Once regarded as “militant” and “radical,” the Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF), a gun rights organization, is now regarded by even its strongest opponents as “a force to be reckoned with.”

OFF, founded in 1998, is an organization dedicated to fighting for the rights and freedoms of gun owners.

The primary founder and current director of the organization, Kevin Starrett, said the idea for OFF was born while he was working for Gun Owners of America (GOA). GOA was eager to see independent state organizations that would be able to respond better to state issues.

Starrett felt that other gun rights organizations were more concerned with “making deals” than maintaining citizens’ rights. He also noticed a tendency of believing that “because they were invited to politicians’ parties, they must be accomplishing something.” This bothered Starrett for some time, and finally, in 1998, the idea of beginning an organization to advocate for freedom became practical for him.

Starrett founded OFF with two others to create a board of directors. He then went right to work and never looked back, amassing a remarkable track record in the process.

His philosophy is simple; he believes “rights are from the Creator, people need means to protect these rights. They need to take responsibility for their actions so they can live free.”

OFF’s primary roles include tracking legislation from both the Oregon state legislature in Salem and the U.S. Congress in Washington, DC; drafting legislation that will maintain or increase freedoms for gun owners; alerting OFF members about potential problem legislation and sending them updates; rating candidates; and keeping track of who’s supporting what and how to contact them.

Starrett said the hardest part of the job is rating candidates.

“Many of the sitting legislators have never had opportunities to vote on bad bills [because OFF has defeated them], so we don’t have voting records for them,” he said. OFF depends on “honesty on our surveys” when evaluating those who have never been in office before. “We have no way to know how strong they’ll be or if they’ll fold under pressure,” Starrett said. “Someone might vote right for the wrong reasons.”

Identifying key opponents and supporters of pro- and anti-gun legislation has been crucial to OFF’s success, Starrett said.

From the beginning, OFF’s goal has been to hold the legislature accountable, even when doing so caused his organization to be labeled “militant,” “dangerous rabble,” and “radical.”

At first, Starrett said, legislators were warned by their parties to “have nothing to do with [OFF].” But when OFF began to “defeat virtually every anti-gun bill, they were forced to take [OFF] seriously.”

The organization has a very high track record of success. “Nearly every bad bill” — bills both in the Oregon legislature and Congress that would have restricted the rights and freedoms of gun owners — has been defeated, including many whose passage supporters believed to be “a sure thing.” Many bills in support of gun rights that supposedly had “no way” to pass, did when OFF backed them.

Legislators now ask OFF for endorsements and often work with the organization to write legislation.

An Oregon politician invited to speak at a meeting said that when he was first running, he got a survey from OFF. The politician had never heard of them, but as he read about the organization and thought about the issues presented, he realized he agreed with their positions. He ultimately asked them for endorsement.

Current opponents complain that OFF “is a tiny minority that wins all the time.” Starrett said supporters of gun rights are not in the minority, nor do they fit the stereotype of being “violent, all men, hillbillies, ignorant, or wanting to harm others.”

In fact, according to his statistics, they are more likely to be college educated than non-gun owners. Gun owners often “protect others and contribute to safety,” as was the case in a tragic local shooting.

On one occasion, Starrett and many other gun rights supporters gathered in a rally at the Oregon Capitol. “Thousands of supporters carried guns at the rally,” he said. “We were told by the few anti-gun activists that showed up that it was a display of aggression and they felt threatened. They were treated so politely [by us] that it completely belied their ideas.”

Starrett said even the organization’s strongest opponents “agree in candid moments that [OFF] is extremely well-organized and active.” Many legislators back down and take their names off anti-gun legislation, “begging [OFF] to leave them alone,” after being contacted by OFF and its members.

One of the most rewarding parts of Starrett’s job is hearing feedback from grateful supporters. He said he and OFF have worked very hard to maintain the organization’s original purpose and to do things in such a way that “no one questions our motives or ethics.”

OFF frequently hears from members saying “thank you for what you’re doing.” Once, grateful supporters took four OFF volunteers on “an expensive fishing trip to say thanks!”

Starrett is both humbled and honored by the reports. “Not many things [someone could do] get sincere gratitude,” he said.

For more information, or to make a donation, visit:  http://www.oregonfirearms.org

Besides writing, R. McKinley loves reading (especially historical fiction and science books), playing piano and flute, being involved in politics and community, working out, enjoying nature, and hanging out with four wonderful cats.