How An NRA Ad Led A Member To Quit Joe Plenzler is a 20-year Marine Corps combat veteran and an avid shooter. He recently resigned as a member of the NRA. Rachel Martin talks to him about the NRA recruitment video that led him to quit.
NPR logo

How An NRA Ad Led A Member To Quit

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535920407/535920408" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
How An NRA Ad Led A Member To Quit

How An NRA Ad Led A Member To Quit

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/535920407/535920408" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The National Rifle Association has been running a new recruitment ad that's getting a whole lot of attention. It is a dark us-versus-them kind of message.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DANA LOESCH: They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse the resistance, all to make...

MARTIN: That is the voice of NRA spokeswoman and conservative radio host Dana Loesch talking over black-and-white images of riots in the streets. The video goes too far for one NRA member. Joe Plenzler is a 20-year Marine Corps combat veteran and an avid shooter. And he has decided to now quit the NRA. Joe, welcome to the studio.

JOE PLENZLER: Hey, thanks for having me. It's good to see you again.

MARTIN: So you see this video, and what went through your mind? What bothered you about it?

PLENZLER: Yeah, I mean, my initial take was what the everlasting [expletive], you know? I mean, I'm looking at this and, you know, just thinking that this isn't me, this organization which I belonged to for a number years coming out in such a dark, hostile and fear-provoking way. I was just, like, I'm done. You know, it was kind of, like, the tipping point that just pushed me off the edge. So...

MARTIN: Why did you join the NRA in the first place? What was that membership? What did it mean to you?

PLENZLER: You know, I think from my earliest days - right? So I got into shooting from my great-uncle, who was a Korean War vet. And shooting was just kind of part of our life growing up and owning guns. And I think when I joined it was actually when I started joining a gun club to have a proper shooting range to go shoot at, you know, in my own time. And most gun clubs will have a prerequisite that you have to belong to the NRA in order to belong to the club because they're all private clubs.

But, you know - so a lot of times I just pay my dues and not really think about it and go out to the club and shoot and send in my proof of membership just to meet with my annual dues. But, you know, I guess as you take more trips around the sun and get a little bit older and think a little bit more about, you know, your life experiences and the experiences of others, then, you know, things start to matter more.

And so, you know, when I saw this ad, it was just - it was just too much. It really was too much. And, you know, I started thinking about the message that they're construing and then dissecting that message, right? So, you know, being a professional communicator - and, you know, I was a PAO in the Marine Corps for 16 years after I left...

MARTIN: Yeah, you've dealt with communications for the Marine Corps. Yeah.

PLENZLER: Yeah. And so, I mean, they sent me to grad school and taught me all sorts of dangerous things like theories of persuasion and, you know, how to detect propaganda efforts and how to dissect it, and look at - you know, at the cognitive level, like, what motivates people to do things, right? And when, you know, you start pulling that apart, you know - just almost as an academic activity I took this message and pulled out the transcript and then just dissected the whole thing. And it was pretty clear what they were saying.

You know, they'll try to defend it saying, OK, we're speaking out against violence. Well, I think one thing that most Americans agree on is we all deplore violence, right? You know, I even deplore the violence I committed in combat. But, you know, when you look at the methods it's just like, wow, this is a fear appeal and it's a scarcity appeal. And it's unethical, I think, in my estimation.

MARTIN: What kind of message would you like the NRA to be putting out at this moment?

PLENZLER: Yeah, I think, you know, I'm all for the Second Amendment. I mean, I make absolutely no apologies for that. But, you know, there's a balance, too, in all of that, right? And I think, you know, it's about responsible, law-abiding gun ownership. And I think the message ought to be, you know, let's take a look at the law. What does the law say? You know, what does the Constitution say? What does the Heller decision say?

MARTIN: This is a Supreme Court decision related to Washington, D.C., gun laws.

PLENZLER: And defend that. But, like, you know, if we're going to go beyond that in order to recruit members, demonize half the population in the United States, I'm calling foul - right? - because the Constitution applies to every citizen, not just the ones that, you know, a group tends to agree with.

MARTIN: Joe Plenzler is a former member of the NRA and a 20-year Marine Corps combat vet. Thanks so much, Joe.

PLENZLER: Thanks again.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.