TTAG Readers Speak Out on the Controversies Surrounding the NRA

nra members meeting indy 2019

Dan Z for TTAG

[ED: We asked for readers to give us their thoughts on the the current controversies swirling around the National Rifle Association and we’ve received a number of thoughtful responses. Click the link above if you’d like to contribute, too. Here are a few more of your responses and we’ll be running more over the next few days.]

I’ve been a member of the NRA for almost five years now. I became one immediately after getting my LTC. I live in Massachusetts, so defending and (God willing) expanding gun rights is a very important issue to me.

I remember the run on the gun shops when Healey proclaimed her ban. I missed out, and still don’t own an AR or AK.

The NSSF is supporting a lawsuit to overturn that. GOAL (our state NRA affiliate), GOA, Comm2A (another state gun rights organization), and the SAF have all supported or initiated actions directly opposing unconstitutional infringements on my rights as a MA and US citizen.

Maybe I’m jaded, but the one consequential action I can recall the NRA supporting and achieving since I became a member is the Bump Stock ban. What the hell am I paying for? I don’t know if I should renew my membership or not and I look to outlets like TTAG to help make these decisions.

The NRA is the elephant in the room when it comes to gun rights, but I honestly don’t feel like they’re helping anymore.

Al
Brookfield, MA

From reader Jay Bethel:

I am a Patron Life Member of the NRA and while I do not contribute to them lately, I believe they have been, and still are, essential to keeping our 2nd Amendment rights.

Having said that I am also disappointed and disgusted by the current situation.

Granted, a good part of the trouble the NRA faces is NOT self-inflicted, as in the illegal financial moves by the NY state government, and a focused, well-financed effort to attack the NRA by anti-rights groups and individuals.

However, I personally feel that there are a lot of stupid issues caused by arrogance and a sense of entitlement on the part of the top leadership. All of this together indicates to me that the leadership has been asleep at the wheel and has allowed the organization to fall into the difficulties it now faces. Some changes are needed.

I do not feel qualified to assess the leadership as individuals, but I do know that appearances count these days. In the anger and pain after the Sandy Hook shootings I came to the conclusion that Wayne LaPierre was a terrible spokesman for gun owners and that he should be replaced, or defer the task to someone more clever on their feet, at ease on camera, and more charismatic. He is simply terrible on TV.

Many other gun rights organizations are up-and-coming, and due to this situation they are building bigger memberships and clout. However I believe part of that is due to the fact that they were able to operate, “under the radar” for years while the NRA took the hits – the anger and hatred focused on NRA allowed the more nimble organizations to be more effective and avoid scrutiny by the left.

In closing, I believe we really do need the NRA, but the NRA needs us, and it must stop the damage control and coverups. NRA must rein-in its lousy spending habits, fix its insatiable hunger for more and more funding and the waste that engenders, and put gun rights first above all else. In my mind that means that a few people at the top need to be replaced with more capable, effective individuals.

And this from Chance McCall:

As a Life Member of the NRA, I have been concerned for a number of years that the organizational structure of the NRA and the lack of governance by its Board of Directors would lead to a crisis like the one the NRA is now facing. Since I consider myself to be a part of the NRA and I consider the NRA my house, I am very disappointed with what has been going on and what happened at the annual meeting and the lies about what happened behind closed doors on Monday.

I want the NRA to succeed and continue to function. As a gun owner I am very concerned this may not happen. I am pleading with the Board of Directors to take control and fix the operational problems. Any not-for-profit association that allows the paid staff to control their Board of Directors has a serious problem.

One of the long-standing problems has been that the NRA has only managed to enroll a small percentage of active gun owners. This robs the pro gun movement of both money and grass root strength. The current publicity will only make it harder to increase the percentage of gun owners who join and get involved.

I am not ignorant of the complexities of dealing with either the public, the press, or elected officials. I understand the importance of proper dress. However, the issue of clothing costs is not defensible even to me.

I, until I retired a year ago, operated a large political consulting operation in Illinois. All of the principals wore made-to-measure suits. The average cost was around $3,000.00 per suit, not the outrageous numbers your internal documents indicate was being spent. More importantly, everyone paid for their own wardrobe.

Do the NRA insiders who recently defended these clothes in a Facebook post have any idea how a typical member views these kind of expenses when considering how much, if any, money they should send to the NRA given their own income is statistically under $50,000 per year? And, that does not cover the cost of trips as an issue.

I used to do work for President Reagan which meant traveling from Springfield, Illinois to Washington D.C. on a fairly regular basis. Never once did I use private flights or limos to get there or return. I currently am part of a national consulting company and none of our consultants who travel regularly travel first class or beyond, even though our clients pay the travel expenses.

Given the recent, very intellectually insulting Facebook post, my hopes have dropped even farther that the Board will accept responsibility for the problems they have created, but I still hope that the few Board members who really care can lead a charge to change the Board to new members who are ready and willing to fix the NRA.

comments

  1. avatar 41mag says:

    NRA is hoping that this just becomes another story that goes away in the news cycle.

    The ONLY WAY anything happens at this point is, the story DOES NOT GO AWAY.

  2. avatar Wayne Blows says:

    Wayne LaPierre has to go, plain and simple. I was a NRA member in starting in 1977, my father signed me up when I was 10. I haven’t given them a cent for 6 years as in my state they don’t even have a liaison and my Rights are under attack. I would rather give my money to organizations that actually fight for my Rights as opposed to Wayne LaPierres bad leadership. It is clear that he is just in it for the 5 million plus dollars he makes a year. I have never seen Dana Loesch get outsmarted by a child but I have seen Wayne LaPierre look like a fool on a couple of occasions. While I like the old NRA principles, I don’t care for the direction that Wayne LaPierre has steered the NRA. It really just seems like it is just a job to him and he really doesn’t care or even know about the issues that effect the Second Amendment. When the NRA pulled our state rep it was the last straw. No conspiracy here, if you don’t represent me in my state then you don’t get another penny of my money. The NRA needs to be fixed and the first step is to kick Wayne LaPierre to the curb before he takes it down in flames. There is strength in numbers but I cant give any more money to an organization that pretty much abandoned me and my state.
    BTW: I haven’t spent $275,000 for clothes in my entire life and I don’t dress like a bum.

    1. avatar Ragnarredbeard says:

      +3

      1. avatar Mack Hicks says:

        +4

  3. avatar Rocketman says:

    While I have been an NRA member in the past, I’ve decided that I simply can’t support an organization that blindly supports Republicans over any other party, even when those candidates are clearly more pro-gun than their Republican opponents. When 3 candidates are running for an office and two of them rate an “F” and the third rates an “A”, it should be a no brainer to support the latter yet the NRA frequently doesn’t. I would hope that the next NRA board changes this policy and starts supporting pro-gun candidates that DESERVE to be elected.

    1. avatar FedUp says:

      1. The National Republican Association seems to be a thing of the past.

      2. I can’t imagine endorsing any Demoncrat for any elected office, anywhere, in the post-2016 climate of the DNC vs the USA.

  4. avatar barnbwt says:

    “Many other gun rights organizations are up-and-coming, and due to this situation they are building bigger memberships and clout. However I believe part of that is due to the fact that they were able to operate, “under the radar” for years while the NRA took the hits – the anger and hatred focused on NRA allowed the more nimble organizations to be more effective and avoid scrutiny by the left.”

    I really have never understood this argument. If GOA became the boogeyman tomorrow (which is what the ‘fear’ of losing the NRA as said boogeyman means, right?) wouldn’t that be a good thing? Because that’s the argument for maintaining the NRA. It also isn’t as though ‘boogeyman status’ imparts any sort of special powers or influence to the group, either; it just makes them the face for the gun rights movement on national TV –and frankly, the NRA has a shitty face most of the time.

    The root problem is –and Trump said it best– there’s no need to fear the NRA. Outrageous as it was for him to say something so monumentally foolish, it was still the honest truth. The org has been so compromised by RNC politics that it has no loyalty to its message, and any politician associated with the RNC party can be guaranteed of NRA backing, absent some absurd level of betrayal. Even Rick Scott got their endorsement after unprecedentedly damaging Floridians’ RKBA after Parkland. I’m still convinced that the NRA endorsement of the bump stock ban was because Trump wanted them gone –again, the guy is foolishly honest in his actions more often than not– and them hitching their wagon to man combined with their own ambivalence to gun rights in general, made supporting a ban the logical option.

    The whole point of an 800lb gorilla is that it’s supposed to be fearsome, powerful, and not to be trifled with. The NRA today is a milquetoast, impotent, and off-balance manatee; morbidly obese and an uncontrolled diabetic. Sure it’s big, but that’s all it is; it can’t organize to destroy enemies & elevate allies, it can’t fend off opponents with money, and it can’t even organize convincing voter drives because the ratings-system has been so diluted by partisan hackery. Ironically enough, the biggest threat the NRA poses, is to budding gun rights orgs that would dethrone it; but one word from LaPierre to put out a hit on GOA/SAF/etc, and enough members would buy into the relentless propaganda from the various NRA media outlets, that those challengers would never recover.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      Is the assertion that GOA/etc would have even more embarrassing/incriminating scandals plague it the instant that the left starts paying attention to them? Unless there’s a GOA HQ sex dungeon or something, that seems unlikely at this point. When the NRA still had a veneer of respectability that tack might have had some merit, but today we have BoD member blackmailing each other, and embezzlement of funds for mistresses & tailoring (John Edwards type shit)

      1. avatar Ing says:

        I think the assertion he’s making is twofold:

        One, that the NRA’s dual status as the anti-gun horde’s boogeyman and the de facto 800 lb. gorilla are neither earned nor inevitable; if it collapsed today, smaller and more virile organizations would quickly fill the void and the progressive media machine would find another boogeyman among them. Plus ca change…

        Two, that if the NRA wasn’t so self-absorbed, it probably would (and might still as a last-gasp strategy) turn what energy it still has to undermining pro-gun orgs that might rival its supremacy.

        1. avatar barnbwt says:

          I know I’d rather face off against one old, fat, lazy, 800lb gorilla…than against a troupe of eight cooperating 100lb chimps that could each rip off my face! I suspect Bloomberg prefers it this way as well…

          A new organization composed of a confederation of state-level (ie local issue-oriented) gun groups, whose power within the whole is determined by how well they manage their state-level elected officials & gun rights progress…would be very formidable.

      2. avatar HellBilly says:

        If there’s a GOA sex dungeon then we MUST know where this is located, how to get in, times of operation etc… I will personally investigate and take the bullet for y’all on this one.

  5. avatar joefoam says:

    I agree that the NRA needs to continue on but with some new leadership. Fresh faces with fresh ideas and goals are needed in a changing landscape. I have hedged my bets with membership in GOA & SAF. Whoever I see getting the most done will get the most of my support.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      In order for that to happen, you’d need to decapitate almost the entire national-level leadership, though. Whatever comes of this, the NRA will look very different in 5-10 years than it does now. Either they continue on, and corruption gets to the point that NRA leaders are being convicted of crimes, and large state-level affiliates sever their connection to the group, or the VA staff is forced to resign more or less en masse, and a new generation of bright-eyed idealists can try to run things better for a while. I personally think the structure of the NRA itself invites corruption, so the former situation seems preferable to the latter (which won’t happen anyway, at the rate things are going)

    2. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

      While I am also a Life Member of SAF and a strong supporter of them, their role in advancing gun rights in the United States is very different than the role of the NRA. I believe we need them both.

      GOA is another story. I do not belong or give them any money. They are even less transparent than the NRA. What little information that can be gathered about them:
      ( https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/521256643) does not reflect well on them at all.

      The GOA total revenue for 2016 was $2,259,601 and executive compensation and other salaries was a whopping 26.4% of total revenue. $622,687 in executive compensation and other salaries doesn’t leave much for fighting for our 2A rights.

      The SAF total revenue for 2016 was $4,080,423 and executive compensation and other salaries was only 1.6% ($58,500) of total revenue

      Whereas the NRA total revenue for 2016 was $366,889,703 and executive compensation and other salaries was only 12.4% of total revenue.

  6. avatar Dave G. says:

    I think the leadership of the NRA headed by Mr. Wayne LaPierre has become too complacent and also too contemptuous of the NRA’s grassroots membership. It is high time that the NRA board of directors voted Mr. LaPierre and his sycophants out of office and out of the NRA. To succeed in its mission, the NRA needs twenty million members, not five or six. Given the present scandal, the NRA will be lucky to keep its present members, let alone build up strength. If the board of directors can’t or won’t act, the NRA, which is already circling the drain, will be flushed into oblivion.

    I cannot and will not throw money down the drain. I’m sorry that I have to vote with my pocketbook, but I have no other way of protesting the current state of affairs at the NRA.

  7. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    I have been involved in high levels of other national organizations and found they all seem to evolve from the original intent into a normal bureaucracy oriented to preserving their own personal power and prestige. This frame of mind excludes concern for all the members who contribute in various ways and starts driving people away.

    NRA appears to be in this mode of operation. The only cure I have seen to be successful is to replace the upper levels and those who support the leaders.

    In other terms, replace the politicians with statesmen who will keep in mind the desires of the members and work toward those goals.

    1. avatar barnbwt says:

      I think modeling a national rights group after the (early) US government might not be a terrible approach. You have local affiliates who have some measure of autonomy to pursue their local issues, but there is an overarching framework keeping them roughly on the same page (ie focused on gun rights & not abortion or income inequality) with which they can coordinate efforts with other affiliates, or draw upon some pooled resources when necessary. Each of these orgs sends delegates of their choosing to meet/communicate several times a year to conduct that coordination, and to set the overall strategy & mission (ie focus on carry rights vs. feature-bans, etc)

    2. avatar ChanceMcCall says:

      What I have done is to cut my donations in half and send money only by check accompanied by a letter explaining why I have done so. I send copies of the letter to every member of the BoD I have access to. I have also put off advancing my Life Membership to a Life Ring of Freedom membership and wrote a letter to both the NRA and the BoD explaining why.

      I believe we must continue to fund the NRA, but we must also work to fix them. It seems to me that pressuring the BoD is the only way to accomplish this. That and voting in new Members of the Board in the next election.

  8. avatar Kendahl says:

    What we are seeing in the NRA is what happens when the people in charge put the institution and their place in it above the mission. It’s time for a thorough house cleaning.

    My state has an active and fairly effective gun rights organization. Its leaders always comment on gun legislation before the relevant body. Most of the time, the NRA representative never appears. Sometimes, the rep comments in opposition to the state organization.

    1. avatar Texan says:

      Yup! Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    2. avatar Freebird says:

      State NRA groups say ” Let us Handle it ” to gun owners they BLAME gun owners for not being vocal enough when they FAIL.

      Looking at you – N.J. Rifle + Pistol assoc. / ( among others )

  9. avatar rimrock says:

    All the trash advertising from the NRA for more than 15 years was sent to me just so Mr. LaPierre could shop for $1000+ suits just like a Philadelphia slick shoes lawyer! Now, I feel my effort to become a measly $500 life member because of that trash advertising seems to be wasted money! Too bad I didn’t givecthose hard earned funds to SAF or other more worthy fighter for our 2A rights.

    In 2017, I visited my son in Washington D. C. He did a grand job of helping me enjoy some of our country’s greatest treasures like the Gettysburg battle field, the national mall, and (with much pride and joy before hand) the national firearms museum at the N R A. The firearms museum was just OK to me, but my strong desire to meet workers at the N R A had no way of happening. On that day, I realized I am not an important person to the N R A. They could care less about me–they only care about the color green!!! My meeger contributions of 10 or 20 dollars here and there since the 1970us were of very little importance to the rich policymakers at NRA. I’ll find better things to do with my money, and trust that the group think on the 2A will find ways to protect ourselves from the pit burials suffered by the jews in WW2.

  10. avatar Waywatcher says:

    When the NRA falls, it won’t be from without, it will be from within.
    I don’t want them to fall.
    It will be the last stand of America as we know it.

  11. avatar Clint pullin says:

    We pay the NRA for it to support the bumpstock ban when a bumpstock in no way changes the sear into a full automatic weapon. We have already given up withinvour supposed strongest supporter of the 2A. Fall from within — couldn’t agree more. We the supporters of the 2A are flying the white flag and this LARGE continental geography known now we the USA will become a continent of 3 countries in a very short time unless we who support the 2A andstayunitedand come together in a strong unified group to always vote gun banners out of office!!!!

  12. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    I first joined the NRA after Sandy Hook. Prior to that time I had been a close observer of several previous concerted efforts at gun control so I was familiar with the gun-control movement’s strategy of using gun-related tragedies as moral justification to further their cause. I am very familiar with how these kinds of social movements work and, by all rights, the gun control movement’s well honed campaignes should have been more successful.

    Only they weren’t. Time again they failed—despite strong efforts in congress, the gun control advocates and their political allies never seemed to be able to find the votes to pass the legislation. Time and again elected representatives on both sides turned away from the demands for more gun-control and supported our 2nd Amendment rights. The reason the well-financed, well organized gun-control efforts failed was due to the NRA’s well honed behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts.

    Simply put, when it comes to lobbying, when it comes to moving the political goal-posts, the NRA is the best in the business.

    I realize I’m not going to change the TTAG community’s mind about this . . . But rather than get in keyboard-warrior pissin’ contests about the NRA’s management it might be more instructive if the NRA’s critics would stop for a moment and consider what hasn’t happened as a direct result of NRA lobbying. From Columbine, to Parkland, to today—-for decades—the NRA has quietly defeated the gun-controllers’ best efforts. There is simply no other organization that has the NRA’s track record for successfully opposing gun-control political activism. As long as they can do that, they’ll continue to get my money.

  13. avatar Chuck says:

    I’m a Life Member of the NRA, as is my father and my Grandfather too until he passed at 96. I don’t follow the internal workings of the organization close enough to feel I can make an informed opinion upon the current ruckus. There have been a number of recent issues upon which I’ve disagreed with the Leadership. The NRA’s backing of the Bump Stock Ban is a good example of one of those decisions. Without forensic proof proving the Vegas shooter used a bump stock equipped AR (note: several of the shooter’s guns were bump stock equipped, but no forensic evidence has been presented to the public proving any of those weapons were used by the shooter, nor were the Federal Agencies (ATF and FBI) allowed to confirm their use in the shooting. That proof is still solely under the eye of Vegas authorities. Our fearless Leadership was OK with the Federal banning of Bump Stocks. When the ATF’s redefining of bump stocks being a part of the trigger control group (they’re not a part of the group in any way, shape or form) they began a slight protest, but neither long or loud. That back down is of concern mainly because of the leadership’s claim that we will accept no more legislation. When you state there will be no compromise and then assist in a compromise, something’s wrong with that leadership. While I’m still a member and remain one, I no longer donate to the NRA. Other pro 2A groups are doing more and fighting harder, they will get my donations.

  14. avatar Freebird says:

    I see the NRA statement just issued as proof positive the internal swamp not only will not change , they are circling the wagons and saying — ” Everything is under control ”

    Of course the comments Nationwide say otherwise, Bump Stocks were the straw that broke the NRA’s back .The MONEY has stopped rolling in, the gravy train has ground to a screeching halt and Members are moving on to less BLOATED gun rights organizations that do not have the ARROGANT , aristocrat ” let them eat cake ‘( and Wine Club ) attitude.

    I expect N.R.A. will now spend any remaining member money on – ” Positive Public Relations , P.R. and spin doctor ” consulting .’ ….. ( Pro Tip , too late )

  15. avatar George D. Venable says:

    Who said “We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period — with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel. ” ?

    Wayne Lapierre 1999 Annual meeting
    Said a few other things where I’m not included in the “We”.
    Now he caved on bumpstocks. Neal Knox was warning us of the loose finances in the 1990’s , so he got booted from the Board which is nearly all composed of folks put forth by the Nominating Committee(might as well be just Wayne). I vote for only the one or 2 each year that are nominated by petition of the members. The Board needs changing. Wayne has to go. I joined 48 years ago and am a Benefactor Member and do support other gun rights groups – but we need to fix the NRA , not leave it. Bumping North and Childress so they could make a ring kisser President was sad.

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