Bloomberg Op-Ed on CMP Misses the Mark

Article criticizes the Civilian Marksmanship Program for funding "its mission by selling hand-me-down military weapons."

Inside the CMP clubhouse where they sell M-1 rifles to civilians.
Inside the CMP clubhouse where they sell M-1 rifles to civilians.bloomberg.com

An Op-Ed published on bloomberg.com on September 4 titled "This Group Teaches Kids to Love Guns, and U.S. Taxpayers Foot the Bill" mischaracterizes the mission and intent of the Civilian Marksmanship Program, painting the organization as an unofficial arm of the NRA that relies on government funding to continue to exist.

The predecessor of the Civilian Marksmanship Program started life in 1903 with the War Department Appropriations Act. As an agrarian society marched further toward industrialization, firearms proficiency amongst the general public began to wane, a trend that President Theodore Roosevelt found troubling. Furthermore, the adoption of bolt-action M1903 by the military exacerbated the problem, as most were only familiar with the break- and lever-actions of the time.

Roosevelt, fresh off the heels of service as commander of the infamous Rough Riders, a 1,060-man detachment that was one of the few units to see action in the Spanish-American War, enlisted the assistance of National Rifle Association President General Bird Spencer to create a civilian training program to ensure that America would have a pool of skilled marksmen to call upon in the event of conflict.

The program would be run be run by the Army until 1996. As the Bloomberg article correctly states, a 1990 report from the General Accounting Office said that the program was "of limited value," as Reserve ranks grew. The Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety was created by Title XVI of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 to oversee the CMP. Though the CPRPFS, a tax-exempt entity, was created by a charter from Congress, it is not an agency of the Government, and receives no funding from federal coffers as the Bloomberg report implies.

The only support the CPRPFS, and by extension the CMP, receives from the government is in the form of donated firearms, which the Bloomberg report unfairly characterizes as “the continuing generosity of the federal government.” The guns that are passed on to the organization have long been out of military service, lying in wait until they are needed again, or a proper disposal method can be reached. As technologically superior firearms have replaced them, their future use in battle is unlikely, and continued storage by a government entity will only cost taxpayers.,

Contrarily, the article makes it seem as if "surplus firearms" means the same thing as it did back in the 1940s when inexpensive military arms flooded the market in the aftermath of WWII.

Authors of the Bloomberg article use the upcoming sale of surplus 1911s as an example of how the government is subsidizing the group. However, Congress released a report in 2005 stating those firearms were costing taxpayers approximately two million dollars a year to store.

The Bloomberg article states, "The government could save on the storage costs by selling the weapons to the highest bidder—and sending the money to the U.S. Treasury," yet offer no suggestions as to how such a sale would be carried out. Currently, surplus equipment such as HMMVs, raw materials, and office supplies are offloaded through auctions primarily held by the Generel Services Administration. This provides a valuable way to recoup money on items that are no longer useful, but there is no mechanism in place to screen potential firearm buyers.

Though the Bloomberg piece insinuates that the guns are handed out without further thought to where they will end up, those that participate in surplus purchases go through a bevvy of regulations, above and beyond that of typical firearm sales.

The CMP can only sell surplus military firearms to U.S. citizens, over 18 years old, who are already legally eligible to purchase a firearm. To prove your eligibility, potential buyers must provide a copy of a U.S. birth certificate, passport, proof of naturalization, a military ID E5 or above, or any official government that shows proof of citizenship and age. Additionally, a purchaser must provide proof of membership in a CMP-affiliated organization. From the story: “Today, even though NRA membership isn’t required, CMP customers looking to buy an old military gun must belong to one of over 2,000 groups. Many of them are also NRA affiliates.” “The NRA and CMP are, in some sense, two sides of the same coin. One is hyper-political, the other shuns anything with a whiff of lobbying. One is funded entirely by corporate and civilian gifts, the other largely by government handouts. But both share an underlying goal and have staged joint marksmanship events for over a century.”  “’We’ve always known the NRA is out there carrying that Second Amendment torch, and we benefit by that,” says CMP spokesman Steve Cooper. “We’ve been good—I won’t say partners, but we’ve been good sponsors and advocates of the shooting sports over the years.’”

Up until 1968, you had to be a member of the National Rifle Association to purchase firearms through a CMP sale, a nod to the NRA’s assistance in creating the program, but that requirement has not been in place for 50 years. Presumably, the CMP is looking to further its mission by aligning itself with like-minded organizations, much in the same way that many hobby or professional associations operate. Unsurprisingly, many of these clubs are NRA affiliates, as they have similar mission statements and common interests.

Bloomberg calls the CMP “a deep-pocketed, nationwide evangelist for youth gun culture,” mischaracterizing the agency’s focus on youth development through marksmanship. The CMP supports a number of grassroots organizations throughout the country, with the publication calling attention to such groups as the women-only A Girl & A Gun, and Shooters for Hooters, a breast cancer charity. The CMP trains shooting instructors that staff venues from summer camps to conservation organizations, even bringing its mobile marksmanship range to events from California to New York.

It is often said that people fear what they don’t understand. As society continues to move from rural to urban, most people’s only interaction with firearms will be on the nightly news. With that in mind, the CMP has shifted its focus from strictly training potential soldiers to familiarizing the public with firearms; removing the taboos and misunderstandings that surround firearms ownership, and replacing them with safety and reverence.

Bloomberg.com is part of a media company owned by billionaire, former NYC mayor, and anti-gun activist Michael Bloomberg, who also began and helms Everytown For Gun Safety and the anti-gun "news outlet," The Trace.