A new player is emerging in the American gun debate.
One of the largest concealed carry membership organizations has decided to dive into politics. The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), which boasts nearly 600,000 members, formed a Super PAC in May to influence federal elections and legislation. The new group, headed by chairman of the board Mike Lowney, is green but ready to fight.
“We’re focused on three things: national concealed carry reciprocity, firearms training, and removing barriers that hinder responsibly-armed Americans’ ability to protect themselves,” Lowney told The Reload.
The group’s dive into politics comes as gun ownership has expanded at a record pace in the last year. It also comes as President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats push for more restrictive gun laws, and the National Rifle Association faces severe legal troubles.
Lowney said the group recognizes the NRA is “going through some trials and tribulations” but wants to see them emerge stronger because “this country needs an organization like the NRA.” And while USCCA has one of the largest memberships outside of the NRA, Lowney said the group is hoping to create a compliment instead of a replacement.
“We’re not trying to replace the NRA,” he said. “We want to complement the NRA. We want to compliment the National Shooting Sports Foundation. This is a community that’s all pushing for the same thing. We’re in it to be alongside other organizations. We’re not looking to replace anybody.”
USCCA has built one of the nation’s largest training networks with over 7,000 instructors. Most members have traditionally been drawn to the group by its concealed carry insurance (including the author of this story) which offers legal representation if a member is involved in a self-defense shooting. But, unlike the NRA and other gun groups, they have yet to make an organized entry into political advocacy.
The group is starting in familiar territory by backing a bill sponsored by Representative Richard Hudson (R., N.C.) and Senator John Cornyn (R., Texas.) that would require states to recognize each other’s concealed carry permits.
“For me, in Wisconsin, I could travel to another state with my family and potentially be breaking the law,” Lowney said about carrying guns across state lines. “And so that puts my family and me at risk.”
The group is also backing Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall’s bill to provide tax credits for people who take firearms training or buys a gun safe. But Lowney said the group is just getting started and wants to work with Democrats as well. He said 40 percent of USCCA members are Democrats, and the group is willing to work with anyone who wants to work with them on pro-gun policies.
“Protecting your family is it doesn’t have a political party line,” Lowney said. “That’s the one thing that I really want to focus on. This is across the board. This isn’t a Republican or Democrat thing. This is a family thing.”
Lowney was short on details on the group’s budget and spending goals in the short term other than to say they are raising money from individual donors and hoping to raise as much as possible. He said the group plans to be involved at the federal level and mostly in an educational capacity for now, but “the sky’s the limit” for the group’s long-term ambitions.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Lowney said. “We’re not naive to the fact that this is going to be a long road, especially with the current administration.”