An Open Letter to NRA Certified Instructors, Appointed Training Counselors, Coaches, and the NRA Training and Education Committee

TTAG/GSL photo by John Boch.

In April, during the NRA annual meeting, we ran an open letter from Steve Hoback, a former NRA staffer who was part of the firearms training staff. He’s a life member and training instructor and he was concerned about what he’d seen at the NRA before he’d left and the recent controversies surrounding the Association.

As he wrote, the NRA . . .

…has become the swamp that many have lashed out against in our federal government. The “not for profit” status of the Association, if kept to its charter, bylaws, and mission statement is NOT in jeopardy. The FOR PERSONAL PROFIT actions of the “Old Guard” Board Members, certain of the Executive Staff and Directors and Deputy Directors, and Ackerman-McQueen influence have not only endangered the not for profit status but the INTEGRITY of the Association.

Since that time, Hoback became a board member of savethe2a.org, though he recently left that position. On Sunday he posted the following open letter on his Facebook page, encouraging NRA trainers to use their positions to push for change at the top of the Association and preach the message to those they teach . . .

NRA Trainers,

This is a long letter, but I’m asking your indulgence in seeing it through. I just made a very emotional decision based on the relationship that I had with many of you and the belief in the words that follow. So, please, hear an old, bald guy out: remember, I AM Very Easily Confused!

As a former member of the Training Department staff, I was proud to work for and with you. I worked closely with many of you and fielded questions and provided clarification and direction when asked. I also collaborated with you on keeping course curriculum current and relevant.

In some cases, I was there when you got your Instructor certification, and I handed many of you your Training Counselor hat when you completed your Training Counselor Development Workshop. And I was proud of a team that provided the gold standard in basic firearm safety training.

Your pushback on Blended Learning seemed, to you, to fall on deaf ears, but know that Training Department staff heard you, and agreed wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, decisions were made at higher levels that – masked as “ensuring program integrity” – were simply based on greed.

Prior to even hints of Blended Learning, staff were tasked with finding and stopping any online training that hinted at being NRA sanctioned or even mentioned NRA Training credentials. This was done because we all know the core of and reason for success: NRA courses cannot be effectively delivered without Total Participant Involvement and a thorough, in-person evaluation of all student actions to ensure that the proper Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude are displayed throughout the training. I had suggested that staff conduct in-person review of courses and instructors in the hopes of finding the bad apples and weeding them out.

Instead, after I left the Training Department, leadership decided that the Blended Learning model would be implemented and be the cure all. We were kept in the dark and given false deadlines, and, the night before announcement, when staff who worked so hard with us were told that the student cost was to be $60, they begged leadership to reconsider that high cost.

They knew the detrimental effect it would have on NRA Trainers, in the trenches, delivering the programs. After all of this, we had a confusing product dumped in our laps and were told that this was final and no discussions were needed.

Why? Because leadership realized that they were leaving money on the table. The only income that the NRA got from our conduct of NRA Basic Firearm Safety Courses were the cost of program material required by Lesson Plans, any new memberships as a result of your course, and the cost of your credential renewal; for Training Counselors conducting Instructor courses, the added NRA revenue for new instructors’ credential fees could be added in.

All “profit” above the cost of required material went to the Training Team. With Blended Learning, that all changed. Now, the NRA got a piece of every student via the online fee for Part 1. And no credence was paid to your concerns that, with that fee already being paid, you almost couldn’t afford to conduct Part 2 without losing money. And we all know the results: the number of new shooters finding quality firearm training dropped substantially; policing of program and trainer integrity was not addressed; a major rift was created between NRA Trainers and the Training Department; and many trainers either stopped teaching courses or formed or joined other training programs.

All of these changes came about solely by way of outside vendors’ influence which was followed by leadership to the point that money far outweighed principle. The old saying goes that, whenever someone says it ain’t about the money…it’s always about the money.

Consider the current crisis at the NRA, and how much of it has been caused by unvetted and unfit leadership. How much has been caused by decisions being made to fill the coffers, which, for some at the top became an open account to use at their discretion with no oversight.

Consider the declining departmental integrity (think CarryGuard training) and good relations between leadership and the Members that they serve? How many times have valid questions been brushed off with an arrogant, “Trust us to do what’s right”? How many see that withholding seats on – and even the chair of – the Board’s Training and Education Committee from Directors who have bravely questioned the status quo, and giving those positions to those who have acted through their inaction and blind allegiance to that status quo.

The best men or women for the jobs are not filling the seats in which they are most needed.

I know that NRA Trainers are not only the most active and concerned of the total NRA Membership but also have the most sweat equity and personal financial security to lose of any Member. And I – along with you – know what drives that activity and concern: a genuine dedication to the NRA’s core mission of defense of Second Amendment rights and the development and conduct of firearms safety and education programs.

I ask you to use the power you yield and the passion you have to demand change at the NRA. If you feel that outside audits are required, take action. If you feel that executive positions based on cronyism and not merit need to be evaluated, take action.

If you feel that the policy of non-essential, executive level “deputy director” positions instead of added staff at the “worker bee” level would better benefit the Members, take action. And, if you feel that there needs to be wholesale change at OUR Association so that a stronger, more transparent and honest, more inclusive, and more focused NRA is better for the protection our Second Amendment rights and to develop and deliver the gold standard in firearms safety and education programs, take action and write to our elected servants on the Board of Directors and demand that your voice be heard. These letters can be written to:

John Frazier
NRA Office of the Secretary
ATTN: (“Name of Individual Board Member(s)” or “NRA Board of Directors”)
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA, 22030

As all correspondence addressed to any or all Board Members must be forwarded to them, and even in these technology-advanced times, letter writing appears to be the best way to contact. However, you can also email the Board at [email protected] If you want your questions addressed by the Directors with, supposedly, the most power in making training related decisions, you may want to contact the members of the Training and Education Committee.

As information on the Board of Directors in general and specific Directors and Committees is difficult at best to get, here are the names of the members of the Training and Education Committee, to the best of my knowledge (although I have recently learned that there may be changes and the source is questionable, at best): Dave Butz; William Allen, Kenneth Blanchard, Anthony Colandro, Lou Ferrigno, Scott Johnson, Carrie Lightfoot, Buz Mills, Il Ling New, Janet Nyce, Mitch O’Neal-Mitchell, and Mark Vaughan.

Until recently, I was on the board of Save the Second, a grassroots movement that was founded by two NRA members with valid concerns and a well thought out plan for reform at NRA. I had originally drafted this letter to be released as a call to action to NRA Trainers from Save the Second.

My resignation was over one Save the Second member’s m continued call for boycott of all NRA programs, including training. Another board member and I pushed back against it, and I thought our claims were heard and that boycott call would stop. Worse, when asked advice on where someone should get training, he responded with the name of an organization with which he had personal ties.

The call for boycott didn’t stop, and lip service was played to questions of self-dealing. Many of you know, loyalty runs deep with me, and I could not remain in a Board position of a group that was allowing an ideal that I did not believe in to continue to be pushed, and I could not remain in an organization calling on review of ethics and self-dealing at NRA who were not willing to do that with their own members.

That being said, the founders of StS and our mutual friend and NRA Trainer on the board are good people, and they truly believe in doing all they can to save our Association from itself.

I do encourage you to visit, Save the Second at savethe2a.org, or follow them Facebook at Save the Second. I look forward to hearing from you and, once again, stand next to you on the firing line to make sure that OUR Association and the Programs we all believe in can move forward stronger and better.

Best Regards,

Steve Hoback
NRA Life Member and Appointed Training Counselor

TTAG talked with Hoback this morning and he emphasized that while he’s no longer a board member of Save The 2A, he still very much supports the organization.

Yesterday, NRA vice president Willes Lee tweeted this about Hoback’s departure:

Hoback noted that contrary to what Lee wrote, he was not, in fact, fired. He chose to leave of his own accord and reiterated his support for Save the 2A’s mission.

comments

  1. avatar rosignol says:

    “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

    It’s clear what phase the NRA is in. We need to clean house.

    1. avatar Kip says:

      Every large membership organization has these issues.
      With NRA there is a specific oversight failure with that outside vendor either being blackmailed by lapierre or visaversa. They all have to go.

      But you are not going to have any mational membership based 2A advocacy group of any note and effect that doesn’t have even major problems. It is inherent.

      The “save the second” is not a membership association. Anyone can run a tight ship with no elections and a small group.

      NRA members have to organize and address the main issue of a corrupt funding feedback loop from vendor.

      Tthe other criticism of the NRA would also be the same in any group that replaced it, and it would take any other group 30 years to get to NRA branding and strength

    2. avatar H Allen Davis LLD says:

      “Every great movement becomes a business, then degenerates into a racket.” Indeed.

      Everybody and their brother was all gung ho and full steam ahead when Mothers Against Drunk Drivers made such headway in addressing the problem of drunk driving, and rightfully, they were applauded for their efforts.

      With drunk driving having plummeted to all-time lows two decades ago, MADD continues its crusade by expanding into so many nooks and crannies one would think they’d resurrected Carrie Nation and are on a crusade to reinstate the 18th Amendment. Due to this, I’ve become an ardent member of DAMM: Drunks Against Mad Mothers. (Just kidding. I quit drinking altogether years ago. But my sympathies are the same.)

      The March of Dimes was launched soon after they put FDR on the dime to emblemize its efforts to stamp out polio. Holy shit! Doctors Salk and Sabin did just that early in Eisenhower’s second term! But onward they plowed. God forbid they leave a nickel (er, dime) lying around out there somewhere. Since polio got whipped, they weren’t about to fold their tents and go home, smug and satisfied over a mission accomplished. Today, the March of Dimes raises its money with the bullshit claim that 1/8th of all births are premature. Even if that inflated number were true, premature birth is survived by almost every child born after the seventh month of pregnancy.

      The NRA’s true history should be brought to light. It was NEVER a “civil rights” organization devoted to preserving the 2nd Amendment. The NRA was responsible for the enactment of all the state gun permit and licensing laws now in effect, and they made a boatload of money for “training” people deemed deserving of a license to exercise their Constitutional rights. And the NRA busted its ass to get the NFA passed in 1934. And if the NRA had gotten its way, every handgun in existence would’ve been included in the NFA.

      I say screw every one of the bastards now. When they canned Ollie North, I knew trouble was brewing. When Chris Cox was shown the door, I was convinced that the NRA had rotted right down to the core. I’m dividing my money between CCRKBA, GOA and a couple of state organizations.

      1. avatar Garrison Hall says:

        Both Ollie and Chris have been noticeably quiet. If they are truly interested in preserving 2nd Amendment rights and reforming the NRA, they should be speaking directly to all of us. Where are they? If they had legitimate issues, they should be discussing them openly. By not speaking they are allowing the entrenched NRA leadership to control the narrative.

        1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          My assumption is that they’re bound by confidentiality agreements.

        2. avatar Anymouse says:

          And Ollie is the target of a lawsuit. Anything he says can be submitted as evidence against him.

      2. avatar 16V says:

        Mr. Davis,

        You are far too generous in your assessment. I understand the need to appear genteel, but there is no convincing the NRA apologists, regardless of civility.

        It’s been a graft-tastic organization of Fudds, since inception. Burning the village is the only way to save it….

  2. avatar Draven says:

    wtf is blended learning

    1. avatar Biatec says:

      It’s got the thing that goes up.

      1. avatar Someone says:

        Price?

    2. avatar ScottMc says:

      I can’t say for sure in NRA context, but in general blended learning has a face to face, personal component and an on-line component. This sounds like NRA is charging dearly for the on-line component on a per head basis making training a profit center instead of a way to attract new members and generate good will.

      IMHO the membership should be paying for the on-line component, if any is necessary, through dues and donations or maybe grants from the NRA Foundation.

    3. avatar Enuf says:

      Blended learning
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blended_learning

      Possibly in this context it boils down to doing firearms safety training over the internet and the NRA charging a fee for it.

    4. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      Leftard Speak.

    5. avatar NHTransplant says:

      NRA blended learning started about 3-4 years ago. Pure money grab by them. They also lost STATE approval for several states (where you could not use the NRA Basics of Pistol Shooting course to apply for CCW licenses/LTCs using the “blended” course). One of them being MA, where many a people were denied licenses (and then got a black mark on their “have you ever been denied a license”, making it harder to get one in the future). They now have “Instructor Led Training” back that’s approved, but a lot of people online don’t know the difference and still waste their money. I’m an NRA & and USCCA Instructor. USCCA is MUCH better training/course material, but it is not approved to get CCW/LTCs in some states like Mass. And MA is limiting new authorized courses anyways to limit the number of LTCs issued.

    6. avatar Rick says:

      Blended learning is the combination of online teaching and face to face teaching. The concept is that if the student can work through learning portions of the content at their own pace and with the use of videos and interactive media, then the face to face portion can focus on the concepts that are most difficult and also do assessments of students in a controlled environment (testing).
      The State of Ohio uses blended learning in our Hunter Education program. It takes a lot of thought in planning and preparing the online content but the results can be extremely successful.
      To write off online content entirely is to completely miss out on a win win situation for the trainers and the trainees.I have spent nearly the last 20 years as a Hunter Ed instructor as well as working for a university working with the teams of instructional experts determining what works best online and what absolutely needs to be face to face.

  3. avatar Neil says:

    Now I know why training fell apart. Sad…

    No wonder

    Lightsaber

  4. avatar Frank M Chandler says:

    What is blended learning? What vendors were involved?
    Maybe the membership
    should ask for an outside audit of the NRA.

  5. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Did I just make this up? Another person who resigns from a prominent position with a pro-2A organization after finding corruption (or unethical behavior at least) calls for continued support of that corruption?

    1. avatar Charlie Foxtrot says:

      Yes, you made that just up. Has Save the Second as an organization actually called for a boycott and endorsed the USCCA (which is affiliated with Rob Pincus) as a replacement? No! Different members of an organization can have different opinions and should be able to voice them.

        1. avatar Steve says:

          ^EXACTLY the reason I resigned. I believe wholeheartedly in the mission and goals of Save the Second’s founders, Anthony Garcia and Ron Carter, and I appreciate the work of Andy Lander. You can figure the odd man out from my support of StS with a little research.

          For a member of an overall pro-NRA, but anti-NRAcurrent leadership and direction, organization, I could not stand by while one member of the board continuously hawked his own “brand” and projects, services, and organizations with which he had associations. The icing on the cake was, when asked who to get training from, his one word answer was, “USCCA”, an organization that he has DIRECT ties to, although I gave no proof of financial ones. Yes, it was from his own personal account. However, his involvement with StS is clear – another marketing ploy- to the point that MANY (including him at times) think HE is the leader.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Yes, you made that just up. ”
        From the resignation letter: (regarding Save the Second)

        “…and lip service was played to questions of self-dealing.”

        I did not make that up.

  6. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    It would have been nice if the NRA actually fought to preserve High School level rifle teams and Firearms education in the schools.
    There certainly would be more students to train if they had fought to keep the rifle teams in the schools.

    Or helped to fund the construction of a shooting range at a school willing to have one.

    1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

      However instead of that the NRA jumped on the Lefts Gunz Bad,schools should be Gun Free Shooting Galleries. proudly Negotiating Rights Away since 1934.

  7. avatar daveinwyo says:

    Quit the NRA in the 1980s.
    Got a robo call robot today asking for money.
    I hate robot robo calls. Makes it so I can’t tell em to FO.
    NRA can urinate vertically on dangling cordage.
    I have spent the saved money on guns and lots of ammo since I quit.

  8. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Inelected?

    That right there sure unspires confidence in the NRA’s officer corps intellectual horsepower.

    1. avatar dlj83544 says:

      …thank you.

  9. avatar Made in America says:

    As I said many times before.
    Dissolve the NRA and oh yeah take the Trump with them.
    That’ll make a nice group. 🙂

  10. avatar Mack The Knife says:

    Untrained non NRA folks talking BS. Who are you people? Blended NRA training is not new. Unfortunately, been around for years, unfairly stealing from certified instructors or in many cases raising the cost of the instructor portion of the class. Instructors find ourselves spending excessive time refreshing, reteaching students information they failed to learn during the computer portion. Time not part of our portion of the curriculum. I won’t take a person to the range unless he can demonstrate the basics of gun handling, safety and the fundamentals of shooting. Most of you guys wouldn’t go to the range with me either. The good news is now we can teach the full curriculum or continue to participate in the blended curriculum. I don’t mess with the blended. I teach the entire course 6- sometimes 8 hour classes. Everyone goes home with the ability to hit the required minimum target. You choirboys probably attended an hour long class and put a single round in a bucket of sand and now you are experts giving out bad advice on these blogs.
    Let’s hear it, what gun affiliation do you hold and what firearms training have you had? Are any of you actually permitted to carry a concealed firearm or are most of you junior high wannabes like many of the You Tube fan boys and girls? Pony up before mom and dad dolls you to bed. I’d like to know.

    1. avatar Someone says:

      “Are any of you actually permitted to carry a concealed firearm…”

      We are all eligible to own and carry arms. It’s our inalienable, constitutionally protected human right. We don’t need no stinking permits.

      After you exposed this kind of Fuddish thinking, I will not go to the range with you even if you begged me.

      ‘Knife’ …jeez !🙄

      1. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

        @ Someone

        If you are ever interested in just how complicit the NRA is in gun control and portray the organization as defenders of the 2 nd.amendment,here is the testimony of the NRA president,one Carl T. Frederick in the congressional hearings of what became the 1934 National Firearms Act.

        It’s all out there if people just look.

        NRA President’s Testimony During Congressional Debate
        of the National Firearms Act of 1934

        MR.CARL T. FREDERICK: … “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses”

        NRA Proudly Negotiating Rights Away since 1934

        http://www.keepandbeararms.com/NRA/NFA.htm

        1. avatar Anymouse says:

          That’s outrageous. I demand that Karl Telford Frederick (note the correct spelling) be removed from office as President of the NRA. I also personally blame Green Mtn. Boy for not informing us earlier and leading the campaign to stop KTF from being elected President.
          UPDATED: My call for the removal of KTF has been successful. Reports indicate that he left the NRA Presidency in 1935. When asked for a comment, he said “Leave me alone. I’ve been dead since 1963.”

    2. avatar Charlie Foxtrot says:

      Too bad, your last sentences destroyed your entire argument and reinforced the negative view of NRA trainers in the community.

      I am an NRA Endowment Life Member, Valor Ridge Alumni, TN permit holder (with useless TN permit class), and TN hunting license holder (with hunters ed course). I attended many other classes, but proudly never attended a single NRA training class in my entire life and never will.

    3. avatar NHTransplant says:

      I’m sorry you feel that way about the rest of us. As an instructor also, I agree blended is a waste of time and does nothing to help the students and hurts us instructors both financially and time wise (going over the same stuff).

      But it serves no real point to blame everyone, criticize others, and insult them with name calling. As firearms instructors, our goal should be to educate people in the responsible use of firearms and help more people exercise their 2A rights in whatever manner they choose (I don’t believe training or permits should be required for concealed carry, but I recommend it to all as I have seen a lot of unsafe firearm handling skills out there).

    4. avatar Dave G. says:

      @Mack The Knife:
      Let’s hear it, what gun affiliation do you hold and what firearms training have you had? Are any of you actually permitted to carry a concealed firearm or are most of you junior high wannabes like many of the You Tube fan boys and girls? Pony up before mom and dad dolls you to bed. I’d like to know.”
      Okay, how’s this:
      1. Rifle team training with college ROTC program in 1956-1957
      2.Training and qualification with the M1 Carbine in the USAF in 1960 with refresher qualification later during my 6 year enlistment.
      3. Been target shooting in all of the years since including handguns since 1983.
      4. (Michigan) state-required training class for a concealed pistol license (CPL) in 2012, once Michigan became a shall-issue state.
      5. Have held a Michigan CPL since 2012 and continue to do so.
      6. Member of NRA in the 1970s and again since 2015.
      AND my mom and dad haven’t “dolls” me to bed in more than 75 years. So, thank you very much, and shut T/F up!

  11. avatar Green Mtn. Boy says:

    The only way I can see to fix the many ills of the NRA is to burn it to the ground and rebuild upon the ashes,long ago it lost it’s way even before Wayne La PeePee got his hands on it.

  12. avatar FelixD says:

    So once again as we face another serious threat to our civil rights we are exposed to yet another layer of agitation propaganda, all under the guise of “doing the right thing” by destroying the NRA. It’s becoming more obvious by the continued lack of substantive evidence and the continued inciting rhetoric that these are the efforts of leftest lackeys or frail egos. In either case manipulation is the goal. It is to manipulate the membership into discontent just in time to lessen the effectiveness of the only strong pro-gun organization when it is needed most. The left wants a wedge driven between the NRA and its members. Subjective, agenda driven content such as this is there tool. When will TTAG realize it is enabling this, or are hits on a website more important?

    1. avatar H Allen Davis LLD says:

      TTAG is not “enabling” the Left in driving a wedge between the NRA and its members. TTAG is about the only forum anyone can find that is reliably giving all of us the information about what’s going on behind the closed doors at NRA headquarters.

      Firearms News has published a few articles, but they’ve been relatively far in-between, and we need the most current up-to-date information.

      The Left is going to bash the NRA no matter what. If the NRA is to be saved, let alone redeemed, then it has to happen in the bright light of day, not from the bullshit rags like the New York Times and Washington Post.

    2. avatar Sam I Am says:

      ” The left wants a wedge driven between the NRA and its members. ”

      NRA is doing a fine job of driving that wedge. The rest of us are only reacting to the NRA effort.

    3. avatar Casey says:

      Speaking as a person who formerly held seven NRA teaching certificates, no, the NRA screwed this pooch themselves with the Blended Learning debacle. It’s why I quit being an instructor and why I left the NRA and has nothing to do with the current troubles other than (apparently) being the cash grab we said it was like four years ago.

      Nobody listened to us back then, but they’re sure listening now.

  13. avatar kap says:

    NRA leadership has been bought and paid for by the Democratic party, with their arrogance and greed, a great program is going down the tubes! so shithead leaders can buy 20 grand suits, an make million dollar salary’s! Don’t forget paying for their mistress’s living expenses out of Company funds plus giving them a make work position at inflated costs! maybe even pulling a Clinton behind the doors. then you have the brain dead members defending them while other entities are doing better work, Don’t forget the NRA backed the NFA legislation in the 30’s, Johnson”s program of 1968, Clinton’s ban etc { because they could increase membership by fear mongering}

  14. avatar Thomas Redwine Hartshorn says:

    Wow!
    First our own government passes unconstitutional and therefore illegal Red Flag Laws.
    Secondly- Hundreds of Mass Shootings to harden Americans against guns.
    Third – Destroy the largest pro Second Amendment defender in America, the NRA !
    Forth – Have our trusty Congress pass wide sweeping gun laws cleverly attached to Bill’s that have nothing to do with guns.
    And Lastly – DISARM AMERICA !
    PLAN ACCOMPLISHED !

  15. avatar Wiregrass says:

    One of our local politicians used to run a “First Steps” pistol class each year at our club. He provided all the training materials that I assumed he probably got for free from the NRA. I and some others from our club became NRA instructors so we would have the credentials to run the program. The class was capped at 50 participants and was always filled. It was offered free to the community and we volunteered our time to make it happen. It was a good program and sorely needed as many of the participants showed up with brand new pistols never taken out of the box. Somebody at the NRA must of hated to see programs like this where the NRA wasn’t making a dime except for what we paid to become instructors. Blended learning killed it. I’ve paid to renew my credentials twice now since this program became history but not any more. We’ll organize and run our own program if support for it ever returns.

  16. avatar BusyBeef says:

    TL;DR

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “TL;DR”

      Is there a particular reason we need to know this?

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