Although I am a supporter of the National Rifle Association, I am extremely critical of them. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think they do a horrible job of reaching out to people outside of their stereotypical demographic. Unfortunately, because the NRA seemingly only targets (no pun intended) white, suburban/rural, middle class supporters, other groups outside their demographic are not usually influenced by the largest gun group in America. Although some may argue that the lack of the NRA’s influence is a good thing and that if given a larger role, the NRA would only promote the repeal of gun laws, I disagree. Along with being the foremost lobby group, the NRA is also the premiere gun education and safety organization in the US.
In the wake of the Gilbert Arenas gun debacle, the time is now for the NRA to reach out to organizations it doesn’t normally associate with. What the NRA should absolutely do is reach out to the NBA, NFL, MLB, and any other sports leagues and offer to teach instruction classes on safe and proper gun ownership, handling, and transport. This would benefit not only the athletes, but also the leagues and the NRA itself.
Benefit to athletes:
Overall, if the NRA would start teaching athletes the right way to handle guns, maybe we would start seeing less incidents such as those that occurred to Arenas, Sebastian Telfair, Stephen Jackson, Plaxico Burress, or former Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer.
(Wow. Check out what Switzer did back in 1997. According to reports, “a loaded .38-caliber revolver was found in his carry-on baggage at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.” I’m sure that’s impossible these days.)
If possible, the NRA should teach courses not only to active players now, but also as part of the indoctrination seminars leagues have for new players – where players are warned about groupies, instructed on finances, taught how to talk to the media, etc. This would lay the groundwork for a change in behavior. If the players opt not to own a gun, that’s their choice. But for those that do chose to own and carry, at least they are instructed the right way.
Benefit to the Leagues:
Currently the NBA and NFL have made statements and enacted policies that are fairly anti-gun. However, this has not stopped the flow of incidents. If the athletes aren’t listening to suggestions that they shouldn’t carry, then the leagues should implement courses to help them carry and own the right way. Allowing the NRA to instruct athletes would help the leagues. First and foremost, from a public relations perspective, it would hopefully reduce the number of embarrassing incidents. From a legal perspective, it may also give the leagues more leverage to use against a player if they do commit a crime with a gun. If a player attends a league-approved, NRA-taught course and still finds themselves on the wrong side of the law, the league could state the player was taught and hence should have known better.
(This would alleviate situations such as Arenas “not knowing” he couldn’t bring guns into the locker room or that he needed to follow the laws and guidelines of Washington, DC. Ignorance of the law, especially in this case, is almost laughable.)
Benefit to the NRA:
As I stated in the introduction, there is a definite benefit for the NRA to reach out and assist the NFL, NBA, and other sports leagues. Teaching athletes would expose the NRA to a brand new audience, to include many people who never heard of the organization. The NRA would also benefit from the positive press it would get for attempting to reduce high profile gun crime. If they promote themselves right, after they get an arrangement with one league, the positive press would lead to other leagues signing up, which would only continue to show the NRA in a positive light.
The NRA takes pride in its instructors. They are ambassadors of the organization. Nothing would benefit the NRA more than to showcase these instructors teaching the most high profile athletes in the world.
Epilogue: I emailed the NRA blog webmasters and asked them if they had or are planning to reach out to professional sports leagues. So far I have not received a response.