Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist Hardcover – Oct 11 2007
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"Ricochetis right on target. Feldman's behind-the-scenes memoir vividly describes America's firearms debate and struggle to win in extraordinary detail. I thoroughly enjoyed it."--John W. Magaw, former Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
"Ricochet casts an eye-opening spotlight on the shadowy world of behind-the-scenes gun politics. Is it accurate? Absolutely! I was there."--John Aquilino, former Director, NRA Public Education
"Ricochet tells the truth. With each page I can hear the echo of footsteps down the Rayburn Building's marbled halls as Feldman tells the intimate story few know and even fewer survive."--Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), former Chairman, U.S. House Judiciary Committee
From the Inside Flap
It's no secret that the National Rifle Association is probably the most powerful lobbying group in America, noted for its no-nonsense tactics and fervent membership. Beyond that, virtually everything about the NRA's political agenda, its financial structure, and how it spends the vast amounts of money it collects from contributors has been kept a tightly guarded secret, not only from the public but from NRA members as welluntil now.
In Ricochet, a onetime NRA lobbyist and avid Second Amendment defender unmasks the inner workings, influence, and goals of this highly secretive political behemoth. From internecine warfare, media manipulation, and executive bankrolling to gun control bills and school massacres, Richard Feldman, former NRA regional political director and lobbyist for the firearm industry, exposes the NRA as a cynical, mercenary political cult obsessed with wielding power while exploiting members' fear in order to maximize contributions.
Among the many dirty little secrets that Feldman exposes are the phenomenal salaries received by CEO Wayne LaPierre and other high-ranking NRA officials. These generous remunerations, which place NRA executives among the highest-paid officials of any tax-exempt organization, are funded by biannual "crisis du jour" fund-raising drives, in which members are exhorted to donate additional funds to fend off the latest alleged threat to their Second Amendment rights.
Looking back over his long association with the NRA, Feldman reveals the inside stories behind the organization's responses to the Bernie Goetz subway shootings, the Assault Weapons Ban, gun control legislation, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Long Island Railroad shootings, and Feldman's own voluntary gun-lock agreement. He explains how the NRA's inflexible positions have placed the nation's most prominent representative of law-abiding gun owners in increasing opposition to law enforcement, gun makers, and moderate Republicans. The upshot is that the NRA is not an effective advocate for its members' interests. Obsessed with fund-raising, scare-mongering, and wielding political power, NRA leadership undermines commonsense solutions that would protect gun-owners' rights while reducing accidental shootings and gun violence.
Ricochet is not for gun control advocates: It is a wake-up call for gun owners who cherish their Second Amendment rights. The message is that the NRA has betrayed your trust, misused your hard-earned donations, and strengthened the hand of those who would take your guns away. Read this hard-hitting exposé to discover how this has happened and what you can do about it.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Richard Feldman is a skillful writer and an engaging story teller. His prose is easily approachable, passionate, and at the same time, avoids emotional extremes and bumper sticker slogans -- it's easy to see how he has been such a successful lobbiest.
The "confessions" aren't ideological regrets, but rather the kiss-and-tell story of internecine warfare at one of America's largest and most powerful lobbying groups. Feldman presents the National Rifle Association to be not exactly the 800 lb gorilla many people had always assumed -- but rather a pack of 80 lb chimpanzees that sometimes work together towards a common goal but also spend a lot of time poking one another in the eyes.
At the book's core, divergent factions in the NRA (one spearheaded by Feldman) disagree fundamentally on the best way to bring their cause forward -- the reader can decide which (if either) seems more practical. A fascinating read, whatever your position on guns. "Ricochet" seems to tell a universal tale -- one assumes that the very same types of arguments are going on in the back rooms of Greenpeace or any other lobbying group staffed by passionate and dedicated idealists.
NRA-ILA sent Feldman who had two conversations with the Sheriff, the first explaining that his decision was based on demonstrably erroneous information. When the official did nothing, several months later Feldman told him very directly: stop the foolishness about Glocks, or we're going to take you to court and pull your pants down.
The Sheriff folded within the month!
I've followed Feldman's career ever since, the savvy (dare I say "pushy?") self-described Jewish-kid-from-the-Five-Towns. I think the "pushy" is what I like the most in his defense of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. That, and one of his credos: "You fight fire with napalm!"
"Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist" is an insider's view from the trenches, and if anyone is concerned that it's an "NRA puff piece," that organization (of which I am a Life Member) will undoubtedly be more antagonistic toward the book than say the anti-gun "Brady Bunch." Feldman chronicles the evolution of the venerable organization from a collection of shooting sports enthusiasts into, under the formidible leadership of Harlon Carter, a dedicated group of Second Amendment stalwarts, and then after Carter's death, the NRA's transformation into a cynical fund-raising machine with Wayne LaPierre and the PR firm of Ackerman-McQueen running things irrespective of Members' wishes.
Along the way Feldman discusses the machinations involved in gaining passage of the McClure-Volkmer bill in 1986, the behind-the-scenes wrangling on the Bernie Goetz "subway vigilante" event, and how the newest threat to firearms ownership rose with the filing of municipal lawsuits against the gun industry.
"Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist" is a fascinating and well-told chronicle of the past quarter of a century of the conflict between gun rights activists and firearms prohibitionists. (See [...] for a fuller discission.)
I'd quite agree you can't judge this book by its press or blog reviews. The press naturally picked up on Richard's criticism of NRA fundraising and expenditures, and the bloggers (except me, who refused to blog without reading it) reacted to that. Both made the book seem antigun, when it's very far from that. As I would have guessed, because I last saw the author at the private ceremony to dedicate the bronze of Harlon Carter: Harlon's family would not have singled him out for invitation unless he was respected by them.
The book is exceptionally clearly written, and definitely a page turner. I think I took one break from reading its 300+ pages. If anyone wants to see what it's like to be a lobbyist, this is the book for them. Just one episode: at one point NY Gov. Mario Cuomo holds a tense meeting with the author and others, and tries to break the ice by deliberately sitting on a whoopee cushion. It didn't go over very well...
Much of what Richard says in this book is dead on. The scene he describes in the opening pages of walking through an NRA gathering as a pariah was all too familiar. Dad and the rest of our family experienced exactly the same cold shoulder.
This is an important book to have in your library if you are interested in the inside details of the gun rights war. It's not a bad read, and, with internal pressures building within the NRA headquarters, can give some insight into the next internal fight when it breaks out.
Editor of Neal Knox - The Gun Rights War
Richard Feldman, former lobbyist for NRA and various firearms industry groups in the 1980's and 1990's, has created a fair stir with his book Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist. The book has the appearance of a turncoat insider dishing up hot gossip from the bowels of the gun lobby. But despite its cover - and despite some angry reviews - Feldman has not joined the anti-gun side.
He has staked out a pro-gun, but anti-NRA position.
Feldman's thesis is that the National Rifle Association's High Command has cultivated "a cynical, mercenary political cult" that it is "obsessed with wielding power while relentlessly squeezing contributions from its members." Those intemperate words appear on the second page. He expands on the theme over the next couple of hundred pages finally arriving at the conclusion that NRA has been co-opted by, and is run for the benefit of, its hired guns. He singles out in particular the advertising firm Ackerman McQueen.
My father, Neal Knox said much the same thing some twenty years ago. Wanting to keep internal problems internal, Knox worked from the inside. In retrospect, maybe he should have gone public. For those interested enough to dig into it, I've collected a generous helping of Dad's writing into a single volume, Neal Knox - The Gun Rights War
The bile flows generously from Feldman's pen, but inconsistently. He attacks NRA with relish for cynically milking its membership and playing on fears of politicians who want to take away their guns. Those of us who can read find those fears quite justified, yet we are also familiar with the sensation of being milked. Then, in virtually the next breath, Feldman directs a generous stream of invective toward the "fanatics," among whom he numbers former ILA head Tanya Metaksa and, of course, Neal Knox.
Feldman's inconsistencies affect his strategic view. He criticizes NRA for standing firm against the Clinton gun ban and fanning members' perfectly reasonable fears that the ban would spread to all semi-automatics. But then he reports the success of that hard-line position. He has to. It's history.
The tactical loss of the Clinton ban led directly to the strategic victory of the 1994 Congressional landslide that swept the Democrats out of power, even unseating Speaker of the House Tom Foley. Ten years later, the other shoe dropped. The ban expired as Congress, loath to face another up-or-down gun vote, quietly looked the other way.
As Executive Director of ILA, Tanya Metaksa was under tremendous pressure to help write the Clinton ban "in order to keep worse from being rammed down our throats." That's what happened with both the 1934 National Firearms Act, and the 1968 Gun Control Act. Had Metaksa succumbed to that pressure, we would likely still have "thumbhole" stocks on our AR-15 rifles - if we had AR-15's at all - and there would have been no chance of the ban ever expiring.
Feldman apparently wants to take a "moderate" position in the gun debate. He expresses the view that if we could just get everyone together and form relationships, we could create effective programs, such as the National Institutes of Justice-funded "Boston Gun Project" which he credits with reducing gang violence in Boston. That project, with its east coast think tank funding and initial emphasis on the "supply side," stirred less than enthusiastic reactions at NRA. Significantly, a major component of the Project's success was the aggressive prosecution and jailing of "Armed Career Criminals," a policy that "hard-liners" like Neal Knox advocated for many years. But Feldman suggests that programs like the Boston Project don't interest NRA because they don't stoke the fund-raising engines.
Although there's much to dislike about Feldman's book - the personal sniping detracts - it is well worth a read. He is definitely onto something when he describes how "Ack-Mac" burrowed into NRA headquarters, and got fat triple-dipping on retainer fees, mailing contracts, and billed creative work.
Some thirty years ago, following the tumultuous 1977 NRA meetings in Cincinnati where the members took control of the organization, Harlon Carter told his protege Neal Knox, "Revolution begets revolution. The NRA runs on a ten-year cycle." He then ran off a litany of internal fights, revolutions and counter-revolutions that had occurred with surprising regularity in years ending in seven or eight.
That cycle continued from 1977 when the members took control of the organization to 1987 when the Board of Directors successfully took back the power to hire the EVP, the last of the Cincinnati reforms. In 1997 staff and vendors mutinied against a Board-directed management audit that investigated how contracts were assigned. That revolution resulted in Neal Knox being bumped on a razor thin-vote, from the First Vice-President chair and the path to the presidency of the Association by Board new-comer Charlton Heston. Heston just happened to be represented by Mercury Group, a fully owned subsidiary of Ackerman McQueen.
Now with Heston's stabilizing influence gone, Feldman's book making waves, and the term "fiduciary responsibility" in vogue, it's just possible that an independent-minded Board coalition might stage another revolution and put the NRA's advertising and public relations accounts out for bid. When that happens there's going to be one heck of a fight.
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