"Did NRA leadership make a 'clerical error' in support of statewide handgun ban?"
December 3, 2007

A recent NRA-ILA alert accuses Wisconsin Gun Owners of "intentionally misrepresenting" the NRA's position on statewide handgun ban legislation -- a position that remained on the state lobbying website for several months to be viewed by scores of legislators, staff members and citizens

Today NRA-ILA released an e-mail attack campaign against WGO ('Pro-Gun' Group Misrepresenting the Facts!', December 3, 2007, NRA-ILA) claiming "an unjust and irresponsible attack was launched by Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. (WGO) incorrectly stating that the National Rifle Association had taken a position in support of Senate Bill 104."

Members of Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. (WGO) once again deserve a "salute" for their hard work in calling NRA leadership out to clarify their position on a major statewide handgun ban affecting private sales.

The real question is, Why is NRA-ILA attacking WGO when they should be thanking us?

Background: Back in July, 2007, pro-gun activists in Wisconsin learned the NRA was -- according to the Wisconsin Ethics Board website -- supporting SB104 -- dangerous legislation banning private citizen-to-citizen handgun sales in Wisconsin, a bill introduced by Milwaukee Democrat Spencer Coggs.

We were saddened -- though not surprised, given NRA leadership's past willingness to compromise -- that the national gun lobby purporting to represent gun owners had taken a position on the bill via the Ethics Board website publicly undermining the Second Amendment.

WGO staff shot photographic proof of the Wisconsin Ethics Board website page showing NRA's position on the handgun ban as "Support" (see photo here). No facts were misrepresented. Quite the opposite.

Indeed, wouldn't it have been "unjust" and "irresponsible" for WGO to remain quiet -- to not inform our members -- the gun owners of Wisconsin -- who would be directly impacted by this egregious bill?

For the record, WGO has always consistently OPPOSED SB104 and all other gun control bills currently before the Wisconsin legislature. Opposing this bill was and is a top priority for us.

In fact, WGO blasted the bill and its sponsor in a scorching media campaign through radio ads that impacted hundreds of thousands of constituents in the Milwaukee area.

We are proud of our 100% pro-gun record. All legislators, their staff members and gun owners are urged to view WGO's lobbying page to track our position on gun bills. See our positions on bills here:

While NRA-ILA tried to paint a picture that they have always opposed SB104 -- citing the fact that NRA testified against the bill at a public hearing -- we all know that a great deal of water passed over the dam in between then and now, and just because a group opposed a bill then, is no absolute assurance that the group opposes it now.

'Just trust us,' seems to be the message.

The purpose of the Wisconsin Ethics Board and their online reporting tools is to provide people -- elected and unelected alike -- with up-to-date information on positions lobbying organizations take on legislation.

Even if backroom deals are cut with the enemy on a bill, registered groups are still required to update their position on the bill. This is a good thing, a check and balance, that keeps citizens in tune with the legislative process via open government.

Wisconsin's lobbying laws are designed to keep the position of groups in the OPEN rather than behind closed doors.

Rather than criticize WGO for reporting the truth about the NRA's position as it appeared online, NRA-ILA should fire its state lobbyists who apparently were asleep at the wheel.

In its attack on WGO, NRA-ILA did not specify who made the clerical error - NRA-ILA or the Wisconsin Ethics Board. If NRA made the error, don't they know their own position on gun bills? If it was the Ethics Board, why didn't NRA's paid lobbyists catch the error?

The NRA did testify against this bill on May 29, 2007 -- that fact is not disputed.

However, on July 30, what WGO reported, was the truth: according to the Wisconsin Ethics Board website, the NRA was now supporting the handgun ban according to public document.

Given the dynamic, fast-changing nature of bills as they move through the legislative process, the Ethics Board website provides registered lobbying organizations (like WGO and the NRA) the ability to update positions on bills and amendments.
This is what we do - it is what our members rightfully expect from us -- we monitor the progress of important actions in Madison.

We simply tell the truth as it is - we don't sugar coat issues or obscure them in emotionalism -- and that's the responsible thing to do. In fact, it's our duty -- despite the risk of drawing heat from political hacks intent on silencing that dissemination of vital information.


During the expansive time the Wisconsin Ethics Board page depicted NRA's position in support of the handgun ban, how many legislators, staff and citizen activists believed the NRA was supporting the handgun ban?

How could NRA leadership in Washington or the NRA's state lobbyists not notice - for many months on end - that their organization was publicly supporting (again, according to the Ethics Board website) a major statewide handgun ban - one of the most egregious gun control proposals facing Badger State gun owners in recent history?

A clerical error? On something as critical to you and me as this proposed ban?

Our members are sharp - and vocal. We hear from people within days if there are typos in our newsletter or in their mailing address -- THOSE are clerical errors. Official records of an organization's stance on a major and threatening statewide handgun ban are not what we would consider clerical errors.

This speaks to the concern that we've had for a long time -- since our inception, in fact. We fear the NRA as an organization (not speaking of individual NRA members who we consider to be honest, smart and staunch gun rights supporters) is simply too large to concern itself with the issues of one state.

It's easy to understand in a seeming bureaucracy such as theirs how the right hand wouldn't know what the left hand was doing -- and "clerical errors" are made.

We're not willing to take that chance or play these games with your rights.

We're relieved to hear NRA leadership is not supporting SB104. We are also proud that it was WGO's reporting of the facts that seem to have compelled NRA leadership to get its own position straight.

You see, the NRA's dispute isn't with WGO -- the NRA's dispute is with itself.

In the past, WGO has attempted to contact NRA state lobbyists for comment -- we've reached out our hand to them to gain understanding of their positions for our reporting and to work together -- only to receive a "cold shoulder" as our phone calls were never returned.

It seems as if those holding to a proper view of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms are viewed as a threat that needs to be silenced and outcast from insider-politics.

Even so, NRA members are smart. These gun owners need to ask NRA-ILA leadership a few simple questions, starting with:

  • How did NRA not know its own position was being reported on the Ethics Board website for several months in SUPPORT of a statewide handgun ban?

  • In light of this major strategic embarrassment for NRA "leadership," should gun owners in Wisconsin conclude NRA's Washington, D.C. leadership is too distant and bureaucratic to pay attention to gun control bills affecting Wisconsin gun owners?

  • Why is NRA-ILA attacking an honest, state-level gun group when they should be thanking us? Had it not been for WGO's reporting of the facts, NRA's position may still be online showing "Support" for the handgun ban bill - doing further damage to our unified cause against the bill -- and shouldn't NRA leadership be standing united with Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. (WGO) -- Wisconsin's only registered state-level gun rights lobbying organization -- instead of being divisive and attacking their fellow gun rights group?

Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc. (WGO) commends the hard work of Badger State gun activists who "sounded the alarm" as it now appears these outcries have forced NRA leadership to correct the "clerical error" which indicated the group had once again jumped across the aisle on another useless gun control scheme.

All of this proves the drastic need for an honest, state-level gun rights organization who works for grassroots gun owners and not politicians. Thanks to your support, WGO is that organization.

It's now official: As of today's date, NRA is opposed to SB104. Let's hope it stays that way.