Rotary International (RI) defines itself as a 1.2 million-member global network of problem solvers all dedicated to promoting service, fellowship, diversity and leadership. Its 35,000-plus RI clubs worldwide work to address issues from promoting peace and expanding literacy and education to providing clean water, eradicating polio and expanding local economies. So far, so good—until now, thanks to a new-for-2017 anti-gun policy trampling gun owners, hunters and shooters beginning July 1 unless RI members slam on the brakes.
For those unaware, RI’s Board of Directors issued a sweeping policy concerning firearms on Jan. 1 that it said was in response to a lack of clarity after receiving inquiries about RI’s course of action when conducting gun shows and raffles and using a Rotary trademark on firearms.According to NRA-ILA, a letter announcing the new rules—inconsistent with Rotary’s mission—cited “reputation risk” in banning Rotary entities from selling, raffling or transferring firearms; conducting gun shows and other firearm-related events; using Rotary trademarks in any “visual that includes guns; and accepting sponsorship “from any entity whose primary business is the sale or manufacturer of guns, weapons or other armaments.” In a final blow, one section of the Rotary Code of Policies now lumps guns with “addictive or harmful products or activities.”
While RI’s constituent clubs were not involved in the decision, RI’s 19-member Board does include four American citizens all elected by RI members. Yet America’s RI members are left with a hostile policy that stigmatizes gun owners and the lawful industries that serve them. Were the Board’s four American members unable to convey that firearms are intrinsic to American culture and history and to our Constitutional structure? Did they not explain that it is hunters’ and shooters’ taxes on the sales of firearms and ammunition that fund America’s wildlife conservation and management efforts? The take-away: America’s RI members who cherish the Second Amendment and the benefits of owning firearms are no longer welcome in the organization.
Worth noting, one of numerous Rotarians objecting to the new policy is Wisconsin State Rep. Bob Gannon (R-West Bend), who announced his leave of absence from RI as he ponders quitting the organization. While RI is not to dictate any political stipulations when granting aid worldwide, Gannon told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Rotary International is now saying there are conditions on any money collected in the United States. We're being held to a different standard.”
CALL TO ACTION: FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS! Are you a member of Rotary International? Then turn mounting anger into action. Voice your concerns to your districts, the RI Board and RI headquarters. Send a letter or email and call to request that the Board withdraw these provisions before they take effect July 1. Tell them to sidestep political ideology disputes that threaten the cohesion and integrity of your great organization.
A positive resolution to this issue is possible—if RI members act now. And while you’re at it, ask: How could Rotary International’s association with law-abiding gun owners, hunters and shooters and lawful firearm-related businesses ever harm RI’s standing? Instead of inciting a rift between members, why not stick with working for the common good? After all, American RI members can always channel their philanthropy and civic engagement into other fine organizations that actually actively promote responsible firearm ownership, the Second Amendment and the basic human right of self-defense!
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Editor’s Note: In helping Rotary International members to act NOW, here are 12 points for reference in contacting RI and requesting that it rescind the new policy before July 1.
On Jan. 1, 2017, Rotary International’s Board of Directors issued a sweeping firearm policy that made it clear to many American members that they are no longer welcome within its ranks.
I am profoundly disappointed with this decision and formally request that the Board withdraw these provisions before taking effect July 1. Consistent with Rotary’s 110 year history, such decisions should be left to individual clubs, operating in conformity with applicable laws.
Rotary Directory Bradford R. Howard attempted to rationalize the new directives by claiming there was a “lack of clarity around RI’s policy governing … Rotary Entities … when participating in activities involving guns … and when interacting with gun companies, including for sponsorship purposes.” The Board opted to resolve any ambiguity by adopting a hostile attitude toward members who value private firearm ownership and the industry that serves them.
Not only does the RI Board’s new policy ban Rotary entities from selling, raffling or otherwise transferring firearms or using Rotary trademarks on guns themselves, it imposed a slate of restrictions grounded in the theory that firearm-related companies or activities pose “reputational risk”—inconsistent with Rotary’s mission. One section of the Rotary Code of Policies even lumps guns with “addictive or harmful products or activities.”
The RI Board’s propositions are insulting to the many legitimate firearm-related business persons, companies and gun owners associated with Rotary.
The policy bans Rotary entities from: participating in events where firearm transfers or sales—including raffles—occur; sponsoring gun shows and other “exhibitions” involving guns; accepting sponsorship from entities whose “primary business is the sale or manufacturer of guns”; and using Rotary trademarks in any “visual that includes guns” or in conjunction with the name or logo of a firearm sales or manufacturing business.
While the hypocritical policy does not ban Rotary events that include sport-shooting or hunting, it still prohibits visual depiction of these events featuring Rotary trademarks.
There is nothing inconsistent with law-abiding people owning and using firearms, with law-abiding companies providing goods and services to them, and with Rotary’s mission or values.
The use of firearms for hunting and sport shooting forges strong relationships within families and communities. These traditions foster a love of the outdoors and instill personal responsibility.
In addition to hunters’ and shooters’ taxes on firearm and ammunition sales funding wildlife conservation efforts, the U.S. Constitution specifically protects the individual right to keep and bear arms—a right upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. With the highest per capita rate of firearm ownership worldwide, America remains a model of peaceful and prosperous democracy.
One of the greatest benefits of Rotary membership is the opportunity for fellowship with peers from other countries and cultures as we members work together for the common good. Is there no room for reasonable differences of opinion amongst Rotary’s 1.2 million members and 35,000-plus affiliated clubs to avoid such sweeping, one-size-fits-all measures?
I believe Rotary members can reach an amicable resolution on this issue. I have no desire to leave Rotary International, but if the organization insists on insulting my freedoms—which do not conflict with Rotary’s mission and values—I may have no choice. Clearly there are other organizations that would welcome my philanthropic support.