The Trace profiles The Liberal Gun Club, a loose community of gun owners put off by the extreme pro-gun rhetoric they often encounter at gun stores, shooting ranges, and in gun forums. Spokeswoman Lara Smith said the club has seen substantial growth in the last year, driven in part by people who have defected from the NRA. The group has nine chapters and boasts about 5,000 members in all 50 states. (The NRA claims 5 million members.) As members gathered recently at the Livermore Rod and Gun Club, east of San Francisco, one non-member at the range cracked, “A liberal gun club. Isn’t that some kind of oxymoron?”
Members of the group, which formed in 2009, are accustomed to snarky remarks from other shooters. “When those people who weren’t fitting the stereotypical role would discuss firearms they’d get lambasted for their views,” said Smith. “The club was started by people who said, ‘Hey, look. There’s this whole other group of people out there who shoot.’” Member Jim Ridgeway, a Navy veteran who owns a wide array of firearms, said, “I don’t feel like the NRA represents me at all, and I don’t feel like they represent their members at all.” Club members tend to support universal background checks and other restrictions intended to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals.