NRA gets out front, teachers pressure gun makers, crisis rolls on

The goal of most crisis managers is to end a crisis as soon as possible since reputation damage occurs more from duration than severity. Weeks or months of pounding BP for the Gulf oil spill hurt its reputation less because of the spill itself, and more for its failure and reaction to fixing it. The cover up and prolonged exposure compounded the initial mistake.

We cannot know today whether the crisis — for parents, teachers, small towns, gun makers, political leaders and pretty much all the rest of us — that started last Friday in Newtown, CT is still building or already peaked.

But yesterday we wrote about how it is the National Rifle Association’s worst nightmare and the NRA needed to express sympathy and become part of the solution to gun violence, instead of always being the immovable dictator on the subject. The NRA issued the following statement late yesterday:


The National Rifle Association of America is made up of four million moms and dads, sons and daughters – and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown.

Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting.

The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.

The NRA is planning to hold a major news conference in the Washington, DC area on Friday, December 21.

Details will be released to the media at the appropriate time.

The devil, as they say, will be in those details. But the smart people at the NRA have to realize it’s time to reform something. Military grade semi-automatic weapons with 30 or 60 bullets have no place in a sane society.

The NRA is also motivated by necessity, as my partner in Charlotte, Rick Lyke, notes.

The NRA has no place to hide. Few organizations have been able to avoid this type of inward look for so long, given all of the tragedies large and small involving the product they support. The political clout of this organization is forever diminished. It it were on the NYSE it would be watching its stock plummet.

Speaking of the financial side of this crisis: Also yesterday, the California State Teachers Pension Fund threw its considerable weight around, causing a Wall Street investment firm to put up for sale the Freedom Group, owner of Remington Arms, DPMS and Bushmaster. The latter made the gun one maniac used to kill 20 first graders and six adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Freedom is the largest gun manufacturer in America, and when the California teachers fund told parent Cerberus Capital Management that it might move its $600 million out of Cerberus, the holding company acted. Smart.

Of course, Freedom lost money the last four years, so for Cerberus it probably wasn’t a hard call.

The money tool also played out in stock market losses for Sturm Ruger & Co., Smith & Wesson Holding Group and other gun makers since Friday.

What’s all this add up to? Too early to tell, still. Not all the children have been buried. The fiscal cliff will reacquire the media spotlight after Christmas. President Obama’s inauguration address will play a role and set an agenda.

Meanwhile, gun retailers — sporting goods giant Dick’s suspended sale of semi-automatic military-style rifles; also smart — are seeing a rush on ammunition clips. CBS reported last night that one Northern Virginia store sold out of its 2,000 30-bullet clips.

In the end, however, a lot of what happens in the next few months in this national crisis will be tied to money. How much will the NRA spend to thwart reforms it thinks go too far, or promote reforms acceptable to it so more drastic change is averted? How much money can other teachers unions bring to the table, along with gun control groups and advocates?

We can expect to see at least a few parents of the murdered Newtown children testifying before Congress early next year. And despite all the drama that provides, real gun control will hinge, as it always does, on how much money each side brings to the fight.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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