3 min read
For the past week, since the shooting in Newtown, CT, I have received email after email asking (in some cases, demanding) that I sign petitions to ban guns in America. I have been accosted in the parking lot of my kids' school by people who want to talk to me about the need for more gun control. Today, I was listening to some nice Christmas music on public radio, which was interrupted when the host felt the need to start ranting about NRA president Wayne LaPierre. I live in a pretty liberal area of a pretty liberal state and so I have learned to keep my mouth closed about the most difficult political issues for the sake of harmony with my neighbors and fellow parents. These arguments about guns are so divorced from reality I am not even sure they are anything but emotional outbursts in response to a tragedy.

But I would expect something a little more sophisticated from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. And yet there was Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, explaining how if nonprofits focused less on the charitable tax deduction and more on lobbying for gun control, the country would be a better place:

In throwing their weight behind this narrow effort [maintaining the tax deduction], nonprofit leaders demonstrated once again their lack of concern about major issues that threaten not only the national interest but the stability of the nonprofit world itself.

Why focus on the charitable deduction and not on more important issues such as gun violence, or the public accountability of nonprofits, or the need for a substantial increase in foundation money, or the preservation of important social safety-net programs?

Yes, because when organizations that have nothing to do with gun issues do not lobby the federal government about it, they show that they are not concerned about the national interest. Really? Eisenberg doesn't really explain how gun control would prevent tragedies like that in Newtown. That's simply taken for granted.

The Wall Street Journal published a number of useful pieces on the subject since the shooting, but the best was this one by David Kopel, in which he shows that lax gun laws are in now way responsible for the increase in random mass shootings that has taken place over the past couple of decades:

Why the increase? It cannot be because gun-control laws have become more lax. Before the 1968 Gun Control Act, there were almost no federal gun-control laws. The exception was the National Firearms Act of 1934, which set up an extremely severe registration and tax system for automatic weapons and has remained in force for 78 years.

Nor are magazines holding more than 10 rounds something new. They were invented decades ago and have long been standard for many handguns.

Never mind that Connecticut has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and that every new regulation that has been proposed would not have posed a problem for Adam Lanza's mother, who was the owner of the guns used in the shooting.

But let's get back to Eisenberg's strained argument. Even if gun control would prevent tragedies like Newtown, it's hard to see why it's the job of all the country's nonprofits to take on this role. He writes:

Perhaps the Newtown massacre can offer a new, redemptive leadership opportunity for nonprofits. Gun violence affects every cause nonprofits focus on. It bedevils schools, health institutions, and domestic violence groups, and is a key concern of social-change organizations. What’s more, the rampages of gun violence have put nonprofit offices and religious institutions in harm’s way.

Come on. By this logic, what legislation should nonprofits not lobby for? Maybe we should have stricter drug laws? Drugs bedevil schools, health institutions and domestic violence groups. They are a key concern of social-change organizations, etc. etc. Or what about mental illness? Or alcohol abuse? Or obesity? Or sexually transmitted diseases? Or air pollution?

Well, that's the point, Eisenberg thinks that nonprofits need to concern themselves more with the "common good." It doesn't matter what their donors gave the money for. It doesn't matter whether such lobbying distracts from their real mission. What matters is that this large group of nonprofit employees throw their energy and resources into politics. The only way to show you care is by supporting left wing political causes. This is such a stripped down view of the nonprofit world. Thousands of organizations with diverse missions and billions of dollars -- all just tools for Mr. Eisenberg's political ends. How sad.

1 thought on “We’re all lobbyists now”

  1. Jane Doe says:

    I too have received many of these petitions and hectoring letters demanding I donate to gun control causes if I care about children and want to reduce violence. But, as a philanthropy professional, I am accustomed to analyze arguments and proposed policy solutions to social ills, and to reach my own conclusions.

    I do indeed care about our children and want to reduce violence in our society. So after spending the past month carefully researching the evidence and arguments on an issue I had heretofore paid little attention, I immediately joined the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms. I will hold off actually purchasing a firearm until I take advantage of my shiny new lifetime membership in the Frontsight Firearms Training Institute. With proper training in responsible use of firearms, I will be able to make a more thoughtful purchase.

    The vast preponderance of evidence does NOT support the arguments made by gun control proponents, and it strongly supports the intentions of the Founders who crafted the 2nd Amendment. Tens of millions of innocent civilians would be alive today if they had been uniformly armed against Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc.

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