An all-American patriot with vast firearms experience, Webb would seem to be the perfect candidate to run for the 76-person NRA board in 2015, but his candidacy has been controversial since he first announced it on his public Facebook page. In a curious twist of fate, much of the criticism that he’s received hasn’t been from gun control advocates, but from gun rights advocates- some of whom have called Webb a “socialist infiltrator” and a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
“I definitely expected healthy criticism,” Webb said. “What I didn’t expect was to have people lash out at me, my family, and to put my service to this country into question.”
From an outsider’s perspective, it would certainly seem puzzling that those whom Webb seeks to represent would become his most vocal critics. After all, Webb is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment; he supports concealed carry rights, opposes magazine capacity limits, and believes that Americans should be allowed to own any personal firearm short of WMDs given the proper training, including fully automatic weapons.
What sets Webb apart from his critics is his opinion that the NRA should take a stronger leadership position in drafting legislation, such as improving background checks and addressing America’s flawed mental health care system. Critics have charged that Webb’s willingness to compromise opens the way for the further erosion of gun rights, while Webb argues that failing to participate more actively in the legislative process would result in even greater erosion, especially at the state level.
“Compromise comes in many forms, and many who’ve been critical of me are automatically triggered to think that this means a Second Amendment compromise,” Webb explained. “This is not the case. What I’m talking about is engaging in a dialogue that protects our rights but leaves room to have an intelligent conversation on important issues.”
And he isn’t alone.
As the former sniper-turned bestselling author points out, the NRA retains an active membership base of about 4.5 million people, which only translates to about 5 percent of total gun owners in the United States. This gap, according to Webb, may partly be a result of the perception that the NRA is an uncompromising organization that doesn’t cater to the moderate gun owners who make up a larger part of the shooting community.
For many of the gun owners who fall into this category, Webb’s candidacy isn’t just about protecting gun rights; it’s about representing a silent majority that has found itself increasingly distanced from both the scapegoating anti-gun rhetoric on the "left" and the hardline stubbornness of the gun lobby on the "right."In the mainstream media, figures with moderate positions on the gun issue have rarely been given as much press coverage as those who hold more extreme viewpoints. Pandering to extremists is better for ratings, and as a result, television viewers often have to sit through prime-time, ad hominem gun control debates with little educational value and no workable solutions being brought to the table. Infamous shouting match between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones on CNN come to mind. Americans across the aisle have understandably been left shaking their heads.
In the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook and Aurora, Colorado, the gun debate is more emotionally charged than ever. In the resulting standoff, both sides have thrown facts and reasoning out the door -- the controversy surrounding Brandon Webb is just one example. Webb’s decision to run gives hope to moderate gun owners that they may finally have a voice at the table concerning legislative issues, but he isn’t the only one who should be standing up.
At a time when Americans are being smothered by the vicious diatribe between pro-gun and anti-gun activists, now would be the perfect moment for more moderates to take leadership stances and propose solutions designed to solve problems instead of ones designed to appease ideological partisans.
“Gun ownership is a right in this country,” says Webb. “It’s inherent in American cultural DNA.” Because of this, it is important that both sides learn how to discuss these issues with civility and sensibility instead of mindless rhetoric.