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Gun Owners of America
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|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
Gun Owners of America (GOA) is an American lobbyist group promoting gun
hoarding rights. It is significantly smaller than the National Rifle Association and touts itself as a watchdog of the NRA "when we don't think they've gone far enough. In comparison with the relatively more mainstream NRA, the GOA is distinctly and radically more libertarian in its attitudes regarding the Second Amendment.
They are devout advocates to their particular reading of the Second Amendment, naturally ignoring the qualifier about well-regulated militias. Their current leader is Larry Pratt, a conservative Christian gun nut who has made several choice statements about gun control and what it means to be an American. Pratt is a frequent guest on Fox News whenever Roger Ailes felt like dialing to a slightly different version of insanity than what Wayne LaPierre has to offer.
Gun Owners of America was formed in 1975 by Larry Pratt, who felt that the National Rifle Association was not taking a strong enough stance against gun control, and H. L. Richardson, who wanted to lobby against a proposed gun ban in California. Pratt also considered it a reaction to the 1968 gun control act and part of an effort "to oppose the government."
Political positions and activities
Compared to the National Rifle Association, the Gun Owners of America are a tiny but very vocal minority. The NRA dwarfs the GOA in membership (5 million versus 2 million), total revenue (nearly $220 million verses less than $2 million for 2011), lobbying spending ($3 million versus $1.3 million), campaign contributions ($1.5 million versus $119,850), and common sense (see below). Despite their small size, they are a growing political power in the American gun debate.
Gun Owners of America veers so far to the right that they make the NRA look like the Brady Campaign—a comparison they themselves have probably hurled in the NRA's direction more than once. They not only oppose all new background checks (similar to the NRA), but would also like to see all existing background checks and other gun purchase restrictions removed. Furthermore, a major goal of the group is to also remove penalties for "straw purchases," sales made to those who intend to sell or give the weapon to someone else who cannot pass a background check. As Larry Pratt put it, "There would be no straw purchasing if there were no limits on who can carry a gun."
While small, the GOA is nonetheless very devoted and talented at using their minuscule might to stop any and all gun control campaigns. They specialize in freezing on-the-fence Republicans who may support gun control laws, while empowering politicians with a strong gun rights record. However, the GOA judges politicians with criteria much stricter than those of the NRA. For example, while the NRA awarded Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) a perfect A grade (making him one of the few Democratic politicians with that distinction), the GOA slapped him with a measly D- for his record on healthcare reform. (The GOA's opposition to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act comes from Pratt's belief that it will be used to find "reason[s] to disenfranchise gun owners," even though the Affordable Care Act in fact explicitly prohibits discrimination against gun owners as well as the compilation of a gun owner database.)
In 1996, it was revealed that Gun Owners of America gave donations to a white supremacist attorney's group. Since Larry Pratt is known to have deep connections with white supremacist groups, this comes as no surprise.
After the horrific Sandy Hook shooting, most gun advocacy groups were initially silent. The NRA declined to comment "until the facts [were] thoroughly known," and the similar National Shooting Sports Foundation (located in Newtown) declared that "it would be inappropriate to comment or participate in media requests at [that] time" out of respect to the people involved. Gun Owners of America's chief counsel, Mike Hammond, blasted these other two groups for having the gumption to not take advantage of a national tragedy to peddle gun nut extremism. They then further displayed their tremendous tact by calling for the removal of gun-free zones from schools, which Pratt called "magnets for the monsters in our society." He also accused gun control supporters as being partially responsible for the massacre, saying that gun control advocates "have the blood of little children on their hands" because their support for gun-free zones supposedly prevented the staff at Newtown from protecting themselves.
In 2007, the GOA opposed a bill limiting gun access to members of the military with post-traumatic stress disorder. (The NRA, in comparison, did not oppose it.)
In February 2013, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) planned to collaborate with Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) on a bill that would have expanded background checks for prospective gun buyers. Gun Owners of America swarmed him and his offices with so many phone calls and emails that he was forced to withdraw from the negotiations, and he has not made any attempt at gun control laws since."
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who received donations from GOA during his primary campaign and the GOA's most rabid fanboy in the Senate, characterized them as "strong defenders of the Second Amendment."
According to Kenneth Stern, the American Jewish Committee's expert on anti-Semitism and hate groups and author of the book "A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate", Larry Pratt's organization "bridges the gap between the far right, anti-Semites, racists, and members of Congress."
- Jillian Rayfield, Gun Owners of America out-hardlines the NRA. Salon, 4 March 2013.
- Christina Wilkie, Gun Owners Of America Steals Newtown Gun Debate Spotlight While NRA Hides. Huffington Post, 17 December 2012.
- Upstart Group Pushes Harder Than the N.R.A., The New York Times, 3 April 2013.
- GOA Welcomes Kentucky to the Constitutional Carry Club. gunowners.org, 11 March 2019. The organization claims to have over two million members in this press release.
- Brian Tashman, Larry Pratt: Obamacare Will 'Take Away Your Guns'. Right Wing Watch, 20 November 2012.
- False Patriots. Southern Poverty Law Center, 8 May 2001.
- Gun Owners Of America Steals Newtown Gun Debate Spotlight While NRA Hides. The Huffington Post, 17 December 2012.
- Gun Owners of America: Gun control advocates "have the blood of little children on their hands." Salon, 15 December 2012.
- News Analysis: Buchanan dogged by links to extremists. Jewish News of Northern California, 23 February 1996.