The nation’s largest concealed-carry group is getting more involved in the political realm.
The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) launched a new non-profit arm last week. The U.S. Concealed Carry For Saving Lives Action Fund (USCCA-FSL Action Fund) plans to advocate against gun control at all levels of government across the country. It is a 501(C)(4) headed by Katie Pointer Baney, which she said would focus primarily on training gun owners in how to improve their political activism.
“At USCCA, we always tell our members that it’s their personal responsibility to be trained, that being a gun owner is a huge responsibility. I think the same applies to being an American citizen,” Baney told The Reload in an exclusive interview. “We’re blessed to live in this country, but there are individual civic responsibilities that we need gun owners to step up and take hold of.”
The launch comes at a time when the gun-rights movement is more fractured than it has been in decades. The National Rifle Association (NRA) remains the largest gun group but faces mounting financial and legal troubles stemming from a corruption scandal reaching the top levels of leadership. Groups like the Second Amendment Foundation and Firearms Policy Coalition have grown as the NRA has receded, but none come close to matching the scope or $400 million size the NRA achieved before accusations of financial impropriety broke into the open four years ago.
It also comes as gun-control groups are ascendant in the White House. President Joe Biden, a staunch gun-control advocate, will use the White House Rose Garden to announce a new executive office later today enshrining a special position in the administration for the gun-control movement. He has also consistently pushed the boundaries of his power through executive actions aimed at banning “ghost guns,” guns equipped with pistol braces, and more strictly regulating private gun sales.
USCCA is one of the few gun groups with the potential to rival the NRA’s size and national influence if the gun-rights behemoth is unable to right its ship. They operate an annual expo that draws tens of thousands of attendees, a nationwide gun safety training program, and a popular magazine. Of course, the core of the group is the “concealed carry insurance” it sells that provides members with funds for a lawyer if they’re involved in a self-defense shooting.
Baney said USCCA has more than 800,000 members across 48 states (New York and New Jersey banned insurance products like the one USCCA offers in recent years), up from 600,000 just two years ago. And many are the kind that challenge traditional political and demographic stereotypes of what an American gun owner looks like, especially those who’ve signed up since the beginning of the pandemic.
“This growth really has been has been exponential. And we’ve also seen it cut across typical gun ownership demographics,” Baney said. “I think that’s where the USCCA is uniquely positioned to use our resources, our national platform on behalf of all gun owners instead of taking a really partisan bent towards our political advocacy.”
She said the group’s actions are meant to be complimentary and supplementary to the other gun-rights groups out there. But she also acknowledged that the NRA has issues and USCCA’s members have been calling for them to get more involved in the politics.
“We have a great relationship with the NRA from an organization standpoint, and God bless them,” Baney said. “They’re a 150-year-old institution. I think they are the reason we still have the Second Amendment today, I think their work over the past 40 years is a large reason for it. But there is the reality that they have had some challenges. We hear from our members saying, we want this from you. We expect this from you as an organization. And we’re stepping up to answer that call from our members. And, hopefully, for all gun owners.”
The Action Fund is the second political organization launched by the firearms training and concealed-carry insurance provider in as many years. In 2021, the group launched a Super PAC with the goal of rolling back gun-carry restrictions and so-called assault weapons bans. The Action Fund shares many of the same political goals but offers USCCA a different set of tools to accomplish them.
Unlike the Super PAC, the 501(C)(4) won’t have to disclose its donors and can directly coordinate with political candidates to some degree. Unlike the (C)(4), the Super PAC can raise and spend unlimited amounts on issues and candidates. Many large political groups in the gun debate and throughout the spectrum of political issues use a myriad of legal entities to carry out their activism.
For instance, the NRA is a collection of nearly a dozen different 501(C)(3), (C)(4), PAC, and Super PAC organizations. The same can be said for rivals Everytown for Gun Safety or Giffords. The major difference between those groups and the way USCCA organizes itself is the latter has a for-profit private company, Delta Defense, at its center instead of a non-profit.
Baney said Delta Defense plans to use company resources, such as by donating staff hours to cover administrative operations, to ensure the political operations can free up donations to go directly to advocacy.
“None of the donations that we receive through the super PAC or through the (C)(4) are going to consultant fees or general administrative overhead,” she said. “That all has been covered by Delta Defense, which I think is also a big differentiator. Because when the everyday gun owner is giving $25 of their hard-earned money to these organizations, we want to be really good stewards of that financial resource and make the best investments we can. And that means investing in the advocacy tools, that means investing in the experiences and the events. So the focus is back on the gun owners and not individuals around the organization making a profit from it.”
She said USCCA is seeking out grassroots and industry funding for the pair of political groups.
“We’re going to continue a lot of our grassroots fundraising through the super PAC. There we have over 23,000 individual donors,” Baney said. “We’re also going to be looking to other firearm industry leaders to kind of step up, and we’re encouraged by kind of immediate interest.”
Those funds will be used primarily to train and activate activists through a series of events and rallies across the country. The first of those took place over the weekend in New Mexico, where the group’s Albuquerque protest against Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D.) emergency suspension of gun-carry rights drew several hundred people.
“We want to teach people how to be engaged in the political realm. We’re going to provide them with the resources, tools, and education necessary in order to equip them to make a difference and to get involved,” Baney said. “So, the Action Fund will use our national platform, our resources, compiling all of that from the USCCA, but we also want to empower people to get involved at the local, state, and federal levels ahead of the 2024 election.”
Baney said that, while the Supreme Court recently delivered a major victory for gun-rights advocates, USCCA believes “many battles lay ahead.” She said the new political operation will focus on education and training for activists to counter “attempts to further restrict where law-abiding citizens may carry or proposals to ban entire classifications of firearms.” She said the group plans to take a different approach by avoiding hyperpartisanship and instead focusing on mobilizing the diverse group of people who purchased a gun for the first time over the last three years.
“I think this is a huge opportunity to look at the millions of gun owners who have entered the space over the past couple years and provide the experiences of in-person events for them to come out and get involved and understand what it means to be a gun owner and voting that way,” Baney said.