Editor’s Note: Paul Babaz is running to become a member of the NRA Board of Directors. He is asking for your support. ***Eligible NRA members need to submit their votes by April 7, 2019***. In addition to being a lifelong gun-rights advocate who served on the NRA board in the past and an enthusiastic hunter, Paul currently serves as the president of Safari Club International. Recently, I had the chance to ask Paul some questions about the nation’s gun lobby. Below is a brief introduction Paul wrote followed by our Q&A.
Paul Babaz: I appreciate the opportunity to answer your questions and hopefully give your readers a little insight into where I stand on these topics, but first I’d like to share a little about my background if I may.
I grew up in South Louisiana where hunting is just part of the lifestyle. I’ve been a firearms enthusiast as long as I can remember, so it was only natural that in addition to hunting, I began shooting skeet and trap, then later handguns, and rifles (other than hunting rifles).
Even though I am not a professional lobbyist, nor am I in the business of lobbying, I have spent the majority of my adult life lobbying State and Federal legislators on issues that affect gun owners and hunters. As a soldier, I took an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I don’t think it’s news to anyone that the threat to our constitution is domestic! The threat is in the form of Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Michael Bloomberg, and all others who support the disarmament agenda! These people notwithstanding, I will continue to keep my oath, and I hope that your readership and gun owners everywhere will stand with me!
I have been a Second Amendment advocate my entire life. What I mean, is that I actually walk the walk. I don’t spend my time on a keyboard posting comments on social media, I have taken the time and made the effort to walk the halls of Capitol Hill to meet with legislators to do my part to educate them on the truth and facts — which are both sadly absent from the left side.
Some people don’t believe that someone who hunts has a place on the NRA board. Well I couldn’t disagree more, there are over 15 million hunters in the U.S. and we need all the votes we can get to protect our Second Amendment rights. I am a hunter and I won’t apologize for it, but I have also been a proud 2a advocate my entire life, as the two aren’t mutually exclusive. I have owned and shot AR’s and what some classify as “Assault Weapons” long before it they were called “Assault” weapons!
There are many great people who currently serve on the NRA board, and there are several great candidates who are up in this board election cycle. I hope that I will earn the vote of your readership, so that I can continue to be a Second Amendment advocate for action.
S.H. Blannelberry: The NRA Board of Directors might be a bit of a mystery to casual gun owners. Can you briefly explain what the board’s job is and how it functions within the larger framework of an organization that has a full-fledged media apparatus (NRATv), a lobbying arm (NRA-ILA), an insurance network (NRA Carry Guard), among many other divisions? Also, if elected to the board, what would you like to see the NRA accomplish in 2019?
Paul Babaz: The NRA board works like most other boards — we look at the overall direction and business of the organization from the 40,000-foot level. The NRA has a committee structure like most boards where ideas and projects are discussed, vetted, and proposed to the board of directors to be voted on. In addition to the standing committees, there is the executive council– a smaller group of the NRA Officers and senior leadership that also meet to conduct business when the larger board is not in session. The larger board body works with the executive council to set policy, make decisions in order to allow the senior leadership and the rest of the NRA staff to run the day to day operations.
I have seen many campaigns over the last few years for the NRA board where candidates make a lot of promises with good intentions of showing up at the first board meeting ready to make motions and affect change. This just isn’t realistic. There’s a learning curve, and even if you feel strongly about something and get it through the committee process, you still need a majority of other board members to agree with you.
As for what I would like to see the NRA accomplish in 2019 — Unity! Unity of gun owners, regardless of what type of firearm they own, and their own purpose of ownership. It never ceases to amaze me to see comments on social media saying that the NRA doesn’t need hunters on the board! Last time I checked the Second Amendment wasn’t restricted to AR15’s or other types of semi-auto, or MSRs. While the various subsets of gun owners bicker, the antis sit back and smile. There is no question, that there is strength in numbers, and we all need to work together to win!
S.H. Blannelberry: Several folks, including myself, have been critical of the NRA for its position on reciprocating stocks. It’s a dead issue now as president Trump — via the DOJ — has retroactively banned the devices but looking ahead what assurances do we have that the NRA won’t call for “additional regulations” on other products that seemingly tweak their nose at the National Firearms Act?
Paul Babaz: I can say unequivocally that I oppose and will always oppose any sort of ban on firearms or gun accessory. Bans don’t work. We have seen empirical evidence time and time again that the typical gun control proposal does not and will not deter criminals who commit violent crimes. Increased gun control will only keep law abiding citizens from being able to purchase and/or own firearms and accessories to protect themselves and their families. Just look at violent crime statistics in states like California and cities like Chicago, gun control and gun bans simply don’t work!
S.H. Blannelberry: I’m sure NRA members want to know what happened to the Hearing Protection Act and National Reciprocity. During the first two years of the Trump administration, with a GOP-majority in both chambers, many believed that these pieces of legislation were shoo-ins to be signed into law. Obviously, the attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School changed the dynamic by putting pro-gunners on the defensive for much of the year but couldn’t one argue that the NRA should’ve pushed harder to get these bills to the floor of Congress even amidst the post-Parkland hysteria?
Paul Babaz: I think we all believed we could get both passed. But Congress doesn’t work in a vacuum. We’ve all heard the phrase that elections matter, and it’s equally true that events matter too. Just as Congress was gearing up to begin the process of advancing these bills, there were a number of events that captured the attention of our nation and our lawmakers. There was the shooting at the Congressional Republicans baseball practice, then the Las Vegas shooting, and the Parkland shooting which you pointed out, so it seemed that we the Pro Gun lobby were on constant defense and simply ran out of time to get these passed. You and I and even shooting victim Rep. Steve Scalise see different lessons from these events, but Congress as a whole is skittish, and we had to devote resources to fending off attacks from those who oppose our Second Amendment rights. I can tell you it is not the case that these bills stalled from a lack of effort, as the NRA worked tirelessly on these issues and in conjunction with other organizations. But no one has control over events and their implications.
S.H. Blannelberry: One of the NRA’s biggest themes with respect to messaging is that we need to stay united as gun owners. Undoubtedly this is true. That said, there are other gun-rights organizations out there that seem to thrive off of dividing the gun community and running to the right, so to speak, of the NRA. With the exception of a few, I’m not sure what these other organizations accomplish apart from pushing memes on Facebook and funneling donor dollars into the pockets of their executives. In other words, they’re all talk and no action — and they ultimately harm the pro-gun cause by fracturing, not unifying our community. I’ve always argued that while the NRA isn’t perfect, it’s the best chance we have against the gun-prohibition lobby. How do you see the NRA taking on its challengers from the “right”?
Paul Babaz: This is a hot topic for me as I alluded to in my answer to your first question. There are other organizations out there and individuals who do their best to drive a wedge between the different facets of the gun community. These organizations and individuals seem to be so caught up in their own agendas that they seem to have lost sight of the end goal to protect the Second Amendment and the gun rights of all law-abiding citizens! And as you note, I’ve seen a lot of reports lately suggesting that at least some of these groups exist solely to line the pockets of the people who create them. That’s why it’s to their advantage to be critical of others, and say outlandish things just to garner attention.
It’s not just about protecting the gun rights of a particular subgroup of law-abiding gun owners. This isn’t an anomaly as I see this type of behavior in the hunting community as well. I believe the way for the NRA to address the other individuals and organizations on the far right (at least the ones that are legitimate and not just fleecing the grassroots) is to find common ground. Regardless of where these people lie on the spectrum of conservatism, I am certain that we all agree on at least 95% of the issues at hand.
Therefore, it has always been my approach to offer to form alliances with other like-minded groups to work on the issues that we already agree on. Let’s set aside the 5% where we may not see eye to eye on but let’s work together on the bigger picture. This is how we can work as a UNITED front to protect the Second Amendment and defeat the liberal left who will continue to chip away at our freedoms. As you stated, the NRA isn’t perfect as no one person or one organization is, but the NRA is our best hope to win while the other talk a big game, because it’s the NRA that is doing the heavy lifting. The time is now to work together, and it will take work, but I am prepared to put in the work protect our freedoms!
S.H. Blannelberry: The midterms marked the first time Bloomberg and co. outspent the NRA during an election cycle. Money may not be the end all be all when it comes to politics, but it definitely makes a difference. Given that Bloomberg has billions and has pals who have billions, this could very well become the new norm moving forward. How does the NRA win the war against a financial giant with unlimited money to burn?
Paul Babaz: I guess you saved the best for last. That’s a huge challenge, honestly. Michael Bloomberg spent over $100 million to become Mayor of New York City. He spent another $100 million in the 2018 elections to basically buy political support for a presidential bid. His estimated net worth is over $50 Billion, so you can only imagine how much he would spend to become President of the United States and pack the House and Senate with liberal politicians who would do their level best to destroy everything thing we value. The reality is that money does make a difference, so in the face of the battle of bank accounts, I would remind your readers that there are well over 100 Million law-abiding gun owners in the U.S. We need to activate a communications plan to expose the liberal left’s ultimate plan to abolish the Second Amendment! We must provide the truth and facts in order to mobilize these law-abiding citizens to get to the polls and vote for those who share our goal of defending the United States Constitution and its Amendments. As of now, the Republicans have the Senate which is vitally important to maintain in order to keep a majority on the Supreme Court that believes in the U.S. Constitution as it is written. I am not foolish enough to believe that we can get every gun owner in the U.S. to vote the way we would like, but I do believe we can make a huge difference if we all work together. I’ve said it, and I will say it again, ALL gun owners need to unite in order for us to defeat Bloomberg, Schumer, Pelosi, and the rest of their ilk.
So that’s where I stand. I hope we’ve given your readers some things to think about, and for those who are voting NRA Members, I ask for their vote so I can continue my service on the board and in defense of our Second Amendment rights. Thank you.