Do you think the NRA is extreme or too influenced by the gun industry?
I don’t think NRA is extreme at all. I think they — the senior staff and consultants — have figured out that they’re at the gold mine while the gravy train is still running. The best way to fundraise is to keep and make the issue black and white, us versus them! The positions they take are suited to continue bilking the membership successfully. The gun industry has little influence over NRA. The NRA has far more influence over the firearm industry. Their cause is raising money. Oh, you mean the gun debate in America?
That’s a different story.
So you consider yourself a moderate on guns?
It’s a funny place to be on the gun issue, in the middle. That’s where most Americans find themselves. It’s kind of difficult to be an enthusiastic moderate, but that’s what I am. I figure there are only four reasons to own a gun: collecting, self-protection, hunting and target shooting. The only hunting I do is of elected officials, but I don’t do that with a gun.
You have some enemies in the pro-gun movement. How has your book been received?
It’s been very well received by an awful lot of NRA members. I’m not surprised that the knowledgeable gun folk think well of the book. See the “Gun Week” and “Hardy” reviews.
Does California have extreme and complicated gun laws?
California at one time was an NRA stronghold. My take is that the NRA has written off seven or eight large states. They find it useful for their fundraising to say “Look at what California’s done, that could happen to you!” I think they find it easier to let things go bad in California. They’re not willing to fight the fight in Sacramento.
In some ways California is not as restrictive as New York or Massachusetts. In California you don’t need to get a license to own a gun. On the other hand, you have the Roberti-Roos assault weapons ban. I think it’s a silly ban. It’s based on what a gun looks like, not what it does. It would be very difficult for me to move to California. I would have to go through my gun collection one by one. At this point, it’s in triple digits. I know plenty of people who moved out of California because of the gun laws. The anti-gun lobby will say, “That’s great!” But it didn’t make any criminals move.
How do you think the Supreme Court will rule on the D.C. gun ban/2nd Amendment case, Heller v. District of Columbia?
I think the Supreme Court will affirm the appeals court decision (striking down the D.C. law), and I don’t think it’s going to be on a 5-4 vote. I think it will be 7-2. It’s really a very narrow issue: What does the word “people” mean, individuals or groups of people? It will have an impact on San Francisco — they’re looking at banning handguns. It will say you can’t ban guns but you can regulate them. But we’ll be looking at another 40, 50, 60 years of litigation.
What is interesting about this case is who brought it: the CATO Institute, not the NRA. The NRA isn’t interested in winning; they’re interested in fighting. They sent a friend of the court brief, but that was it. The NRA did everything possible that they could to derail this case. The case is one they can’t go to their members and say their constitutional rights are under attack. But if the court ruled it was a collective right, the NRA could raise billions of dollars for a Constitutional amendment and have it within five years.
Is Irwin Nowick really as important to California gun laws and some people think he is?
Irwin Nowick really, really is the most knowledgeable person in Sacramento on California gun laws. Frankly, he may be the single most knowledgeable person on gun legislation in America. The breadth of his knowledge of gun laws in the making in 40 of the 50 states is amazing to the point of inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records. I once asked him about a situation in Albany, N.Y., and he not only quoted me the legislative history chapter and verse, but clued me in on which secretaries in the codes committee were sleeping with which staffers and legislators. That kind of information is the most valuable of all to a lobbyist! In some ways, he’s a little wacky, but he’s a genius. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s a reasonable person.