The NRA's Dirty Tricks

When the National Rifle Association asks its members for their next contribution, they might want to disclose how much of that money will be spent to spy on gun violence victims and their families.

Mother Jones Magazine today reported that someone the gun violence prevention movement believed was a committed gun control activist was, in fact, a gun lobby spy.

Mother Jones focused on the activity of Mary McFate, also known as Mary Lou Sapone, a woman who has apparently led a double life for over twenty years, performing industrial espionage services for a variety of anti-environmental and gun lobby organizations -- including the National Rifle Association.

A bizarre development to be sure, yet today's report speaks for itself:

... During Sapone's ascent through the ranks of the gun control movement, she worked for the NRA, according to a business associate. In a 2003 deposition, Tim Ward, who had been president of the Maryland-based security firm Beckett Brown International, said that the NRA had been "a client" of Sapone's. (As a subcontractor for BBI, Sapone had planted an operative within an environmental group in Lake Charles, Louisiana.) According to Ward, at his request Sapone had introduced BBI to the NRA in early 1999. And that introduction quickly paid off. Billing records obtained by Mother Jones indicate that between May 1999 and April 2000, the NRA paid BBI nearly $80,000 for various services....

The article goes on to mention that Sapone was still working for an NRA lobbyist in 2007 and 2008. (Follow developments on Huffington Post here.)

Reading the story, one imagines a group of executives over at NRA headquarters huddled around a copy of The Art of War with a flashlight in a dark basement office, hatching a new cloak-and-dagger plot.

Whatever the case, it's clear that some over there have too much money and no moral compass.

It is one thing to recognize, as CNN found last month, that 86% of the American people favor a waiting period before buying a gun, while 79% favor the registration of guns with the local government. That's reason enough for the NRA to feel defensive.

It is another thing entirely to pay a woman to trade on the grief of gun violence victims and their families -- to pay someone to pretend to be their friend and confidant -- when in reality she was spying on their efforts to strengthen this country's tragically weak gun laws.

Does this behavior reflect the NRA's membership? I don't think so. I think this represents the bunker paranoia of leaders who will resort to any means -- by hook or by crook -- to get any information they can get about the gun violence prevention movement, and that contradicts every statement they make about being a "civil rights" organization.

I don't know what the NRA may have learned from Ms. Sapone/McFate's spying.

Hopefully they were reminded that 32 people are murdered every day in America by gunfire. Another 52 survive a gunshot injury. Every day, 8 children and teens shot and killed, while another 48 survive their wounds.

Every year, 100,000 people are killed or wounded in the United States from gunfire.

But they didn't need a spy to figure that out.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on and the Huffington Post.)