Next month the Brooklyn Friends of The NRA is set to hold its second annual dinner to raise funds for the National Rifle Association Foundation, which gives grants to shooting sports and other programs across the country. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, some progressive residents of Brooklyn were outraged to find out that an NRA affiliated event would be held in a borough they view as a sanctuary of progressive ideals.
The first restaurant signed on to host the event near Coney Island backed out after facing a backlash from gun rights opponents and the Brooklyn Young Democrats. The second venue in Staten Island did the same. Undaunted, the pro-NRA group secured a third venue, back in Brooklyn, and again, neighbors and Democratic groups succeeded in shutting the event down.
Threatening businesses that offer services to groups because people don’t like those groups’ ideology or hobbies is a disturbing and intolerant trend in our society. But thankfully, the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA have no intention of backing down and are still working on a place to hold the event. Sources tell me they are exploring a plan D starting today.
It’s important to understand what the fundraiser is raising money in support of. The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is explicitly forbidden from electioneering or giving money to campaigns. So, none of the money raised at the event will go to any political activity whatsoever. Where will it go? To safety efforts and training for sport shooting, to natural conservation for hunting grounds, and to police departments.
Nobody Owns Brooklyn
Speaking to the New York Post, one protester, Brooklyn transplant and Stoneman Douglass alumna Claire McCue said, “It’s surprising also an event that has already been chased out of Coney Island, Staten Island and for them to be successful and have an event here [Park Slope] in my backyard is just something I don’t understand.”
Well, let me try to explain it.
Brooklyn is a borough of 2.6 million people — that’s a larger population than 15 states have. And guess what? Not everyone in Brooklyn agrees with each other about everything all the time. The rest of the country has a vision of Brooklyn that is monolithically progressive, but that just isn’t the case. There is a lot more here than Williamsburg hipsters and Park Slope mommies. There are cops and fireman, hunters, fisherman and people who shoot for sport.
On Fort Hamilton Avenue in more conservative South Brooklyn there is a gun range below a pizza place and a CVS pharmacy. On weekends as one peruses the toothpaste one hears the BOOOM, BOOOM, BOOM, thundering up from below, followed by more rounds. Eventually it fades into the background, like so many other noises and smells and obstacles that arise from such dense population. But here’s the thing, the gun enthusiasts who use the range are just as much a part of Brooklyn as anyone else, and nobody has the right to suggest that their hobby is somehow not acceptable in their own borough.
Tyranny of the Majority
Because pockets of conservatism, gun ownership and enthusiasm are the exception, not the norm in Brooklyn, it is easy for progressives to exert pressure on businesses to deny service to groups like the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA. It’s also illiberal and wrong. How would these activists feel if a pro gun control event in Alabama was shut down by gun rights activists threatening any private venue that dared to host it? My guess is they would be outraged, but that is exactly what Brooklyn’s Restoration Hardware, anti-gun, pitchfork set is doing.
What if, and I’m just spit-balling here, instead of trying to shut down groups with minority opinions in our communities we let people peaceably assemble as they see fit? Such a position doesn’t even preclude protest. By all means, make some signs; show up outside the event, hoot and holler. That’s how we do things in America, we have a competition of ideas; we don’t threaten legitimate businesses in order to shut down speech and fundraising we don’t approve of.
Censorship Begins Locally
Those trying to keep the Brooklyn Friends of the NRA from securing a venue for their event will no doubt argue that they are simply using their free speech rights to threaten the venues. That’s absolutely true. But it doesn’t mean that they should. Tolerating ideas we disagree with is at the core of American democracy. For Park Slope progressives to attack a group that isn’t even engaging in politics, because it is affiliated with an organization that does is exactly the kind of intolerance that makes our public discourse so fraught.
Hopefully, a brave venue in the borough will come through for Brooklyn Friends of the NRA and have the courage to let them hold their event. But more importantly, its time for progressives to remember that they are also supposed to be liberals and allow those they disagree with the ability to speak and assemble. But either way, it is encouraging to see lovers of liberty in the borough of homes and churches fighting back, and refusing to give in.