“My favorite part of the job is helping to win back many of the freedoms that the government, over time, has stripped from its citizens. It feels great to empower the people. That's what we do at NRA, and I'm so proud of the work." – Darren LaSorte
By the time he was six years old, Darren LaSorte and his .22-caliber rifle had become daily companions. The young boy loved the challenge of shooting and was proud that his parents considered him responsible enough to do so.
When he was seven, he learned that having a gun was about more than just sport.
“My sister and I were home alone when a man tried to break into our house," explains LaSorte. “I sat at the top of the stairs with my rifle-a Ruger 10/22 I had bought with my own savings."
Although La Sorte's parents had never talked to him about defensive gun use, he was bound and determined to keep himself and his sister safe. So with 10-year-old Jana out of sight in an adjoining room, he kept his gaze locked on the front door and his trembling hands on his rifle. When the doorknob rattled a second time and a stranger's face peered through a nearby window, LaSorte instinctively raised the rifle to his shoulder. Outside, there was the quick shuffle of footsteps and then-nothing.
“I believe he saw me through the window and chose to go elsewhere," says LaSorte.
The Making of an NRA Lobbyist
The lesson LaSorte learned that day had a profound effect on the boy he was and on the man he would become. It was a lesson that was reinforced when he was 17. “I was going to high school in the Seattle, Wash., area, when my friends and I were robbed by adult gang members," says LaSorte. The unarmed teens were completely at the mercy of the gun-toting robbers.
“I promised myself I'd never be that powerless again," he recalls. “And I know it sounds corny coming from a young guy, but I told myself I'd do all in my power to ensure others had the opportunity not to be as helpless as I was."
So when the time came to further his education at Arizona State University, LaSorte's major-criminal justice and political science-seemed a natural choice. In his senior year, LaSorte interned for the Arizona Supreme Court. Five years later he was the Legislative Officer of that court, lobbying behind the scenes for the gun-related issues that had become his passion.
But he wanted to do more for the cause of gun rights, particularly after the reaction to a school shooting in Columbine, Colo., threatened to further erode those rights. Lobbying for the National Rifle Association as part of its Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) became his way to do just that.
A Typical Day
LaSorte moved east, and 13 years later, he is more passionate about his career than ever. “What's fun about lobbying," says LaSorte, “is that there is never a ‘typical' day! Every day is different and always presents unanticipated challenges. Figuring out a way to prevail is the exciting part."
LaSorte's job has evolved over the years, from lobbying firearms-related issues on the state level to overseeing all of NRA-ILA's state and federal lobbyists with regard to hunting-related issues. The goal is to make sure the interests of hunters are well represented in legislative and regulatory battles throughout the country.
LaSorte worked for 12 years on the recently passed concealed-firearms law in Wisconsin. He also worked on youth hunting laws that eliminate minimum hunting ages and allow parents to decide for themselves when their children are mature and responsible enough to hunt.
“One of my favorite experiences over the years," says LaSorte, “was going to Texas to work on a bill that allowed hunters to use crossbows during the archery season there." During committee hearings, in which both House and Senate members participated, 13-year-old Matti Warren was the standout first witness.
“She gave testimony that any 30-year veteran lobbyist would have been proud to have given," says LaSorte. “She told the legislators that she wanted to be able to use a crossbow because she wanted to recruit her friends to hunting, and they were not strong enough to use regular vertical bows."
The problem, explained Matti, was that with crossbows forbidden by law, she and her friends were sidelined during the entire archery season.
Matti's testimony, says LaSorte, “won the day against stiff opposition, and the bill ultimately passed and was signed into law."
Today, Matti and her father are close friends of LaSorte. Matti, in fact, has become a favorite hunting buddy. “We've taken a number of animals together," says LaSorte, “and watching her hunt with the best of them is the highlight of my year every year."
Being an NRA lobbyist also has some interesting perks. “I'm a real gun nut," explains LaSorte, “and having the opportunity to play with some of the newest and neatest guns and equipment is something I'll never take for granted."
Because his job involves frequent travel, LaSorte also has abundant opportunities to meet new people. It's something he thoroughly enjoys. “I meet a lot of fine Americans," says LaSorte, “and often friendships and hunts develop down the line."
As for hunting, it is definitely his first love. “I take every opportunity I can to get out and watch the wilds wake up as day breaks," says LaSorte.
“However," he says, “what I now appreciate more than anything is taking kids and novice hunters out into the field to show them the life-altering activity that is hunting. I get more excited watching them have a great time than I ever could going hunting on my own. It's fun to make hunting less about myself and more about others."
Is It For You?
Darren LaSorte fell in love with guns at an early age. As he matured, he came to appreciate their importance, and over time he became passionate about ensuring that you and others will always have the right to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If you share that passion, you might want to consider becoming an NRA lobbyist. It's an important job. “The next generation of freedom fighters working for NRA will decide the future course of our country," explains LaSorte.
So what can you do to start preparing? “Work as hard as you can in school," says LaSorte. “Learn how to write and speak well, and make sure you know America's history."
But preparation for a job as an NRA lobbyist isn't all about academics. “You need to shoot and hunt as much as you can," says LaSorte. “It's hard to work for NRA unless you've been there and done that. In other words, you can't talk the talk unless you've walked the walk!"
Do you want to walk the walk? Then maybe being an NRA lobbyist is the “cool job" in your future.