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NRA has “Taken Positions that are Hard to Square with its All-American Persona” as it Takes Pro-Gun Agenda Overseas

January 3, 2019

Today, Bloomberg News published a report detailing how the NRA is increasingly looking outside the U.S. for gun profits and taking “positions that are hard to square with its all-American persona.”

Neil Weinberg, Polly Mosendz and Bill Allison write (emphasis added):

Lately, foreign backers—and foreign markets—have become much more important to the NRA. Imports have accounted for almost 1 in 3 U.S. gun sales in recent years, up from 1 in 5 less than two decades ago. Many foreign and multinational gun companies have opened manufacturing facilities in the U.S., taking advantage of the lucrative civilian market and relatively lax regulation, making them natural allies with the NRA.

As the gun industry has gone global, the NRA has taken positions that are hard to square with its all-American persona. In 2013 it stood with Iran, North Korea, and Syria in objecting to an arms trade treaty in the United Nations. (Republicans opposed ratification of the treaty in the U.S.) The following year it slammed the U.S. Treasury Department for including Kalashnikov Concern, maker of the iconic AK-47, among companies sanctioned in response to the Russian Federation’s aggression in Ukraine. The group acknowledged the hostilities but called the penalty a bid by U.S. gun control advocates for a backdoor assault weapons ban. A more global outlook also led to a major public-relations debacle, as some of the NRA’s top luminaries drew close to a young Russian gun rights activist, Maria Butina, who now admits she was trying to influence U.S. conservatives on the Kremlin’s behalf.

“As gun culture has spread, advocates in countries as far-flung as Australia, Brazil, and Russia have looked to the NRA as their standard-bearer. It’s hard to see how this serves the group’s official mission as “a membership association that represents only individual citizens” of the U.S. But it’s easy to understand how it might serve global gun merchants.”

What’s more, the report suggests that NRA leaders may actually be helping to spread this agenda globally. During the NRA’s 2015 delegation trip to Moscow, Pete Brownell, then an NRA board member who would go on to become its president, “was building a Russian sales network for his family business, Brownells Inc., which bills itself as the world’s largest supplier of shooting accessories.”

The report goes on to explain:

“Brownell, whose father has called him ‘the political animal in our family,’ first ran for a seat on the NRA board in 2010. In early 2015 he set about expanding his business in Europe and Russia by taking over a distribution network from another prominent NRA member, Larry Potterfield, founder of firearms retailer MidwayUSA Inc. in Columbia, Mo. A person familiar with Brownell’s company says he didn’t discuss his business interests with anyone under U.S. sanction.”

During that same 2015 trip in Moscow, the NRA delegation met with then-sanctioned Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who headed Russia’s defense industry, and also toured a Russian gun manufacturer, which produces a sniper rifle that the Pentagon views as a threat to U.S. troops.

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