Feldman, Richard 1952- (Richard Jay Feldman)
Feldman, Richard 1952- (Richard Jay Feldman)
Born February 12, 1952, in Brooklyn, NY; son of Joseph Herbert and Selma Ruth Feldman. Education: Boston University, B.A., 1974; Vermont Law School, J.D., 1982. Politics: Republican. Religion: Jewish.
Home—NH. Office—Coalition of Americans to Protect Sports, 200 Castlewood Dr., North Palm Beach, FL 33408-5666.
Lobbyist, political consultant, and lawyer. U.S. Department of Commerce, special assistant, 1982-94; City of Cambridge, MA, constable and auxiliary police officer, 1984-87; National Rifle Association, Washington, DC, political director, 1984-87; Coalition of Americans to Protect Sports, executive director, 1987—. Admitted to the bar, Washington, DC, 1986; admitted to the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Washington, DC, 1987. Director of Save Our Sports, 1988.
SCOPE award, 1986.
Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist (autobiography), John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ), 2008.
Richard Feldman's autobiography Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist relates how the author, a former police officer, moved from being a supporter of gun control to actively working as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association (NRA). Eventually, Feldman moderated his position once again. While still retaining a very firm belief that Americans should have the right to bear arms, he has nevertheless distanced himself from the strong rhetoric used by the NRA. Feldman now believes, as he explains in his book, that the public is not well served by either side of the debate over gun control.
"I'm originally from Long Island, and if you had asked me prior to 1979 [if I] was for gun control, I would probably have answered, ‘Of course, every reasonable person is for gun control.’ Because I made the mistake that millions of Americans make. I equated gun control to crime control," the author said, in an interview with Will Sullivan published in U.S. News and World Report Online. Feldman bought his first firearm, a .38 special, in 1979, while a student at Vermont Law School. He began working for the NRA in 1984, and in 1991 he was appointed as executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, which serves as the firearm industry's contact with the U.S. government. Several years later, in 1999, Feldman was released from his position with the American Shooting Sports Council following a compromise, on his part, with President Bill Clinton on the issue of mandatory child safety locks for guns. Feldman believed that adding child safety locks to guns was an easy and sensible step for the firearms industry to take, but the NRA did not appreciate his willingness to take any steps that could be seen as restrictive of gun-owners' rights, or his failure to uncompromisingly support their positions.
Ricochet gives readers a look inside the world of gun lobbyists and their activities. Feldman was a key player in the effort to defeat the Brady Bill; his work in this campaign and others is "detailed with gusto" in his autobiography, according to a writer for Kirkus Reviews. His book provides a brief history of the NRA, which was begun as a sporting organization in the nineteenth century but grew into one of the most powerful political lobbies during the 1970s. "He devotes considerable attention to internal struggles for control and to the advertising agency that became its in-house public affairs department," said the Kirkus Reviews writer, and he suggests that the organization is now interested more in prolonging controversy than finding solutions to problems related to firearms. Vanessa Bush, a contributor to Booklist, found Ricochet "a compelling insider look" at this influential organization. Library Journal writer Michael O. Eshleman felt the book was a little "weak" in its coverage of the association's history since Feldman left it, but praised it for shedding light on the ways in which the NRA achieves its goals. For this reason, Eshleman called it "a worthwhile purchase for public libraries."
Ultimately, Feldman feels that both sides of the gun-control argument are too extreme. For example, on the issue of background checks at gun shows, he believed that the NRA would probably object on the grounds that legitimate people would be denied permission to buy guns. He finds this objection unreasonable, but does feel that requiring too much regulation is also foolish. He explained to Sullivan that he would only sell a gun to people he knew well, such as "a friend, a relative, a neighbor, or a coworker. I'd call 911 so fast if someone came to my door saying, ‘I'm looking to buy guns.’"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Feldman, Richard, Ricochet: Confessions of a Gun Lobbyist, John Wiley & Sons (Hoboken, NJ), 2008.
Booklist, November 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Ricochet, p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007, review of Ricochet.
Library Journal, October 15, 2007, Michael O. Eshleman, review of Ricochet, p. 80.
U.S. News & World Report, May 21, 2007, "Armed and in the Middle," p. 28; December 18, 2007, "NRA Survival Skills."
Wall Street Journal Western Edition, March 2, 1999, "It's War: Gun Industry Signals Harder Line, Firing Head of Trade Group; Rearguard Coup Clears Way for Taking Tough Stand against Siege of Lawsuits; ‘The Long Knives Are Out’," p. 1.
U.S. News & World Report Online,http://www.usnews.com/ (May 13, 2007), Will Sullivan, interview with Richard Feldman.
Vermont Public Radio Online,http://www.vpr.net/ (May 15, 2008), Mitch Wertlieb, interview with Richard Feldman.