By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
You see the signs as you drive into countless towns and smaller cities across the country. Sometimes as a single, stand-alone sign and sometimes as part of an assembly of the service organizations serving the community, the Rotary International logo is instantly recognizable. When you travel internationally, it is not unusual to see that logo signage in hotels where the local chapter meets with the day and time of the meeting posted for the benefit of traveling Rotarians.
Keeping our discussion to the United States, there is no question that the Rotary Clubs are part of the fabric of our civic life. The membership is made up of largely of business owners and executives of banks and local companies. Rotarians are part and parcel of their communities. They live there. They work there. They seek to make them better.
So, it came as an unpleasant surprise to learn this week that the 18-member Rotary International (RI) board, which is responsible for setting policy governing all clubs and more than a million members worldwide, decided at its January meeting to address a “… lack of clarity around RI’s policy governing Rotary Clubs, districts, and other Rotary entities when participating in activities involving guns, weapons, and other armaments, and when interacting with gun companies, including for sponsorship purposes.”
The result was board adoption of “revisions to the Code of Policies” that will prevent local clubs from: transferring ownership of “weapons,” conducting or sponsoring gun shows, “accepting sponsorships from gun/weapons companies or stores,” allowing depiction of the Rotary logo in any visual that includes “weapons.” There’s a bit more, but you get the picture.
Clubs will still be allowed to conduct “sporting events that include guns,” such as turkey shoots, skeet shooting, and similar activities. We can only imagine that the three Americans on the RI Board had to fight to preserve even that and who knows for how long.
The language from RI International reads like a UN resolution written by bureaucrats who really don’t know much about firearms and certainly not how Americans lawfully use them. Since we are not aware of any gun-running, “armaments” trafficking or the general promotion of weapons-related mayhem by the respectable membership of Rotary Clubs across the country, we can only surmise that the misinformed international leadership of RI must feel the need to correct what they see as abherent misbehavior by those unruly Americans.
Well, we have a different view of firearms here and are proud of our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms and to participate in the various shooting sports. And while we are certain that firearms retailers and ranges and some of our manufacturing companies or distributors have worked with Rotary Clubs on fundraising projects and community events, we are not aware of any problems ever arising.
Rotary Clubs know their communities and what is welcome, customary and acceptable within them. Some NSSF members are Rotarians. We are also part and parcel of our communities. We don’t see the need for an international governance board to get between American Rotary Clubs and the businesses and organizations with which they want to partner on various community activities. They don’t live here. We do.
Larry Keane is the SVP, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation.