“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The Second Amendment certainly seems straightforward to us. A well regulated militia cannot exist without arms; a free state cannot exist without a militia; therefore, the government must infringe upon the rights of the people to keep and bear arms.
Perhaps some of the people who want the government to infringe on your God-given rights genuinely believe they’re acting in your best interests. But there are far too many enemies of the free state to justify conceding even one iota of your liberty.
And the Second Amendment has many enemies indeed. So many, in fact, that reasonable Americans (among whom we hope you are included) support several organizations which serve to defend it. Two of these are the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF).
Americans who would rather never witness their countrymen lose their ability to resist tyranny often wonder which of these two organizations to lend their support to. Most Americans are more familiar with the NRA. Although recent controversy has chipped away at its membership. Many of the NRA’s former members choose to lend their support to the SAF instead.
So what is the difference between the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation? And is it great enough to merit supporting one over the other?
What Is the NRA?
The NRA was founded in 1871 to advance rifle marksmanship. It gradually evolved into one of the nation’s foremost gun lobbying groups, although it still promotes firearm competency and safety. The NRA is largely to thank for the Firearm Owners Protection Act. It loosened many of the overarching restrictions imposed by the Gun Control Act of 1968. It also endorsed the Dickey Amendment which prevents the CDC from spending taxpayer money on anti-gun propaganda.
(To any readers who accuse us of using biased language – you’re right. We are biased, albeit in favor of your freedom.)
The NRA would quite naturally become a target for anti-gunner ire over the past half-century. When anti-gunners descend upon a national tragedy in order to politicize it for their own political gain it’s not uncommon for the NRA to oppose their efforts. As a result, some promptly accuse the NRA of trying to exploit a national tragedy for their own political gain. “Irony” is a concept anti-gunners can only identify when it’s presented for comedic effect in their favorite cartoon shows.
2020’s NRA Controversy
We don’t want to delve too deeply into the controversy which beset the NRA in 2020. In brief, the New York Attorney General (a Democrat, unsurprisingly) filed a lawsuit against the NRA alleging fraud, financial misconduct and misuse of charitable funds by their executives. Had the NRA not spent more than $30 million helping to elect Donald J. Trump as president in 2016, then it is quite possible the Attorney General might have found a more pressing need for her efforts elsewhere.
In 2021 the NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, although a nonpartisan judge later dismissed it as “not filed in good faith.” The judge doubted whether the NRA faced financial difficulties at all, and ruled that they only filed for Chapter 11 in order to avoid regulation from the Attorney General.
Enough of that. As “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization,” the NRA has done a lot of direct good for gun owners and our country as a whole. They have funneled countless millions into campaigns to elect pro-gun politicians – in 2012, 88% of Republican congressmen (and one-eighth as many Democrats) received NRA PAC contributions at some point during their careers. In 2016 alone they spent $412 million on political activities (more than they earned during that year, but it was an important year).
NRA Lobbying Victories
The NRA’s influence has been pivotal in shaping American gun control policy. Do you like your AR-15? Had the NRA not opposed the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013, which was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 60 to 40, then Senator Feinstein and her cronies would have ensured that “that the right to keep and bear arms is not unlimited.” In other words, the federal government would have given itself free license to infringe to their heart’s content. Your assault rifles (we’d argue more accurately labeled AR-15s) would be banned.
What Is the Second Amendment Foundation?
The SAF was founded in 1974 by conservative political activist and gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb (aka our kind of guy). Their president in 2022 is Massad Ayoob, who is one of the most influential firearm experts of the 21st century. Like the NRA, the SAF is also a nonprofit organization. It provides firearm education programs, media contacts and funding for pro-gun conferences. They also sponsor the pro-gun sides of many lawsuits.
Here is the main difference between the NRA and the SAF: the latter is not remotely as well-funded. Whereas the NRA has roughly five million members, the SAF has 650,000. The NRA reported a revenue of $412 million in 2018; in 2019, the SAF reported a budget of only $4.3 million. (We love putting the word “only” in front of $4.3 million, like it’s chump change.)
Their lesser size has not prevented the SAF and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), their lobbying affiliate, from doing a lot of good for this country. In 2005 the SAF (alongside the NRA) successfully sued the mayor of New Orleans. They fought against unconstitutional gun seizures during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. That same year the SAF and others successfully sued to strike down Proposition H. It would have effectively banned guns in San Francisco. In 2008 the SAF sued the City of Chicago to overturn its handgun ban, which ultimately led the Supreme Court to rule that the Second Amendment applies to states just like it does the federal government.
These are only some examples of the SAF’s recent victories. Their efforts aren’t always successful, but without them the Second Amendment and by extension freedom and liberty would not be nearly as intact as they currently are in the United States.
The Takeaway: NRA vs Second Amendment Foundation
Underscoring the minute philosophical differences between the NRA and the SAF would be an exercise in splitting hairs. Both are going to the mats in the name of Americans’ Second Amendment freedoms. Both are also propagating potentially life-saving information in the form of educational programs.
The NRA is much larger, and accordingly the subject of far more vitriol. We compare it to the way society often blames McDonald’s for fast food making people fat. There are hundreds of other fast food chains, but the largest representative is typically the one society blames for the group’s offenses. In other words, if the NRA and SAF suddenly traded places, the SAF would likely find itself the target of just as many attacks.
In our humble opinion, both the NRA and the SAF are fully deserving of support. It’s easier to destroy freedom than nurture it. Any organization which fights to preserve it does good in our book.