Tag Archives: NRA

Practical Steps Toward Improving the NRA

(February 5, 2019) Over the years, I have often been pretty critical of the NRA and its leadership team. Even though I try to make a point of expressing my support for the organization and its mission, there are always some who see my criticism as an attack, and an attempt to tear down the organization. In this column, rather than simply pointing at the flaws and failures of the association, I want to address some practical and reasonable solutions and expectations.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to think that a 147-year old, $300 million plus, per year organization, with an elected board of 76 deeply entrenched directors, would or could suddenly shift course and completely revamp the way they do business. Even the famous Cincinnati Revolt in 1977, which was a ground-shaking event, only resulted in only minor changes in the long-term operations of the organization – and years of wrangling for power and control. Another result of the Cincinnati Revolt, was the inevitable restructuring of the rules to make sure that nothing like it could ever happen again. That started with the revolutionaries, putting up defenses against a counter-revolution, and then was continued by the “Old Guard” as they slowly regained power. Today, virtually all of the reforms of Cincinnati have been reversed or modified beyond recognition.

So, with all of the problems that the NRA is currently facing: A $30 million deficit, declining revenue and membership numbers, legal assaults and much frustration over their Carry Guard insurance and training program, accusations of illegal campaign spending, and suggestions of improper dealings with Russian agents, and a large segment of the membership upset over what they see as capitulation on core issues… What would be realistic expectations for reforms at NRA?

To begin with, the Board of Directors needs to establish very clear guidance to the Executive Vice President and staff to ensure that every communication, every policy, every strategy, and anything else that comes out of the organization is consistent with the core values and principles of the association and the Second Amendment. This should be backed up by an oversight subcommittee of the Board, composed of Second Amendment purists who will always place principles over politics. Too often, it seems that the political operatives are driving the boat, leaving principles behind in the name of pragmatism. Closer oversight from some purists on the Board would go a long way toward solving this problem.

Next, the Board must review the audit processes that should be in place to ensure full compliance with all state and federal fundraising and political spending laws and regulations. Everyone at NRA should be very aware that everything they do will be scrutinized by regulators, reporters, and political operatives looking for any irregularity or impropriety. With that awareness, it is totally inexcusable that there should be even the slightest hint or appearance of the organization straying from the straight and narrow. We know that accusations will always be thrown at us, so we must be sure that we are absolutely scrupulous and beyond reproach in all of our dealings.

Stories that the NRA accepted large donations from Russian citizens, and then used that money to support a presidential candidate, should be easy to refute. Accusations that the NRA used the same political advertising agencies as candidates they supported – suggesting that they were coordinating independent expenditures with those campaigns – should never even come up, and if they did, NRA should be able to very quickly disprove such accusations, but so far, they have refused to even answer any questions about the matter.

The roll-out of a major new program like NRA Carry Guard should be preceded by thorough examination of the insurance and solicitation laws of every state, to ensure that there would be no conflicts or compliance issues, but that apparently didn’t happen with Carry Guard. There should also have been in-depth discussion with the Training Division and the Board committee that oversees training, along with key training counselors around the country, before such a major training initiative was introduced, but again, that apparently didn’t happen. This has resulted in fines and lawsuits from Insurance Commissioners in several states, and confusion and anger among NRA Instructors. Where was the due diligence that would have avoided these problems? The Board must institute policies and procedures to make sure such mistakes and “bad optics” don’t recur, and those responsible for the blunders must be held accountable.

Next, the Board needs to review all vendor agreements, eliminate any unnecessary programs, and begin transitioning as much as possible back in-house. Currently, the NRA pays over $40 million a year to one PR and Advertising company. They also pay a telemarketing firm something in the neighborhood of $30 million a year, and they list four separate companies just to “advise” them on fundraising, at a total of over $3 million per year – just for advice!

Then there is the issue of executive compensation. While it is not unusual for executives in some major non-profit corporations – such as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts or the Guggenheim Museum – to receive compensation in excess of $1 million dollars per year, these are typically professional executives who could earn such compensation at any number of similar organizations, and are funded by wealthy patrons and huge endowments. Such is not the case with Wayne LaPierre and Chris Cox. They rose to their current positions via internal political maneuvering and being in the right place at the right time. Both would be hard-pressed to find employment in the $200 to $300k range as senior lobbyists in a DC firm, and wouldn’t even be considered for any sort of senior management positions.

The Board should review all executive compensation packages and bring them down to more reasonable levels. NRA executives should not be expected to work for free, but it is simply not right to be paying LaPierre almost a million and a half dollars per year while begging hard-working NRA members for $20 contributions.

The steps suggested here are not dramatic. They would not jeopardize the stability of the organization or damage its political clout in any way, nor would they be costly or difficult. On the contrary, these steps would stabilize the NRA, refocus it on its core missions, establish proper and long-lacking Board oversight of operations, save money, reduce costly mistakes, and restore the faith of members and former members in the NRA’s mission and leadership. These are all things that the NRA Board should have been doing all along, and needs to do now.

But instead of taking these reasonable, rational steps to improve and strengthen the NRA, scuttlebutt inside the organization suggests that the leadership is going to try to “solve” the problems by creating a for-profit entity, out from under the NRA non-profit umbrella and less accessible to the prying eyes of government regulators, nosy reporters, and “disgruntled members” like me. In other words, rather than fixing the problems, they are going to try and hide them from view.

Let’s hope the rumors aren’t true, and that the NRA Board of Directors has the will and integrity to do what needs to be done.

Criticizing NRA Executives is NOT “Attacking the NRA”

Bless her heart, Marion Hammer just can’t help herself. She just had to take a shot at me for exposing some of the financial corruption and poor decisions in the NRA, and take some jabs at my dead father in the process. Don McDougal also wants to incorrectly frame my criticism of NRA executives as “hating on the organization.”

Let’s get one thing straight. I couldn’t agree more with the title of Mrs. Hammer’s column. NRA absolutely needs strong, proven leadership, now more than ever. Where we differ is that Marion thinks that Wayne LaPierre represents that “proven leadership,” and I think he’s at the core of the problem.

Of course, when the facts aren’t on your side, go for personal attacks.

It doesn’t matter whether my father had ambitions to take over the NRA or not. I happen to know that he didn’t, but that’s irrelevant, just as it’s irrelevant whether I’m motivated by a 20-some-year old grudge, or whether Marion or Wayne, or others at NRA have accomplished some things to be proud of. What matters is relevant facts. Facts that I laid out pretty clearly, and which Mrs. Hammer and Mr. McDougal didn’t bother to address.

I agree with Marion and Don that the NRA has done a lot of very good work over the years, and I’m proud to say that my father and many close friends played major roles in much of that good work. I’ve never said that the NRA hasn’t done good, and have argued consistently that it is critical that we have a strong and effective NRA with as many members as we can get. Unlike Marion and Don though, I am willing to recognize when NRA leaders make missteps and mistakes, and when those failures demonstrate an ongoing pattern, they need to be addressed. I’m also not willing to turn a blind eye to blatant corruption and self-serving.

Let’s go over some of the pertinent facts again:

According to NRA’s tax filings, Wayne LaPierre is receiving annual compensation in excess of $1.4 million per year, and in 2015 received over $5 million dollars from NRA.

The same filings report that Chris Cox received over $1.2 million in compensation in 2017, and at least 9 other NRA executives received compensation that was between $450,000 and $800,000 that year.

Josh Powell, Wayne’s Chief of Staff and for a time, acting ED of General Operations, received almost $800,000, including over $100,000 in “taxable expense reimbursement.”

And even though the IRS form 990 reports payments to the advertising and PR firm Ackerman McQueen in excess of $20 million as I reported, later in that same filing document, it states that Ack-Mac actually received more than twice that much – over $40 million!

I will accept a correction from Mrs Hammer on one point: I incorrectly reported that some NRA staff had been laid off, when in fact they were not NRA staffers, but rather Ack-Mac staffers working for NRA TV. Which raises another issue. Did you know that NRA TV is operated by Ack-Mac, as is the NRA magazine America’s First Freedom? Editor Mark Chestnut and familiar NRA TV personalities like Cam Edwards, Ginny Simone, Dana Loesch, etc., are Ack-Mac employees, not NRA employees. Long-time NRA Board member Robert K. Brown bragged in his last reelection bio that he had saved the association something like a half-million dollars. The bulk of that savings came from his insistence that NRA quit paying Ack-Mac over $400,000 a year for production of the online version of America’s First Freedom. As a magazine publisher himself, Brown knew NRA was paying way too much.

Marion also reiterated that Wayne and Chris had called for bump-stocks to be “regulated,” not banned. That’s true, and it was a huge mistake that led directly to the ban. I predicted this result when I called them out for that very stupid statement at the time, and called for the Board to repudiate the statement – but Marion jumped to their defense. As I pointed out then, if Wayne and Chris had said that the NRA was open to revisiting the regulations regarding bump-stocks, that might have been excusable as a political maneuver to help dodge negative action in Congress – though you have to wonder why congressional action was such a concern, when our Republican “friends” held majorities in both houses and the White House. Instead, Wayne and Chris said that the “NRA believes” that bump-stocks should be more tightly regulated, and President Trump quickly agreed and gave the order to BATFE.

Wayne and Chris have taken a similarly destructive and unprincipled position on Extreme Risk Protection Orders, merely insisting that some semblance of due process be included in the laws in order to get approval from NRA. This has given a green light to Trump and numerous Republican governors to pursue ERPO legislation to deprive gun owners of their arms based on someone’s concern that they might be dangerous, while leaving these potentially dangerous people free to roam the streets with ready access to knives, gasoline, poisons, planes, automobiles, and all manner of other dangerous and potentially deadly tools. Not only does this result in Republican “friends” doing stupid things that push GunVoters away from them, at least one person flagged by one of these ERPO’s has been killed by police trying to confiscate his guns. Have any lives been saved?

It is also a fact that NRA was over $30 million in the red in 2017, and had an almost $50 million deficit in its pension fund. These deficits aren’t due to lack of revenue, but rather irresponsible spending.

In short, Marion Hammer and Don McDougal are saying that since NRA has accomplished some good things during Wayne LaPierre’s 30 years at the helm, the members and the Board of Directors should be unconcerned about a $30 million deficit, profligate spending, cronyism, and obscene salaries. Nor should they be concerned about failure of NRA leadership to adhere to the core principles of the Second Amendment, or to ensure that all operations are above reproach and squeaky clean. And we shouldn’t be at all worried about an outside vendor owning and controlling major segments of NRA operations, and making tens of millions of dollars in profit from our association.

I respectfully disagree. I believe that principles matter, even when they are politically challenging. That giving our enemies ammunition by being careless about our business is inexcusable. And that the NRA should be controlled by a board of directors elected by the membership in fair and open elections, without interference from outside vendors or others with a financial stake in our leadership. I also believe that those who work for the NRA, especially in the higher echelons, should be motivated first by their dedication to the Second Amendment and the safe enjoyment of the shooting sports, not by monetary factors. That’s why I believe that Wayne LaPierre, with his waffling, wheedle words, outrageous salary, and cozy relationship to Ackerman McQueen, needs to go, and that the NRA needs a strong, committed, Second Amendment purist with a solid corporate management background, to lead the organization going forward.

This isn’t personal, and it’s not politics. It’s not about “tearing down” the NRA or building up any other organization. This is about principles, right and wrong, and what’s best for the NRA, gun owners, and America.

Dangerous Duty

Dangerous Duty:  “Duty to Inform” in Illinois CCW Bill

By Chris Knox

A debate over a “Duty to Inform” (DTI) clause in a proposed concealed carry law is currently raging in Illinois, pitting Chicago gun owners against “downstate” (i.e. not Cook County) folks.  It’s a family fight, and outsiders are rarely welcome in such squabbles.  Outsiders in the present case would include this Arizona-based columnist.  Some key sources in both Illinois and within the NRA either flatly refused to speak to me or just went silent when I started asking questions.  Opponents of the DTI language, mostly based in Chicago, are furious, fearing that the bad provisions of the law will expose them to cops who will automatically swing into tactical mode at the sight of a civilian gun.  Proponents of the language – those who would speak with me – acknowledge the issues, but feel that getting the bill through is worth the problematic language.

As most readers know, Illinois was the last state to recognize some semblance of the right to carry a defensive weapon.  In December of 2012 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the concealed carry ban violated the Second Amendment.  The court gave Illinois 180 days to implement a concealed carry system.  Not surprisingly, opponents of the Second Amendment hope to minimally comply with the order, and will throw obstacles in front of anyone daring to exercise the right to bear arms.  By making it dangerous to carry in certain districts, Duty to Inform is one such obstacle.  

The bill most likely to pass is HB 997, introduced by Rep. Brandon Phelps whose district lies in the southern tip if Illinois.  The actual source of the DTI language in the bill is murky.  Rep. Phelps has stated that the language came from the NRA.  Calls to the NRA were not returned, but at least one trusted source tells me that the NRA denied drafting the language.  It seems to have appeared at least two years ago when the Illinois legislature last flirted with a concealed-carry law.  At that time NRA contract lobbyist Todd Vandermyde had offered the language to neutralize the then-vociferous opposition by the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs to any sort of concealed-carry bill.  

As the main strategist for the legislation, Mr. Vandermyde apparently feels that the chiefs’ support, or at least lack of opposition, still hinges on DTI and that neutralizing them is key to passing the bill.  I say “apparently” because Mr. Vandermyde refused to speak with me saying I was not being helpful, and hung up.  A video shows him before a committee hearing saying that the language was included after “four years of negotiations with the police chiefs and the sheriffs.”  

The DTI language was a tactic to dilute opposition from law enforcement.  In reality, DTI will not contribute anything to officer safety.  Cops know that every traffic stop must be treated as a potentially lethal situation.  Likewise, a responsible citizen knows that it’s not a good idea to surprise a cop.  The risk of DTI is that it creates an excuse, or can be misused if an encounter with police turns bad, as was a case in Canton, Ohio that turned into a minor YouTube sensation.  Making a traffic stop, the Ohio officer was so aggressively “in charge” as he conducted a (probably illegal) search of a vehicle, that the driver could not get out that he had a CCW permit and that he was carrying.

The experience of other states with DTI, particularly Ohio, shows that DTI with criminal penalties creates dangers for anyone who carries.  Other states have DTI, but most do not have onerous penalties attached.  Under the proposed Illinois language, failure to inform would be a serious misdemeanor, as in Ohio, with penalties that could include loss of gun rights.

Whether the DTI language – and the support of the police chiefs – is still needed for the bill to pass is a judgment call.  Mr. Vandermyde and others outside Chicago feel that the legislation needs to pass as it is and that problems with the bill can be addressed once it has passed.  Chicago and Cook County residents fear that DTI will put them at the mercy of swaggering cops who go into felony stop mode if they see a gun.  Chicago Police Chief Gary McCarthy went right up to the line of saying that anyone with a gun would be assumed to be a bad guy.  The implications are chilling.

I claim no expertise in the ways of the Illinois legislature, and certainly can’t count the votes.  Nonetheless, it is a new day in Illinois.  In addition to the court order, attitudes are changing, particularly among African-Americans in Chicago.  Can the bill pass without the dangerous language?  I don’t know.  Should the DTI language be a poison pill?  Probably not.  But if the DTI language can’t come out before the bill goes to the floor, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.  Hopefully the proof of the need for fixing the law won’t be a concealed carry permit holder in jail, or worse, dead.

NRA 2011 Board Elections

NRA Board Endorsement

Each year 25 of the 75 regular director seats comes up for election to 3-year terms along with the 76th director, who voters attending the Annual Meeting select for a one-year term.

There is little chance of any injection of new blood in this year’s election. The candidate list is a bit larger than usual, but it includes 26 incumbent directors, including the current 76th director, vying for the 25 seats. The Nominating Committee nominated all 25 of the current 3-year directors plus an additional six candidates. Additionally, six more candidates nominated exclusively by petition of the members. Historically we can expect that at least 23 of the 25 incumbents will win reelection. Since the NRA uses a cumulative total election – the 25 highest total vote getters win – the real race is always between candidates at the bottom of the list.

Continue reading NRA 2011 Board Elections

NRA Director Endorsements

NRA Candidate Endorsements

 

(March 5, 2009) Every year about this time the NRA sends out ballots and voting information to all of their members eligible to vote (Lifetime and 5 consecutive year Annual Members.)  Each year we look at the candidates and offer our suggestions on which candidates we think will serve the best interests of the membership.  Here are those recommendations for this year in alphabetical order:

Scott Bach, John Burtt, Joe DeBergalis, Owen Mills, Don Saba, Bob Viden.

We recommend that members vote for no more than 6 or 7 candidates because the fewer candidates you vote for, the more weight your votes hold.

Here’s how we came up with these 6…

 

Continue reading NRA Director Endorsements

Holder Reminiscent of Mikva

The Knox Update

From the Firearms Coalition

 

Who’s Haunted now?

 

By Jeff Knox

 

(January 29, 2009) When Barack Obama announced that he intended to nominate Eric Holder to be his Attorney General, we at The Firearms Coalition launched an aggressive campaign to block the appointment and urged all other Second Amendment organizations to do likewise.  Holder was Janet Reno’s top deputy in the Clinton administration and has proven himself to be a radical opponent to the rights of firearms owners.  Holder has not only testified before Congress in support of expanded restrictions on firearms ownership, he signed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in DC v. Heller in which he espoused the theory that the Second Amendment’s “right of the people to keep and bear arms” is actually a right of the states to organize militias.  Someone with such twisted opinions about the Constitution should not even be considered for the position of Attorney General.

 

 

Continue reading Holder Reminiscent of Mikva

American Rifleman On Competition M14s

Page 32 of my February 2008 American Rifleman carries the following "Second Shots — 50 Years Ago" feature:

 

M14 In Competition?

The following statement appears in a brochure which is being distributed by the American Automatic Weapons Association.

"We have already begun to formulate shooting clubs under the direction of this Association and the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, in an attempt to allow us to train with the Army's newest automatic weapons and we will organize competitive shooting with these weapons."

This statement is not authorized by the Director of Civilian Marksmanship and the American Automatic Weapons Association has been requested twice to delete it from their brochure. 

 

I'm not sure, but I think AR just told Class III fans to buzz off.  NRA threw machine gun owners under the bus with the 1986 "freeze" that accompanied passage of the McClure-Volkmer Firearms Owners Protection Act.  I guess this is to prove that NRA never liked the machine gunners anyway.  At least the position is consistent.

Note:  I have updatd this entry — I failed to include the final paragraph when I originally posted this note.  Kind of lost its thunder without that bit.

 

The Next Ex-NRA Board Member

Joaquin Jackson: my favorite candidate next former NRA Board member. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSGySNLyACE 

My dad got drummed off the Board for independently and "without portfolio" lobbying Congress to follow NRA Board policy which NRA had turned away from.  This guy, while waving his  Board credentials, calls for banning all but five-round magazines for "assault weapons."

If you know any Board members, maybe they need to hear from you.

Speaking of which, contact information for Board members might be a useful thing.  We'll work on that.  

Please let us know of any developments from this interview.