NRA Members Head to Indy During ‘Interesting Times’ for the Organization

National Rifle Association

Bigstock

As you read these words, your faithful TTAG correspondents are at about 30,000 feet, somewhere over the midwest between Austin and Indianapolis, hoping only for a landing we can walk away from. This weekend, we will be, as we are every year at this time, attending the annual NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits.

We’ll  be there with along with about 75,000 NRA members, elbowing our way through the crowds wanting to get a look at a lot of guns and gear.

This year’s NRAAM will take place at an interesting time (in the allegedly Chinese sense) for the nation’s oldest civil rights organization (see our posts herehere and here).

As anyone with eyes and a pulse knows, NRA has been under sustained attack for years by foes in the media, politics and self-aggrandizing billionaires who generously fund the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex. Those efforts never stop and generally serve to stiffen the resolve of America’s gun owners and the organization’s membership.

But the problems that have reared their heads so publicly recently are, by all reports (and confirmed by people we’ve spoken to who are in a position to know), long-standing, internal and self-inflicted. And to the extent they linger, will only sap members’ enthusiasm and reduce the NRA’s contributions, influence and effectiveness in fighting off efforts to restrict Second Amendment rights.

All of which means that this could be an interesting weekend. We could see public calls for significant changes — in terms of leadership, tactics and strategy — to address the NRA’s issues with responsiveness, transparency and how it spends the money its members so faithfully contribute.

Or it all could be papered over, dismissed as yet more attacks from outside the operation, egged on by malcontents from within.

Who knows? We’ll see how the weekend unfolds. If you have specific questions you’d like us to ask if we happen to run into, say, Wayne LaPierre on the exhibit floor or wandering the hallways, let us know in the comments.

In the mean time, this AP report is a perfect example of the mainstream media’s take . . .

NRA beset by infighting over whether it has strayed too far

By LISA MARIE PANE Associated Press

The National Rifle Association is used to battling forces that criticize its fiery and unbending efforts to protect gun rights. But as the group gathers for its annual convention this week, the NRA may be facing its toughest foe in decades: its own members.

NRA insiders and longtime observers describe an organization at war with itself over a central question: Has it strayed too far from its original mission of gun safety and outdoor shooting sports and become too political?

It is rare for the NRA to betray any hint of internal turmoil. But it erupted very publicly recently when the NRA sued its longtime public relations firm, Ackerman McQueen, accusing it of refusing to hand over financial records to account for its billings. In 2017 alone, the NRA paid the firm $40 million.

Ackerman McQueen has been by the NRA’s side for two decades and has crafted its aggressive messaging, including the “From my cold dead hands” line uttered by actor Charlton Heston in 2000 as he vowed to resist any effort to take away his guns. The line became a rallying cry for gun owners around the country.

Ackerman McQueen also created and operates NRATV, the online channel whose hosts not only aggressively defend the NRA and its cause but often venture into political debates not directly related to firearms, such as immigration or diversity on children’s TV. In its lawsuit, the NRA said some of its members have questioned NRATV’s weighing in on “topics far afield of the Second Amendment.”

The long history between the public relations firm and the NRA has made their potential parting of the ways all the more surprising to longtime watchers of the group.

“The battle in the NRA board that must have occurred with this breakup of a decades-long relationship must have been something,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law and gun rights expert.

The strife is expected to be a dominant topic of conversation at the convention starting Thursday in Indianapolis, where President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will address the crowd on Friday. The NRA’s two main political action committees spent $30 million to help Trump get elected in 2016, and the organization as a whole spent a record $412 million during the presidential year, according to its tax filings.

It has been a bumpy ride for the NRA over the past year.

The massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, last year created a groundswell of opposition to the NRA, driven by student-led protests over gun violence. Corporate America began pushing back, with some major retailers stopping gun sales and banks dropping discounts or certain services for NRA members and gunmakers.

More recently it was disclosed that Russian operatives tried to use contacts in the NRA to influence American elections. Democrats in Congress vowed to launch investigations into the gun lobby.

The NRA does not release detailed membership numbers but has repeatedly said in recent years that it has about 5 million members. The tax-exempt organization’s filings with the IRS for 2016 and 2017, the most recent years available, show combined losses of nearly $64 million. And income from membership dues plunged about $35 million in 2017.

The financial turmoil was seen as a key reason the NRA raised its dues last year for the second consecutive year.

Around the same time, the NRA saw its political influence wane during the 2018 elections and got outspent by gun control groups headed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. More than a dozen NRA-backed congressional candidates lost in last year’s midterms.

The NRA also faces regulatory pressures in New York, where the marketing of its line of insurance for gun owners involved in shootings was scrutinized. That legal action ultimately led the broker and underwriting firm for the insurance to pay millions of dollars in fines and abandon the program.

The NRA’s charter was created in New York, and there are concerns that state officials may look for ways to strip it of its nonprofit status.

With the organization struggling financially, even some NRA stalwarts have begun questioning whether the millions spent on public relations and NRATV is worth the money.

One NRATV segment in particular seemed to be the last straw for some members: It took the children’s show “Thomas & Friends” to task for adding some ethnically and gender diverse characters to its lineup of talking locomotives and other vehicles. The segment featured several trains wearing Ku Klux Klan hoods and sitting on flaming tracks.

It’s unclear if the divide is so gaping that it will lead to the ouster of NRA leaders during the convention.

None of the more than two dozen board members contacted by The Associated Press would comment, with several saying they do not publicly discuss internal politics. Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s managing director of public affairs, said recent reports of turmoil or financial troubles have been exaggerated and fueled by anti-gun forces.

Ackerman McQueen declined to comment.

Another question that could be answered at the convention is the fate of the NRA’s president, retired Lt. Col. Oliver North, a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s. He has a $1 million contract with Ackerman McQueen. That has raised alarm bells within the NRA about conflicts of interest.

John Crump, a longtime NRA member, firearms instructor and contributor to Ammoland, an industry publication, said he has never seen such a split within the NRA as exists now. But he is doubtful that any real change will take place.

“I know a lot of people want that, but I just don’t see it happening,” he said. “I think they have too much power right now. It’s going to take a big revolt to get them out of power.”

The strife has shades of the divisions that erupted in the 1990s when Neal Knox, an NRA leader in line to become its president, questioned the NRA’s direction and spending and found himself ousted by those who supported Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s CEO with close ties to Ackerman McQueen.

Jeff Knox, a longtime NRA member and the son of Neal Knox, said the arguments today are similar to those from two decades ago. In a recent column, Knox questioned whether the NRA can survive.

“Could there actually be a group of directors within the upper echelons of the board who put the NRA first, above personal financial gain, cronyism and old loyalties?” he told the AP. “That would be a pleasant surprise.”

comments

  1. avatar neiowa says:

    What find of fool would read, much less spread, the BS from the damn progtards at the AP? Front for the DNC.

    1. avatar Love the smell of H9 in the morning says:

      History will look back at this specific NRA meeting and either describe it as the turning point that kept the NRA alive, or the last nail in its coffin by confirming the NRA has no future in this modern world.

      I fear the latter.

      1. avatar Freebird says:

        The fact that only when NRA funds dry up and membership tanks , do they even consider letting an ‘ outsider ‘ run for its Board should tell everyone how entrenched the corruption is.

        ” We promise NRA will now ‘ listen ‘ to its members ” …… Uh – Huh , sure.

        ” I’ll hold the football Charlie Brown , while you run up and kick it …… “

        1. avatar Craig in IA says:

          I believe you’ll all find out that the famous quote by Mark Twain will come through in the end. Been around far too long and have seen NRA declared dead and finished too many times in the past. Leftist dreams, being helped on by a bunch of gun folk who ought to be grown up and know better by now.

          Just finished registerining for Nashville next year and settled in waiting for the BBQ to begin.

          Seriously, glad some of you are not here in Indy. I’m going to have a great time.

        2. avatar John in Ohio says:

          “being helped on by a bunch of gun folk who ought to be grown up and know better by now.”

          Ignoring, minimizing, or ridiculing concerns and complaints of gun folk is one of the problems with the NRA. You exemplify that here.

        3. avatar Clark Kent says:

          And exactly which groups benefits from demeaning/slandering/slighting the NRA? Hint: it is not the gun owners. THINK before you post.

    2. avatar Barnbwt says:

      And yet it is factually accurate, even if there is some editorializing.

      “I ain’t got cancer, this doc’s just a liberal shill peddling fake news! *cough, wheezing, sputter*”

      1. avatar Clark Kent says:

        ‘Factually accurate’? Then do us all a favor and supply some genuine facts. Otherwise you are just blowing bilge water.

  2. avatar Biercs Ambrose says:

    Members flock to HQ of membership organization that’s abandoned their interests for years.

    Asked for comment, leadership responded: “It’s like they think we work for them. What’s up with that?”

  3. avatar frank speak says:

    their power and influence does seem to be on the decline…and the white house isn’t helping…

  4. avatar Imayeti says:

    We used to say any landing you can WALK away from is a good landing. Now it’s any landing you can SWIM away from is a good one. Blame pilot Sully Sullenberger for raising the bar on that one.

    1. avatar Barnbwt says:

      “He’s not a hero; he just landed a plane to save his own ass!” Lol

  5. avatar Gary Lankford says:

    From what I think I understand from many others, certainly my own opinion, NRA’s failing is not because “it has strayed too far from its original mission of gun safety and outdoor shooting sports and become too political”, but because it has strayed too far into political compromise and self-serving monetary interests of it’s leadership. As a life member and benefactor, I will either see NRA change, or die, before I give it any more of my money.

    1. avatar Rusty Chains says:

      I sign up for 3 or 5 years at a time….no life membership for me. I quit them for a while because they weren’t fighting hard enough for gun rights. There are several people in leadership that need to go. I will likely sign up for another 3 years before I lapse, but as an absolutist and single issue voter, I am not happy with the LaPierre, Cox, Hammer cabal running NRA. I use to vote the slate recommended by Neal Knox, and when that failed I dropped NRA for a time. For now my donations go to GOA, since I know they won’t roll over to appease the antis.

      1. avatar barnbwt says:

        “But they’re too small to win!”

        To strain a biblical metaphor, it makes a lot more sense to support David against Goliath than it does to support the biggest, baddest warrior of the Israelites…who has been lost to history since he never fought the battle that mattered, lol. There’s always the chance that David grows into something more powerful with that support, too.

        1. avatar Knuckeldragger says:

          How on earth will plugging your nose and paying your nra dues cause change?

          Grow a spine and tell the nra they can have their $35 when they pry it from your cold dead hands,

    2. avatar Clark Kent says:

      Now THAT will show them! NOT! How old are you, twelve?

  6. avatar User1 says:

    “When are you going to write your letter of apology and resignation? Will you bow in shame or will you resist to the end?”

    1. avatar Voltage says:

      To maintain Wayne’s salary and benefits alone, the nra must have 70,000 regular memberships. So the first 70k members to send in their annual dues should just pay Wayne directly.

      Or just attract 1500 new life memberships each year to pay for Wayne’s housekeeping needs. I wonder if he even owns a gun?

      1. avatar User1 says:

        Wasn’t Wayne part of the Democrat establishment before taking control of the NRA? He has been running the NRA almost longer than I have been alive.

        The NRA I have known isn’t the NRA I want. I am used to seeing corruption — I sensed it in the NRA. As I got older I looked into the NRA, I found that it is indeed very corrupt and has no intention of succeeding on the behalf of the American people. I have been telling people for numerous years, only to be called (as of late) a Russian libtard agent troll bot. Now everyone knows the NRA is a sham full of shills and scammers.

        I guess we just got to trust in the plan a little longer.

        1. avatar HP says:

          I heard he was a North Korean spy, and even conspired with the Borg at one point.

        2. avatar ebd10 says:

          In the words of The Great Sage,
          “….Well he’s a friend of them long-haired hippie type pinko fags
          I betcha he’s even got a Commie flag
          Tacked up on the wall inside of his garage
          He’s a snake in the grass I tell ya guys
          He may look dumb but that’s just a disguise
          He’s a mastermind in the ways of espionage….”

  7. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

    I’d like to see the author write an article about how far the Democrat party has strayed too far to the left, and an article about the Democrat in-fighting. “None of the NRA board members would comment”. Well…..duh. I wouldn’t either. They “misquote” you by not putting quotes around your words BUT still, saying you said it.

    1. avatar User1 says:

      Democrats have always been this way. It took generations to get to the point where they can be open about who they truly are. In the past, America was very anti communist and made laws to suppress open communists. Now most youth think socialism/communism/fascism is a great idea and America should “upgrade” to those ideas to make the country great (finally). This allows the Democrats and Republicans to openly behave like they do behind closed doors. Even the NRA came out of the closet.

      They are no longer scared of repercussions because there is no substantive consequences coming from the American people.

  8. avatar hoosier_grand_daddy says:

    Welcome to Indiana, TTAGer’s! Hope you enjoy your visit! While you’re here, take a look at the two gun related bills which just passed the legislature – one protects self defenders from civil suits and the other funds firearms training for teachers to allow them to carry guns at school. Enjoy the hospitality of the Hoosier state and America’s oldest civil rights organization!

  9. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    “The National Rifle Association is used to battling forces that criticize its fiery and unbending efforts to protect gun rights.”

    There is no place in progressive politics for an organization that resolutely stands in defense of liberty and freedom—which is exactly what the NRA does and which is exactly what these opponents are arguing about changing. A kinder and gentler NRA, hollowed out and run by Quisling sell-outs to the Administrative State, is the perfect illustration of how Fascism actually works. Freedom and liberty, exemplified by gun-rights, is in the way of the New World Order. A more compliant NRA, one that just claims to support the 2nd Amendment without actually doing so, is much preferred.

  10. avatar Fire Wayne says:

    We are the N.R.A.
    We are all you’ve got.
    You need us.
    Gimmie money.

    G.O.A. will overtake them.
    2 million members strong and growing

  11. avatar EWTHeckman says:

    My only question for LaPierre is, “Why haven’t you resigned already?” The same goes for Chris Cox and Marian Hammer.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      I mean, he cashed out his pension even as the NRA is facing a cash-crunch…so it really is a good question WTF he’s still there, unless he’s being paid to destroy the org or something. It’s practically guaranteed that whoever comes after him will be more ‘hard line’ and presumably that’s what he must be trying to arrange things to prevent.

    2. avatar Lurker says:

      I second this. All need to tender their resignations, either gracefully, or under duress.

  12. avatar D Y says:

    While you are there, please corner the leadership and ask them why they (ad an organization and individuals) have not consistently and strongly come out against things such ad the red flag laws. I don’t have the access to do so, or I would. I want an answer straight from the horses mouth.

    Compromise doesn’t work with the anti-freedom crowd, on any topic. When the NRA doesn’t forcefully fight against every single issue relating to gun owners, yet pays large salaries, you lose current members, and you are losing potential members to organizations like GOA. I personally know people who point to every NRA statement that is less than “hell no” in response to the anti’s, as an indication that the leadership is uninterested or uninformed about the battle we are in.

  13. avatar Mad Max says:

    I have one question for Wayne LaPierre, et. al.; What the f*ck were you thinking with the bump stock ban and when is the NRA going to get off it’s a** and put a stop to it?

    Get your a**es in every court of competent jurisdiction with mulitiple Federal lawsuits ASAP!

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      They were thinking bump stocks don’t matter because they think NRA members are a bunch of Fudds…and they are largely correct. They do not think strategically, or they would have been selling NRA-branded bump stocks by the bushel instead of fretting over which overpriced cooler to peddle for donations, as they lose thousands of members and tens of millions of dollars in donations (and begin to be assailed from all corners by lawsuits from leftists that smell the blood in the water).

      1. avatar Mad Max says:

        Well, I think they are about to find out just how many of their dues paying members and donors are Fudds.

        Not a penny more until the NRA starts acting more like 2A absolutists.

        I’m redirecting my donations to the GOA and I think, in a few years, Leftists will find that GOA has become a much more formidable organization than the NRA ever was.

        As it stands now, the NRA should probably get out of the 2A activist business and stick with supporting shooting sports and training (Friends of NRA, NRA certified instructors, etc). Let GOA & SAF handle the 2A stuff.

        1. avatar EWTHeckman says:

          As it stands now, the NRA should probably get out of the 2A activist business and stick with supporting shooting sports and training (Friends of NRA, NRA certified instructors, etc). Let GOA & SAF handle the 2A stuff.

          I completely agree. To my knowledge, there is no other 2A organization that is anywhere close to doing this. It’s the NRA’s original mission and they are very, very good at it. It would be a terrible loss if this part of the NRA was dragged under by the 2A backstabbers in the board of directors.

        2. avatar Barnbwt says:

          Totally agree; they’ve always chafed at the activist stuff, and now that we have alternatives, maybe they can go back to sleep playing their fun little shooty games while adults cover for them.

    2. avatar Clark Kent says:

      The NRA does not stop ANY legislation. That is up to elected representatives. Take a Civics 101 class before you spout any further bilge. P.S. Where do ignorant oafs like you come from? Mars?

      1. avatar Mad Max says:

        Nobody said anything about the NRA stopping any legislation in this thread. What are you talking about?

        The NRA-ILA lobbies on behalf of gun owners and 2A supporters to influence legislation related to firearms. Sometimes that means that legislation doesn’t pass because it doesn’t have enough support or is vetoed by the President.

        The NRA also litigates firearms rights cases on Constitutional grounds and can get legislation overturned by the courts.

        The big problem with the bump stock ban is that it is not legislation but unconstitutional administrative overreach by the BATFE and represents a major threat to civil liberties (not just 2A rights) if allowed to stand.

        I think, in the end, the SCOTUS will rule that the bump stock ban is a “taking” and requires Congresdional legislation to be enacted (and funded).

        If the Chevron Defference fails before the bump stock case gets to the SCOTUS, the lower courts will have to reexamine their current rulings.

  14. avatar RetroG says:

    The Board of Directors of any organization are supposed to ask tough questions and get real answers. If they aren’t doing THAT, then they are open to legal consequences, AKA fines and even jail time.

    The NRA is just about bankrupt, and the spending they have been and continue to do is not in line with their alleged goals.

    They do seem to think we are all FUDS. Every time I look inside their magazine it is all about guns from yesteryear, country western singers, and promos for trucks. I like old guns as much as the next guy, but my most recent purchases were polymer, CNC ‘d and threaded for silencers. The NFA seems to escape them entirely. The last time I voluntarily listened to country & western music was taking my wife to a Carrie Underwood concert for her birthday, and that wasn’t really voluntary. I own a truck, but only because half the roads in Arizona will destroy a regular car’s suspension.

    They have set themselves up and now the devil may get his due. Good thing there are organizations like GOA and SAF.

  15. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    We all have our problems with the NRA. But they are the 800 lbs gorilla in the room. And politicians are very afraid of them. And that still is a very good thing. The NRA needs to survive. Everyone needs to become a member of your state gun civil rights group. That’s your best chance at changing things where you live. Try getting new folks into
    shooting. Try Growing our numbers. I wish they had this type of program in California when I was a kid.

    Fighting for Wetland and Gun Rights: CA Waterfowl 6 min long

    1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      btw
      I volunteered to help my local 4-H shooting program. We have our first range day tomorrow. It you look in your area you might find a group that really needs your help. So far I only had to spend one day a month for a 2 hour planning meeting, beginning in February. So it doesn’t require a lot of time.

    2. avatar Barnbwt says:

      “Very afraid” huh. If you say so. This may come as a shock, but leftists don’t attack things they actually fear can fight back; they grumbled a bunch, but didn’t dare try these lawsuits and affiliation bans in the 90s after reaping the consequences of the AWB at the ballot box. Hell, Trump told them himself they had nothing to fear…and he was proven right.

      The 800lb gorilla is fat & lazy, and is about to lose a foot if not more to diabetes.

      1. avatar Clark Kent says:

        The REAL fat and lazy 800 pound gorilla is the millions of firearm owners who can’t be bothered to get off of their collective fat azzes to bother to REGISTER to vote, much less cast a ballot.

        1. avatar Mad Max says:

          You got that right.

          We got 5 Democrat Supreme Court justices in Pennsylvania because few people bothered to vote in that election a few years ago.

          The total turnout for the entire state was less than the number of registered voters in my county. If gun owners had come out to vote, the 5 Republican candidates would have easily won.

  16. avatar Tom Worthington says:

    The NRA support for unconstitutional Red Flag laws really ticks me off. However, I also know the other side still fears the NRA above all others. Sometimes, bigger actually is better.

    1. avatar Mad Max says:

      The NRA can take the headwinds while GOA and SAF use the NRAs slipstream.

  17. avatar strych9 says:

    So far as there are problems I don’t think they have to do with the NRA becoming too political. That’s a given in the current climate.

    For the sake of brevity I’ll say it this way: Gun Rights are part and parcel of a non-entitlement lifestyle, a lifestyle of being as self-sufficient as possible within the confines of reality. The opposition is the polar opposite on every front. As I’ve said before, politicians are not a la carte.

    That means that if the Left (the current statiest statists) wins on other topics we get gun control as part of the package. People voting for Medicare For All are voting for socialized medicine with a side of gun control. Those voting to “keep abortion legal” even though it’s under no real threat will get abortion with a side of gun control. Trump “raised your taxes” and you think Bernie’s going to lower them for you? Side of gun control. You want a baked potato on the side? Fuck you, gun control is what’s being served.

    The hardcore Lefties know this and want the whole package but many people in the middle, where things really get politically decided in this country, are generally unaware that when you elect a politician or political party you get the whole package. They are vulnerable to being tempted by a few key issues and getting a lot of things they don’t really want/care about and which are bad for us.

    Just picking a name and a recent meme: If Kamala Harris wins because “it’s the first woman POTUS, it’s historic!” we’re just as fucked as if Bloomberg was elected running on a flat-out gun control platform.

  18. avatar Richard D Cutie says:

    We need the NRA!!! We don’t need Wayne and New York. It’s time for changes to leadership and thier greed and a headquarters in a place where they are welcome. To hell with New York!! That man Wayne is a crook !!

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email