The troubles faced by the National Rifle Association in recent years have opened the door to new gun rights organizations, which the producers of the new No Compromise podcast say are to the right of the NRA, with a more absolutist message that is gaining momentum. Behind the effort are four brothers and their network of allies, and that is where the story in the limited-run investigative series begins.
A family-run network of pro-gun groups created by four brothers — Chris, Ben, Aaron and Matthew Dorr — caught the attention of the public radio reporting collaborative Guns & America, including KCUR-FM Kansas City (89.3) reporter Chris Haxel and WABE Atlanta (90.1) reporter Lisa Hagen. In the series they examine how the Dorr brothers’ network of allies are now being used for more than just gun rights, but also the anti-vaccine, anti-quarantine and white nationalist movements. The podcast traces the movement’s origins and the family’s roots in anti-public education, anti-gay and anti-abortion efforts in the Upper Midwest. It also looks at how the brothers have updated their father’s political playbook by combining its strategies with the influence over their nearly two million Facebook followers across a dozen states.
But hosts Hagen and Haxel say the more they dig into the Dorr brothers’ story, the more they saw them as “charlatans” as it became clear that there is more to the story than the way the brothers spend their donations, weaponize outrage and commodify alienation.
“The NRA is struggling, and there are plenty of pro-gun groups eager to fill any real or perceived power vacuum,” said Haxel. “Examining those groups — and the people who lead them — may provide a glimpse into the future of a debate that won’t be going away anytime soon.”
“The lessons we learned reporting this story apply to a much bigger spectrum than just gun rights,” said Hagen. “Mistrust and anger are so easy to manipulate no matter what the issue is. And that’s something we have to become more aware of regardless of how we feel about guns or anything else.”
The podcast is not anti-gun, but rather a warning to Second Amendment champions that their cause is being corrupted. The series is likely to draw criticism as a left-wing hatchet job, but the Dorr brothers have also come under fire from some Republican lawmakers who have called them “scam artists” who are just building their own brand and raising money by cashing in on unsuspecting people sympathetic to their message.
This podcast was developed with support from NPR’s Story Lab, a creative studio at the heart of NPR that cultivates new voices, new approaches to storytelling, and the evolving sound of public radio. Guns & America is a national reporting collaboration created by WAMU Washington (88.5) with support provided by The Kendeda Fund, a private Atlanta-based grant-making foundation.
No Compromise will release its debut episode on Sept. 8.