the 2017 Las Vegas massacre.
I don’t think I’ll ever give up guns entirely. There are few environments that I truly feel at peace in these days, but drifting down the river in our canoe and ducking with my dad on a warm autumn day is one of them (with shotguns that only last three laps, if You asked yourself because the law is supposed to give waterfowl a sporting chance against a weapon that the law does not give concertgoers or school children.
Even without complete abstinence, guns will never again be an unhealthy obsession for me. I will never own any other weapon that enables a marksman to kill large numbers of people very quickly. I will never renounce the conviction that in the 21st century if we are dissatisfied with our government, we will not form an armed militia. The NRA will never get a dime from me again, and if this organization collapses under pressure from the New York attorney general or falls on the internal corruption and transplant at their center, I will cheer. I will always hope that the loved ones, still seduced by the gun lobby lies, can one day do what I did: flee.
Jonathan Wolf is a civil litigation attorney and author of Your Debt Free JD (Affiliate Link). He has taught legal writing, written for a variety of publications, and made it both his business and pleasure to be financially and scientifically literate. Any views he expresses are likely pure gold, yet only his own and should not be attributed to any organization with which he is affiliated. He wouldn’t want to share the loan anyway. He can be reached at [email protected]