Rand Paul's big gun grift: What's really behind his feud with the NRA

The NRA won’t host the 2016 hopeful though he has an A rating, because he’s in bed with a wing-nut competitor

Published April 10, 2015 4:35PM (EDT)

Rand Paul                     (AP/Jim Cole)
Rand Paul (AP/Jim Cole)

For once, I agree with Sen. Rand Paul: it is kind of “petty” of the National Rifle Association, as Paul complained to Dave Weigel, not to invite him to their annual convention in Nashville this weekend. All the other 2016 GOP wannabes were invited (save Chris Christie, who’s got a C rating from the group), including the ridiculous Donald Trump.  Paul has an A rating from the NRA, and he’s a top tier GOP candidate.

The bottom line is, the NRA is a big racket, and they are punishing Paul for raising money for their smaller competitors, especially the National Association for Gun Rights.

But boy, the NAGR is a racket too. It’s a littler racket, but it may be a bigger grift than the NRA, if that’s possible. And they’re all in it together: the folks behind NAGR and the Gun Owners’ Association raise money for Ron and Rand Paul, and the father-son duo raise money for both groups. You can understand why the NRA is pissed.

Some headlines about the feud have suggested that Paul is “too extreme” on gun rights for the NRA, but I don’t think that’s exactly the right cast. What’s noteworthy about this rift is that if you pay attention, it exposes the fever swamp of paranoia-peddling that is the Paul Family Industrial Complex, and shows how closely Rand is still tied to Ron.

It’s probably true that the NAGR is more extreme, ideologically, than the NRA. It comes out of the far-right National Right to Work Committee, and it takes stands on all kinds of issues the NRA formally avoids, like gay marriage and abortion.

It’s also way more on the paranoid fringe. And Rand Paul, now trying to act presidential, has signed some scurrilous fundraising letters for the group over the years, accusing President Obama of wanting to take away Americans’ guns – all of them. Two years ago Paul signed a paranoid stem-winder about Obama backing the U.N. Small Arms Treaty to further his “gun-grabbing agenda.”

Here’s just a little sample:

Dear fellow Patriot,

Gun-grabbers around the globe believe they have it made.

You see, only hours after re-election, Barack Obama immediately made a move for gun control...

On November 7th, his administration gleefully voted at the UN for a renewed effort to pass the "Small Arms Treaty."

But after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut -- and anti-gun hysteria in the national media reaching a fever pitch -- there’s no doubt President Obama and his anti-gun pals believe the timing has never been better to ram through the U.N.’s global gun control crown jewel.

I don't know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick.

It just continues down the fever swamp. But Snopes.com broke it down here; it’s a combination of paranoid delusion and flat-out falsehoods. It closed with a fairly standard, hard-sell fundraising pitch for the NAGR:

Of course, a program of this scale is only possible if the National Association for Gun Rights can raise the money.

But that’s not easy, and we may not have much time.

In fact, if gun owners are going to defeat the UN's schemes, pro-gun Americans like you and me have to get involved NOW!

So please put yourself on record AGAINST the UN Gun Ban by signing NAGR’s Firearms Sovereignty Survey.

But along with your survey, please agree to make a generous contribution of $250, $100, $50 or even just $35.

And every dollar counts in this fight so even if you can only chip in $10 or $20, it will make a difference.

Thank you in advance for your time and money devoted to defending our Second Amendment rights.

For Freedom,

Rand Paul
United States Senator

That’s right, a United States Senator, now considered a leading presidential contender, put his name to that con job, trying to pry $10 to $20 from the hands of paranoid red-state Obama-haters (probably straight out of a lot of Social Security checks). Only eight months ago, Paul signed a letter to NRA members soliciting funds for the NAGR, falsely claiming Obama had promised to use "whatever power this office holds" to ban guns. An NRA member penned this screed against Paul and the NAGR; it’s worth a read.

The NAGR is also notorious for going after congressmembers the NRA considers friends, including Eric Cantor and Scott Rigell, again with delusional ads accusing the two Virginia Republicans of plotting with Obama to take away guns (both men had A ratings from the NRA). Rigell confronted Paul for raising funds for the NAGR, and still blasts him when given the chance.

“He was completely indifferent to the truth. It speaks to his character and he’s a man and public figure lacking in character. I think he is unworthy of the office he holds but certainly of a higher office,” Rigell told BuzzFeed’s Rosie Gray. “This will over time become increasingly an issue. Not just because of what happened to me personally but because of the pattern that is there of working with groups that use nefarious methods and outright deception.”

But the grift goes both ways: NAGR co-founder Michael Rothfeld raises money for Rand and Ron Paul – in 2012, Paul Sr. raised $40 million for his presidential campaign, and 20 percent went to Rothfeld’s firm, Saber Communications. In 2010, Rand Paul paid them close to a million dollars.

Not just the NRA but gun blogs like AR-15.com, Smith and Wesson Forum and Gun Broker Forum.com that have trashed Paul and the NAGR for their aggressive grifting. So I’d say it’s wrong to describe this rift as being about who’s more aggressive on gun rights, Paul or the NRA. It’s really about who’s more aggressive in trying to push paranoia buttons and separate far-right conspiracy theorists and Obama-haters from their money. The NAGR might have the edge there.

By Joan Walsh