Category Archives: The Knox Update

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You Are the Gun Lobby & You Need to Act Like It

With all of the hubbub over the mess at the NRA, now seems like a good time to remind everyone that YOU are the Gun Lobby.

This is a theme I have come back to again and again in the 13+ years that I have been writing about Second Amendment issues and leading The Firearms Coalition, and even before that. In a speech on the Arizona Capitol grounds earlier this year, I said that the gun lobby “is not a bunch of overpaid suits in Washington D.C. … if the NRA disappeared tomorrow, the Gun Lobby would still be just as powerful, because it’s not the NRA, it’s NRA members and tens of millions of other dedicated patriots just like you.”

In retrospect, those comments, which were very similar to comments I made at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania over a decade ago, seem somewhat prophetic, especially considering Wayne LaPierre’s $276k clothing bills, but the point has always been true. All of the NRA’s power, prestige, money, and influence flow directly from you and me and people like us. While the NRA is a useful tool, it is not the source of power or influence. You are.

It is particularly important for everyone to understand that the ugly mess facing the NRA today has the organization crippled, and it will remain crippled for some time into the foreseeable future.

But the gun lobby must continue to be strong.

Even if the NRA “leadership” allows the last of our dollars to bleed out into the pockets of lawyers and charlatans, even if the organization allows itself to be torn down by politicians and bureaucrats, the gun lobby must continue to be strong.

With the NRA distracted and in disarray, it’s critical for you, the Gun Lobby, to take personal responsibility for protecting your rights. You can’t rely on the NRA, or any other group, to do the heavy lifting for you. You must roll up your sleeves and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with your neighbors to ensure that the radical rights opponents don’t flush your children’s and grandchildren’s birthright down the toilet.

After decades of a slow erosion of our rights, and occasionally regaining small bits of ground, we stand on the brink. The slippery slope is only inches wide, with nothing but a sheer cliff beyond it. The Democrats have given their party fully over to a “progressive” philosophy of total government control and citizen subservience, with a government monopoly on arms being one of their primary goals. Until saner heads regain control of that party, it is critical that they are defeated.

We, as defenders of freedom and lovers of liberty, can no longer afford to hang back and lend our support only to the cream of the solid, pro-rights candidates. At this point, the Democratic Party has taken that luxury away from us. Now our only option is to work for their defeat, regardless of the individual stands of their candidates or their opponents. Right now, it’s all about majorities – in Congress, in state legislatures, and on county boards and city councils. Even in states with low crime, and strong traditions of firearm freedom, like Maine and Vermont, Democrat majorities are pushing agendas of draconian gun control, simply because they can, and because Bloomberg and the Giffords’ group keep dumping millions into local elections, in support of radical Democrat, rights restrictors.

These assaults on our rights must be answered with votes. Gun owners can’t rely on the NRA to do it for us. We never could, but it’s more true and urgent now than ever before.
Too many times our guys got mad at Republicans for failing to deliver on promises, or for foolishly making concessions to the rights opponents, and stomped off in a huff, refusing to vote, or voting for third-party candidates with zero chance of winning. That’s how we got eight years of Barack Obama, and most recently, it’s how we lost the House of Representatives in 2018.

That absence from the field provided proof to Bloomberg and Democrat strategists that the power of the gun lobby and GunVoters was just a myth. They successfully painted GunVoter frustration with broken promises, as apathy and impotence, because we allowed vocal, gun control advocates to be elected with little opposition from our disgruntled troops.

They think we’re powerless, and they think that without big bucks and coordination from the NRA, we can’t be serious players in the political arena. It’s up to you to prove them wrong.

Political power lies in the ability to impact politicians’ most precious asset: the ability to be elected. Conventional wisdom says that can only be done with huge amounts of money spent on advertising, but conventional wisdom is wrong. We don’t need advertising, because we have the numbers we need already. All we need is for our fellow gun owners and rights advocates to stand up and get involved. Every one of us must engage in the battle, working for the candidates who are going up against the radical gun control zealots — defeating the party of gun control, by working for the party that isn’t dedicated to taking away our guns.

We must do this, even if the Republican candidate isn’t great on our issue, because right now, Democrats have declared war on our rights. The only way to change their position, and to wake up the squishy Republicans, is for GunVoters to turn out in droves, putting up signs, making phone calls, walking neighborhoods, and making sure that everyone in their family, their friends, their entire sphere of influence, is informed and activated to defeat those who oppose the Bill of Rights.

We didn’t make this a partisan fight, Democrats did. We’ll never make them change their minds by sitting on the sidelines or punishing weak-kneed Republicans by going hunting on Election Day. We must get busy, get involved, and demonstrate in November that the gun lobby is indeed alive and well, and we won’t tolerate open assault on our rights.

What’s Really Going On at the NRA?

The news and drama flowing out of the NRA keep running at a pace that makes it difficult to keep up with, much less write about them. As I write this, I have three other almost completed articles that have been abandoned as new revelations have made them largely obsolete. Here’s hoping that this one will make it all the way to the publisher before some new revelation bursts onto the scene.

So what’s really going on? I don’t think anyone actually knows – not even the primary players. That’s because there are just too many moving parts, and too many different agendas and potentially hidden motives, all intertwined.

Keeping track of what’s going on is not helped by the obfuscation and disinformation being deployed as a tactic by some players. Also not helping are the various partisan keyboard warriors who either have reading comprehension problems, or are purposefully distorting and misrepresenting information for the purpose of either propping up, or tearing down Wayne LaPierre.

If this story were fiction being written by John Grisham, we would all discover in the end that the main characters of the drama – LaPierre, Ackerman McQueen, and William Brewer, the lawyer brought in to manage the whole mess by LaPierre (who happens to be Angus McQueen’s son-in-law) – were all in league, with their only purpose being to suck every last dollar out of the NRA before it sinks into obscurity.

While I don’t actually think that’s the case, that scenario seems less far-fetched every day.

As of today, Ackerman McQueen has declared that they are formally withdrawing from all NRA-related activities, claiming that the NRA has made it impossible for them to fulfill their contractual obligations [primarily because of budget cuts made by the NRA board at their last meeting]. This would include shutting down NRA TV, and America’s First Freedom magazine, both of which are controlled and produced by Ack-Mac. This announcement will undoubtedly be followed by additional lawsuits from both parties, with each claiming that the other is in breach of contract.

Of course there are already three separate suits between NRA and Ack-Mac. The first was filed by NRA against Ack-Mac just days prior to the NRA Annual Meetings in Indianapolis last April. That suit demanded that Ack-Mac produce detailed billing invoices for charges they had billed to NRA, and also demanded more information about the employment contract entered into last year between Ack-Mac and then NRA President Ollie North.

Shortly after the close of the meetings, a second suit was filed by NRA against Ack-Mac, accusing the PR company of intentionally leaking confidential documents for the purpose of harming the NRA and its leaders. That suit demands $40 million in compensation, and was quickly answered with a suit from Ack-Mac against the NRA, demanding $50 million for sullying Ack-Mac’s good name. The “confidential documents” that were “leaked,” primarily consisted of a pair of letters and supporting documentation, snarkily responding to NRA’s initial suit by asking for details and receipts for expenses that NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre charged to Ack-Mac. LaPierre’s expenses included over $276,000 charged to a high-end clothing store in Beverley Hills over a span of fifteen years, and another $270k on a number of very expensive plane tickets, limo service, and meals in exotic locales. LaPierre also billed to Ack-Mac several months worth of rent for a high-end luxury apartment near NRA headquarters, apparently on behalf of an attractive summer intern.

Official NRA has made no denials of the accuracy of the charges, saying only that “most” of the travel was related to official business, and suggesting that LaPierre’s frequent personal and TV appearances warrant some attention to his wardrobe.

Many LaPierre defenders have opined that since the charges occurred over about a 15-year period, the average of $33,300 dollars per year doesn’t seem extravagant for a person in LaPierre’s position. What these apologists fail to note is that Mr. LaPierre was paid between $800,000 and $1.4 million each year during that period, and also had a generous expense account on top of that. For him to then spend $20,000 to $30,000 or more per year on clothes alone, and charge those expenses to the PR company, rather than his direct NRA expense account, is not only excessive, but suggests he was intentionally hiding the charges. There is no indication that these personal benefits were included in any of the NRA’s tax statements, and it is pretty doubtful that they were included on LaPierre’s personal income taxes either.

The new NRA President and Vice Presidents [including AmmoLand New’s endorsed Board Member Wiles Lees as 2nd VP], have put out a couple of letters claiming that the NRA Board of Directors was fully aware of all of the reported charges, and had an opportunity to fully discuss them, but numerous directors have disputed those claims, saying that they only saw some of the material after it was leaked to the press, and that the only opportunity they’d had to discuss the issues that were brought up to them, was cut short by the leadership. None would go into specifics, so this was obviously during the marathon, closed-door board meeting in April. It is considered a serious ethics violation for any director to discuss events that occur in a closed meeting, so they are extremely cautious to avoid such disclosures. None of the directors I spoke with reported receiving any new information from leadership on the various issues since that meeting adjourned.

Meanwhile, NRA members have been paying the Brewer law firm between $1.5 million and $2+ million per month for over a year now, and board members who have requested an audit of those charges have been stymied.

Allen West Headshot
LTC Allen West

Lieutenant Colonel Allen West, a former congressman who was elected to the board several years ago, after being nominated by petition of the members, was widely suggested as an alternative to LaPierre prior to the April board meeting, but for some reason his name was apparently never offered into nomination during the meeting. (We have still not received any explanation as to why those elections were not held during the open portion of that meeting.) West is one of the only directors to publicly denounce official claims that the board is unified in support of LaPierre, and call for LaPierre’s resignation. Colorado activist Tim Knight, another director originally nominated by petition of the members, has also publicly expressed his lack of confidence in LaPierre. Numerous other directors have made off-the-record statements of dissatisfaction with the status quo, but are being cautious in their public statements for the time being.

LTC West would certainly be a reasonable choice for an immediate replacement for LaPierre. Having an African American, combat veteran with a sterling reputation, as CEO of the NRA right now, would not hurt the organization’s image, and I suspect that LTC. West would not be very tolerant of excuses and financial chicanery, nor would he be cavalier with the members’ money. He has expressed his willingness to hold the position for no more than a year or so, as an interim manager to help get the organization’s issues corrected and get it back on track, before passing the baton to someone else of the board’s choosing.

The unfortunate reality of the situation is that a small contingent of directors unified behind LaPierre, can probably hold off any alternative options offered, because they are unified in their objective, while the rest of the board has doubts and questions. With the waters muddied as they are, it is very difficult to get the directors to agree on any particular course of action, so the opposition to LaPierre might constitute a strong majority of the board, like herding cats, if they can’t all get on the same page behind West or some other candidate, they won’t be able to overcome the inertia of the status quo.

The long-standing problem of how the members can let the board know their opinions is still a problem. NRA management has a vested interest in keeping members of the board shielded from the opinions of the unwashed membership. There are ways to get a message through, some more effective than others. NRA members can send emails to the board of directors by writing to NRABoD@NRAHQ.org

Unfortunately, rather than going to the individual directors, those emails are posted on a “Directors Only” section of the NRA website, and it has been reported that many directors never visit the page. Snail-mail to directors can be sent care of NRA Headquarters, 11250 Waples Mill Road, Fairfax, VA 22030. Letters addressed to individual directors will probably be forwarded to them, but open letters to the entire board are more likely to be scanned and posted on the website like emails are. To learn the best way to communicate with directors, members can call NRA HQ at 703-267-1000 and ask for the Secretary’s Office. Members wishing to get face-to-face with their elected directors will have the opportunity to do so at the fall board meeting in September in Anchorage, Alaska.

[AmmoLand News will also publish all open letters from members to the NRA board as Letters to the AmmoLand Editor.]

NRAAM 2019, Full of Sound & Fury, Signifying Nothing? Recap for the Record

The National Rifle Association gathered for 2019 Annual Meeting of Members last month amid a firestorm of rumors, accusations, and threats. It promised to be the most contentious Members’ Meeting in decades, and it didn’t disappoint on that score. But the gathering, which was preceded by rumbling thunder, leading into lightning cracks and howling winds, concluded with a hollow, unsatisfying whimper.

For months, news had been rumbling through various media outlets, of financial strife and disorder within the nations most powerful rights organization. Then, just days before the Members’ Meeting, the NRA filed suit against Ackerman McQueen, their PR partners of almost 40 years, with accusations of undue influence and expropriation of funds via murky invoices and hazy billing practices. Lightning struck again a few days later when The New Yorker published a blistering exposé of NRA’s finances and cozy deals enjoyed by some executives, contractors, and consultants.

All of this triggered a flood of speculation and uproar on blogs and social media among NRA members and the large contingent of pro-gun/anti-NRA advocates in the rights community. Even some members of the NRA Board of Directors made public comments suggesting that changes were needed.

On Friday, the day before the Members’ Meeting, as associated events were in full swing, President Trump and Vice President Pence both attended an NRA-sponsored, Leadership Forum and gave rousing speeches pledging their support for the NRA and America’s 100 million gun owners. They shared the stage with NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre and NRA President Ollie North. Everything was looking rosy. But later that day, a letter from LaPierre to the Board of Directors exploded in the media. The letter was remarkably similar to a letter LaPierre sent to the board in 1997, expressing “shock” that a member of the board would try to bribe or extort him into abandoning his post at the NRA. Specifically, the Friday letter claimed that Oliver North had called Wayne to threaten him with a damaging and embarrassing letter that Ack-Mack was preparing to send to the board.

The letter scandal blew up so widely in the media, that it eclipsed, for a time, an even more significant bombshell that dropped that same day. That came from the office of New York Attorney General Laticia James, announcing that they had served the NRA with instructions to preserve their financial and related records, and had begun issuing subpoenas in an investigation of the NRA’s tax exempt status and other matters. To many concerned observers, that announcement represented the triggering of a massive, slow-motion guillotine blade, falling inexorably toward the extended neck of the NRA.

In the Members’ Meeting on Saturday, Oliver North was a no-show. First Vice President Richard Childress read a letter from North expressing his frustration with current affairs at the NRA and stating that he did not intend to seek a second term as president. Childress was pressed into service to chair the meeting – a position for which he was ill-prepared, and in which he was clearly uncomfortable – and the meeting proceeded. Adam Kraut attempted to gain the floor early, trying to add an item to the meeting agenda, to assure the members had an opportunity to discuss the various accusations and other problems they’d heard about, but the Chair would not recognize him. Other attempts to raise questions during the meeting were ignored or silenced until the meeting reached the Resolutions portion of the agenda.

The first resolution wanted to thank President Trump for “un-signing” the UN Arms Trade Treaty. It passed handily, and then someone – presumably a member of the board – moved that the meeting be adjourned. This generated an immediate uproar from a good part of the crowd and protests from the microphones. The chair could have – and in my opinion, should have – refused to entertain the motion, as the business wasn’t finished, but it went to a vote and was defeated. That’s when the fireworks started. The next resolution, the one they’d hoped to avoid hitting the floor, was a call for a vote of “No Confidence” in Wayne LaPierre and the members of the Finance, Audit, and Executive committees, who are primarily responsible for overseeing his activities, and a call for their resignations.

Board members rushed to the microphones, insisting that these were not matters that should be discussed in an open meeting with media present, and called for the resolution to be referred to the Board of Directors. Supporters of the resolution, and others who wanted to find out what was going on in their association balked at that idea, and Adam Kraut suggested that the Chair order the media to leave the room. This was construed as a motion to go into Executive Session, and that matter was debated for quite some time, with several directors – most of them members of the Executive and Finance committees – rising to argue against going into Executive Session, and adding arguments against any discussion of the widely reported allegations of financial abuses. Eventually, the members voted not to go into Executive Session, and the motion to refer the resolution to the board, passed, effectively shutting down any further discussion.

Another back-patting resolution, this one from an ardent fan of Dana Loesch, calling for some sort of special recognition for her, was read and was also referred to the board for consideration. At that point, Directors again began rushing the microphones to move for adjournment. Realizing that the mood of the crowd had turned and that the majority of the members were ready to go look at the guns and gear in the exhibit hall, Adam Kraut beat them to the punch and made the motion. The members voted to close this time, and the meeting ended.

Then the grumbling and speculation turned to the Board of Directors meeting, scheduled for Monday morning.

When it finally came, it didn’t take the directors long to take their meeting into Executive Session, interrupting Mr. Childress’ report to close the meeting to everyone except directors and a handful of staff.

After several hours in closed session, with no news coming out of the meeting, then AmmoLand News reported that Wayne LaPierre had been reelected by a unanimous vote of the board. That report was soon corroborated by a post on the website for the American Rifleman, NRA’s flagship magazine. Which included more details, including the fact that First Vice President Richard Childress had declined to run for an officer position, Second Vice President Carolyn Meadows was elected President, Charles Cotton was elected First Vice President, Willes Lee was elected Second Vice President, and Chris Cox was retained as Executive Director of NRA-ILA. The official report focused on the word “unanimous,” as did all of the media reports.

The reaction on social media was angry and incredulous. After all of the damning evidence and tough talk from some on the board, how could they have possibly unanimously reelected Wayne LaPierre?

The reality is almost certain that the entire slate of candidates was offered up at once with a motion to confirm them by acclamation. This is a fairly common process under Roberts Rules of Order. The chair hears the motion and second, and declares; “Without objection,” and bangs the gavel. Done. It was probably several minutes before many in the room realized what had just happened. Too late for them to offer objections or change the vote. But that doesn’t explain why none of the directors are publicly challenging LaPierre’s subsequent assertions that the board is united in their support for him and his plans for the association moving forward.

In fact very little has been heard from anyone on the board since the meeting finally adjourned, some nine and a half hours after it started. Just the duration of the meeting indicates that there were some serious questions and debate. These meetings normally only last an hour or two at the most. So, between the length of the meeting, and the silence of the directors, it can be pretty safely assumed that some significant matters were raised, and that some of those matters were of such delicacy that any discussion of them outside of the closed board meeting, would do harm to the association, and potentially cost the seat of any director who strayed from the confidentiality agreement.

For the time being, I think it would be prudent for disgruntled NRA members and critics like me, to back off a little and see what happens. There’s nothing that a minority of the board could do to change the course of events that are on their way, and continuing to press them on the matter, doesn’t help the cause. It is to be hoped that we will at least see the tentacles of Ackerman McQueen steadily untangled from all NRA business, and some significant reforms imposed on how the association deals with contractors and consultants.

Lawyers will be tasked with keeping Attorney General James from doing any serious damage to NRA’s political apparatus until at least some time after the 2020 elections. Going through this debacle is bad enough. Trying to do it with an anti-rights Democrat in the White House and anti-rights majorities in both houses of Congress, would undoubtedly speed up that falling guillotine from New York.

We want to cut out the cancer without killing the patient, and while we didn’t get the dramatic changes we wanted, for now, that means stepping back to see whether any progress is evident and plan for the next round of treatments.

Only Two Options, Can the BOD Save Us?

(April 22, 2019) The National Rifle Association is in serious trouble, and the NRA Board of Directors has only two options to save America’s biggest civil rights organization.

Option 1. A majority of the Board circles the wagons in defense of Wayne LaPierre and his pals and tries to weather the storm. (They’ll fail, and the whole ship will sink.)

or

Option 2. A majority of the Board fires LaPierre and other executives (or accepts their resignations) and nullifies their contracts, suspends all vendor contracts pending thorough review and renegotiation, and purges culpable members of their own body – demonstrating a commitment to safeguarding NRA assets on behalf of the membership. (Plugging the holes and possibly saving the ship.)

For those who might be playing catch-up on this story, you can read my previous article and the links contained in it, but here’s the short version of the situation:

Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the NRA, along with fellow executives and outside contractors, (in particular Advertising agency Ackerman McQueen) has been recklessly shoveling money out of NRA coffers for decades – to the tune of possibly hundreds of millions of dollars. This has been done with the complicity of some of the NRA’s elected directors, the willful ignorance of others, and the active resistance of a few more.

The chicanery, mostly in the form of inflated executive salaries, sweetheart deals to friends and family, and routine payments to vendors for unspecified services, raised objections among loyal NRA staff members, but their questions and concerns were met with hostility and retribution. My father raised these exact concerns over 20 years ago when he was on the NRA Board of Directors, only to be pushed out of the leadership. As the problems got worse in recent years, NRA fell under increased scrutiny from reporters and regulators, leading some staff members to redouble efforts to raise alarms to the appropriate board committees. But these board members continued to sweep the improprieties under the rug, even after strong warnings from outside counsel that the organization was at risk of severe damage, particularly from New York regulators.

As a nonprofit chartered in New York, the NRA falls under New York law and the purview of the NRA-hating NY Attorney General. She has frequently expressed her desire to tear down the organization, and has been signaling a pending investigation into NRA finances.

In an effort to save the organization, some staff and former employees reluctantly shared some of their evidence with reporters, and a bombshell expose’ was published in The New Yorker in mid-April, just days after the NRA had filed a lawsuit against their long-time PR firm, Ackerman McQueen, suggesting that Ack-Mack had been taking advantage of some lax billing and conflict of interest policies at NRA. This was an obvious attempt to deflect blame for NRA’s financial woes – over $30 million in the red – and financial improprieties away from LaPierre and his executive team. All of this was followed by a formal request from Mike Bloomberg’s anti-gun conglomerate, calling on the IRS to launch a formal audit of the NRA’s tax exempt status.

There can be little doubt that the New York AG and others in positions of power will try to dismantle the NRA, regardless of what the board does. Our enemies see that we are wounded, and the vultures are circling. By cleaning their own house before any formal investigation, the board would demonstrate that they are living up to their fiduciary responsibilities, and that would go a long way toward mitigating the long-term damage from regulators.

The current NRA Board of Directors have a slim chance of saving the NRA from total ruin, but they must act swiftly and decisively.

They must expunge everyone involved in even the appearance of corruption. Including board members who failed in their oversight obligations and individuals like Josh Powell the genius behind many of the NRA’s recent disasters like Carry Guard and a known manipulator of Wayne LaPierre’s decision making. They must halt all outside contracts until they can be thoroughly reviewed and either canceled or renegotiated. As much as possible needs to be brought in-house and run under the direct oversight of the board. This action may mean the end of things like Ackerman McQueen run NRA-TV, so do not be surprised if they pack up shop one day soon.

All of the significant, life-threatening issues facing NRA revolve around just three operational areas: PR, fundraising, and political spending. Suspending operations in those three areas, and bringing them under tight, in-house control for the immediate future, would put the association back on stable ground and allow it to continue operating effectively.

There will undoubtedly be repercussions from all of this, including fines, sanctions, lawsuits, and possibly criminal indictments, but all of those repercussions are on their way, regardless of what the board does now. The difference is whether those consequences will be levied against an organization that still has the people who created those problems at the helm – people who will be using NRA resources to cover their tails – or an organization that has policed itself and taken corrective action to address its problems.

As I stated at the outset, the NRA Board of Directors has only two choices. They can cry “unity, unity” or call it another “Knox take over attempt” all the while rallying around the culprits who caused the problems, and let the ship sink to leave membership and our bill of rights stranded.

Or they can throw the known miscreants overboard, plug the holes, and get busy bailing because only then will membership will jump in and help right the ship.

Contact the NRA Board of Directors
Contact the NRA Board of Directors

The next board of Board of Directors meeting is this coming Monday April 29th 2019. Make your voices heard. You can have an impact on that decision by contacting your NRA directors (BoD@NRAHQ.org) and the leaders of your NRA affiliated state association, to let them know what you want to see happen.

(Name of Board Member or Attn NRA Board of Directors)
NRA Office of the Secretary
11250 Waples Mill Road
Fairfax, VA, 22030

or nrabod@nrahq.org

NRA’s Dirty Laundry Exposed as Pro-Gun Group Cleans House

(April 19, 2019) On April 12, the National Rifle Association filed suit in a Virginia court, accusing their long-time PR company, Ackerman McQueen, of failing to provide detailed billing, and failure to disclose contracts with NRA staff and officers that might demonstrate a conflict of interest, including an Ack-Mac contract with NRA President Ollie North.

As the news of the shocking lawsuit made the rounds of mainstream media and was just sinking in – especially to most of the members of the NRA Board of Directors, who had no advance warning about the suit – a new exposé on the shady dealings of NRA insiders was published by The New Yorker (www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/secrecy-self-dealing-and-greed-at-the-nra/). That article, shedding new light on lousy business, showed that this isn’t just NRA leaders in a nasty mess of their own making, but a deeply embedded cancer that has metastasized, putting the NRA itself in serious jeopardy.

During WWII, people held up two fingers and declared “V for Victory!” I have to admit that when I heard the news about the suit against Ack-Mac, I smiled. The thought of NRA brass and Ack-Mac executives going at each other in a cage match really tickled me. In celebration, I figuratively raised the familiar one-finger salute that has long represented our seemingly futile struggle with the NRA leadership, and transitioned it into the two-finger sign of the “V,” not for Victory, but for Vindication.

Over 20 years ago, my father, Neal Knox, as First Vice President of the NRA and just one year away from taking the reins as President, threw a red flag on the practices of Ack-Mac and Wayne LaPierre. He questioned the expensive, intrusive, and heavy-handed fundraising tactics, such as constant, over-hyped letters, phone calls, and fundraising letters sent by registered mail, and the exorbitant sums being paid to the PR company. He demanded reforms in the association’s fundraising methods and specifics on contracts and billing details involving Ack-Mac and other vendors. Both he and Second Vice President Albert Ross refused to sign the hefty, monthly checks being cut to Ack-Mac, and a major battle for control of the NRA ensued. It wasn’t like the 1977 Cincinnati fight for the soul and destiny of the organization. The new dust-up was between the Board and the staff for control of the organization’s checkbook.

The upshot of that battle was that Wayne won, Dad lost, and the fast-and-loose money games continued and just got worse. Charlton Heston was brought in to bump Dad from the leadership, and Wayne’s compensation rose rapidly from about $250,000 a year to almost $1,000,000.00. In the latest available IRS report from 2017, LaPierre’s total compensation was reported at $1.4 million, or about $117,000 per month, and a couple of years before that, he also got a distribution from his retirement fund of about $4 million, for a total compensation of more than $5 million that year. It’s worth noting that he’s receiving this at a time when the NRA is over $30 million in the red, and the retirement fund is in negative numbers to the tune of almost $60 million. Ack-Mack’s take from the NRA in 2017 was over $40 million.

For nearly a quarter of a century, we – Dad, my brother Chris, and I – have returned to this topic again and again.

Our goal has never been vengeance or retribution, but to alert NRA members and rouse the members of the NRA Board of Directors to fulfill their moral and legal obligations to the members, and put a stop to the chicanery.

Those efforts have, to a great extent, fallen on deaf ears. We have been vilified, belittled, and ignored by the majority of the board, and we’ve been publicly attacked by NRA leaders accusing us of trying to tear down the organization that we have been working so hard to save.

That’s why the lawsuit against Ackerman McQueen gave me a smile of vindication. It confirms many of the things that we have been saying for so long. But the celebration was tinged with concern about the harm the whole debacle would cause our historic organization. Then all of that turned to anger and a sense of doom as I read the exposé in The New Yorker.

Reporter Mike Spies works for Bloomberg’s anti-rights propaganda outlet The Trace and has collaborated with reporters and editors from a variety of mostly anti-rights newspapers and magazines like Mother Jones and the New York Times. Those connections and affiliations will cause many to dismiss this latest article as just more anti-gun propaganda. That would be a mistake. Spies did a thorough job of digging up sources [he clearly has a someone leaking him info at NRA or maybe Ackerman] and documentation to back up the critical points in his article, and he presents them with little spin or distortion. Calling on NRA members to ignore the message and focus on the messenger, won’t work this time. The article and its sources are too well documented and credible for that, and enemies of the NRA will undoubtedly pursue these leads with bulldog tenacity.

NRA members should be furious, and the Board of Directors should be terrified.

Even with my 40-year history in the NRA, I never imagined the abuses and neglect were so outrageous and rampant. The most significant revelation is that NRA employees and attorneys brought many of these issues to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, and the members of that committee did nothing to correct the problems. They didn’t alert fellow directors about the issues. They didn’t call executives and contractors out on the carpet for the abuses. They didn’t call for contract reviews, investigations, or disciplinary actions. Instead, they retroactively approved past actions that should only have been taken with their prior approval and did their best to contain the damaging information, helping to drive away dedicated NRA employees who did nothing other than try to inform them of problems.

“The emperor has no clothes!” – “Someone slap that kid!”

To get an idea of the depth and breadth of the theft, corruption, and abuse that has been going on at the NRA for the past 25-plus years, you need to read the entire article in The New Yorker, but here are some highlights:

  • Remember that 1.4 million dollars being paid to Wayne LaPierre? At some point, a clause was added to his employment contract guaranteeing him payment as a speaker and consultant after he retires from NRA, at the full base salary he is being paid as Executive Vice President.
  • Multiple NRA executives have left the organization and walked into $600,000 and $700,000 dollars a year consulting contracts for NRA.
  • Wives, children, and other relatives of NRA executives and NRA contractors have routinely crisscrossed between the NRA and various vendors, drawing exorbitant salaries.
  • Key vendors – like Ackerman McQueen – have been routinely paid on invoices that were incomplete or unspecific, and NRA employees questioning such payments were retaliated against.

The dollar figures involved are in the hundreds of millions, but the most critical paragraph in the article is this one:

“The memos urged the audit committee to ‘step up + fulfill its duties!,’ but it’s not clear what the board has done to root out malfeasance. James Fishman, a co-author of ‘New York Nonprofit Law and Practice: With Tax Analysis,’ a leading text on nonprofit law, told me, ‘There is no such thing as a director who doesn’t direct. You’re responsible to make yourself aware of what’s going on. If the board doesn’t know, they’ve breached their duty of care, which is against the law in New York,’ where the N.R.A. is chartered. According to Owens, the former I.R.S. official, New York State ‘could sanction board members, remove board members, disband the board, or close down the organization entirely.’”
(Emphasis added – JK)

The memos mentioned were prepared by NRA’s director of tax and risk management, Emily Cummins, for an NRA Audit Committee emergency meeting last July. I’ve known Emily for years, and know that she was very loyal and committed to the NRA. I say “was” because Emily no longer works for NRA. I don’t know the circumstances of her departure but could venture a pretty good guess.

This is a collection of specific concerns raised to a committee of the NRA Board of Directors by a loyal NRA employee. It was acquired by the reporter and analyzed by an expert on New York nonprofit law and an expert on nonprofit tax regulations. Their assessment is that the Board of Directors’ failure to have weeded out these issues and addressed them, is – potentially criminal – dereliction of duty that could result in personal sanctions and the dissolution of the organization.

Are you listening now, NRA Directors?
Personal sanctions. Removal from the Board. Dissolution of the NRA. All because you have refused to step up and fulfill your duties.

Ignoring warnings, blaming critics, covering for friends, and going along to get along, could bring the world’s most powerful organization for defending the right to arms, crashing to the ground. Continuing to deny and circling the wagons to protect against outside assaults, will not save the NRA, because the destroyer is inside the circle. Only decisive action to root out the corruption and return to the core values and principles of the organization can save it.

There’s no way to fix the problems without sustaining some pretty severe damage. I don’t know what kind of legal issues would be involved in dissolving existing contracts with vendors and employees, but drastic measures must be taken immediately. Those directors carrying the greatest culpability – members of the Audit Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Executive Committee – should resign. Had the Board not recently made recalls of directors and officers virtually impossible, I would start a recall drive against many of them.

What makes this whole situation even worse, is the fact that the NRA is chartered in New York. That means that New York law applies, and that means that the rabidly anti-NRA and anti-gun NY Attorney General Letitia James, working under the rabidly anti-NRA and anti-gun Governor Andrew Cuomo, will be in charge of the investigation and any “corrective” action. Does anyone think the benefit of the doubt for “good intentions” will play a significant role?

This is a case of greed, hubris, and blind loyalty leading to calamity. I honestly don’t know if the NRA will be able to survive.

There are some very good people on the NRA Board of Directors, and they need to step up now and get to the bottom of all of this. It’s going to be a mess, no matter how it’s handled, but taking aggressive action to cut out the cancer is the only way to save the organization.

Presidents or past-presidents of state associations might need to step up to help out. LaPierre needs to walk away without the golden parachute, and much of the executive staff needs to go with him. Virtually all outside NRA contracts beyond electric service and internet access, need to be canceled in the most cost-effective way possible.

I don’t expect to be in Indianapolis for the Members’ Meeting; I just can’t afford it, so I urge those who are going to be there, to demand answers from your board and staff in that open, formal setting. A motion should be made right at the outset to set a time certain on the official order of business for discussion of the corruption and mismanagement allegations. They will point to the press and try to say that discussing those matters shouldn’t be done in public, then they’ll dodge questions by saying that they can’t talk about ongoing litigation, or they’ll try to use parliamentary tricks to shut down the motion, but it’s your Association, and you have the right to be heard and get answers.

I don’t relish this situation. Yes, I’m glad to see Dad get his vindication, but not at such a high cost. I have been a Life Member of the NRA for 40 years. I paid full price for that membership, beginning with my first check from the Army after graduating from Basic Training, and I’ve dedicated countless hours over the years, trying to make the organization better and more effective. This is not a victory for Dad or me. Like the Notre Dame cathedral, I just hope we can save what’s left and rebuild.

But take heart. As I said in February during a speech at a rights rally in Phoenix, “the gun lobby is not a bunch of overpaid suits in Washington DC. If the NRA disappeared tomorrow, the gun lobby would still be just as powerful, because the gun lobby isn’t the NRA, it’s the NRA members and tens of millions of dedicated patriots just like you, scattered throughout this wide land.”

While the NRA is a powerful communication tool between rights supporters and their elected servants and losing that central conduit would be a significant blow, it would only be a temporary setback. With that fact in mind, I encourage readers to take steps now to be sure that you and your fellow rights supporters are in the loop for important rights-related news by subscribing to AmmoLand News email list. If you are already subscribed, get five more people to sign up. Be sure that you’re a member of a competent, state grassroots organization, and join and subscribe to email alerts from groups like The Firearms Coalition and GOA. Then take action when we ask you to make a call or send an email to your elected servants.

Let’s hope we can save the NRA. Contact the Directors and demand that they take responsibility and correct the problems. (They are listed in your magazine.) But more than anything else, be sure to keep contacting your politicians and letting them know that with or without the NRA, you are the gun lobby, and the gun lobby isn’t going away.

Gun Control: A Sworn Dogma of Democrat’s War on Guns

(April 12, 2019) While many states were rolling back onerous gun control laws over the past few decades, a few states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, have doubled down on their gun control schemes, competing with each other to see which can most severely restrict their citizens’ fundamental rights.

The politicians in these states are never satisfied, and every “good first step in the right direction” is always followed by an almost immediate next “good first step” in the same direction. But we expect this sort of two-faced chicanery from the urban centers of the gun control movement. What we didn’t expect (though we should have) was the sudden onslaught of attacks on gun owner rights in states with extremely low rates of firearm-related crime, and relatively lax gun laws.

Vermont, Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire, Nevada, and New Mexico have long histories of relatively low crime, relatively lax gun laws, and little apparent need for gun owners to actively organize and get involved in politics. Yet these states have been targeted by gun control extremists, and draconian laws have been shoved through Democrat-controlled legislatures, with false claims of “public safety” and “saving lives,” in spite of their already low crime rates and a complete lack of any evidence that the new laws will do anything to enhance public safety or save lives.

The facts no longer matter though, because it’s all about leftist orthodoxy and billionaires’ campaign contributions now. To be a “good little Democrat,” one must completely embrace gun control.

So we see these weak-minded “good Democrat” politicians in low-crime states, receiving thousands of dollars from gun control groups like the Giffords’ and Bloomberg’s, and pushing radical gun control measures. The fact that their states’ citizens have long records of peaceful, responsible gun ownership, is irrelevant to the radical, rights-restricting zealots. They fear guns, hate gun owners, and strictly adhere to their statist dogma, which insists that they pass gun control to “solve” problems that these states have never had.

Washington State gun owners have provided decades of proof that complexity, expense, and mandatory training prior to issuing a concealed carry license, does nothing to enhance public safety.

Washingtonians have enjoyed very liberal, inexpensive, shall-issue concealed carry standards, with no training requirement, since 1961, and that has never been a problem. NONE! But in spite of licensees’ stellar record, their radical Democrat politicians are insisting that the licensing process be more complicated, more expensive, and require extensive training. Not solving a problem, just adhering to dogma.

Similarly, the citizens of Vermont have always been free to carry a gun whenever they were so inclined, with no training or licensing requirements at all. Once again, this has never been a problem, as responsible gun owners have consistently acted responsibly. Vermont’s crime rates remain among the lowest in the nation, as are their rates of firearm-related accidents.

But living up to the responsibility that comes with the right to arms, means nothing to the current crop of Democratic politicians.

It irks them and their financial backers to have such a liberal state with such liberal gun laws, so they have decided that over 200 years of responsibly exercised liberty should be flushed down the drain and new restrictions must be instituted. It has nothing to do with public safety, saving lives, or protecting children, and everything to do with advancing the new Democrat orthodoxy that guns are bad and must be tightly controlled by government nannies.

New Mexico and Nevada have had higher crime rates than Washington and Vermont, but their crime problems are readily attributable to specific socioeconomic & illegal immigration factors, unrelated to the availability, possession, or carry of firearms. But these states were targeted by the Bloomies and Giffords several years ago, and they poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into them to elect Democrat majorities in their state legislatures and governors’ offices. That investment is now being repaid by dutiful Democrat politicians passing and signing restrictions on private firearm transfers, and deadly so-called “red-flag” laws to deprive people who have committed no crime of their right to arms. All based solely on hearsay, without any semblance of due process. Again, not because these laws will save lives or make people safer, but because they comport with the new, “progressive,” Democrat anti-freedom orthodoxy.

Second Amendemnt Sanctuary Cities/Counties

In response to these heavy-handed tactics, citizens have turned to their local politicians to stand up to these draconian measures. City councils, county boards, and sheriffs have responded with resolutions, proclamations, and statements opposing the new laws, and declaring that these unconstitutional assaults on liberty will not be enforced within their jurisdictions.

This growing trend around the country has provoked authoritarian responses from state attorneys general, including almost identical letters from the Washington and New Mexico AG’s, as exposed in this Tweet from the New Mexico Shooting Sports Association. The similarity of the letters strongly suggests that these folks are getting guidance from the same source, probably based in New York City.

The word Liberal used to mean “loose” or “freely,” and be associated with liberty, but it has been hijacked by statist, government control freaks. It is outrageous that “liberal” politicians would steal liberty in places that have long records proving that liberty works, and call it “progressive.”

As we have said for decades, gun control is not about guns, it’s about control. Time to step up our game and fight back harder.

Washington: Voter’s Rights Under Fire

(March 15, 2019) For almost 60 years, the state of Washington has been the gold standard for straight-forward concealed carry licensing.

Washington has had shall-issue concealed carry with no training requirement since 1961, and there has never been any sort of problem reported as a result of their simple law which requires a small application fee, a basic criminal background check, and fingerprints.

No mandatory training. No local law enforcement discretion. No need to be pals with a judge or a politician like in NJ. Just a simple application and a small fee. It’s worked beautifully. No blood in the streets. No running gun battles over fender-benders. No string of untrained license holders shooting themselves or others in foolish accidents or angry confrontations. In fact, licensed concealed carriers in Washington State have been exemplary in their prudent exercise of their right to carry. Not only have they historically been on par with licensees in other states, but they have also statistically come in on the low side of accidents, misuse, and other firearms-related mishaps. Even when compared to states with rigorous training requirements. What’s even more significant about this is the fact that concealed carry licensees, on the whole, have a well-established record of extremely low crime and firearm misuse – lower even than sworn police officers – and the licensees of Washington State have historically been on the low side of that already impressive statistic.

The record of Washington concealed carry licensees has been so exemplary that I, and others, have often used that record as proof that mandatory training requirements are spurious and serve no purpose other than to make legally carrying a concealed firearm more expensive and complicated, and therefore less affordable and less attractive.

But in spite of the stellar record of Washington State gun owners in general, and the state’s licensed carriers, in particular, Washington voters have passed two major rights-restricting initiatives,. Now Democrat politicians in the State Legislature want to penalize Washington gun owners further by “improving” the concealed carry licensing system that has proven so effective for the past 59 years. They want to mandate expensive training and additional delays, along with further restrictions on magazine capacity and so-called “assault weapons,” and additional ways to “temporarily” revoke people’s Second Amendment rights and confiscate their guns on word-of-mouth accusations. The new restrictions are coming, not because politicians want to fix current or potential future problems, and not because any of these proposals will save lives – they know they won’t.

The actual reasons politicians are pushing this radical agenda are two-fold: Fear and hatred of guns and gun owners and love of Mike Bloomberg’s money.

Washington has long been controlled by West Coast Democrats and “moderate” Republicans. It is one of the top producers of agricultural products in the country, growing much of the nation’s potatoes, wheat, cherries, apples, and other food crops, along with things like grass seed. The state is also home to Boeing, with its massive ranks of unionized workers, Microsoft, and dozens of smaller, but very profitable tech companies. Washington doesn’t have state income taxes, so it is a magnet for Silicon Valley billionaires wanting to cash-in their bonuses and stock options with the smallest tax bite possible. All these circumstances have pushed the state farther and farther to the left. As the Seattle area has grown, populations in the rest of the state – the farming and, until recently, logging regions that comprise the bulk of the state’s land area – have grown more slowly, bolstered mostly by retirees, and becoming much more dependent upon tourism. Much of that growth is also coming from California and other “liberal” wastelands. The result has been a fairly rapid transition from a center-left legislature with strong representation from rural areas, to a hard-left, urban-dominated legislature able to ride rough-shod over the “ignorant hicks from the hinterlands.”

Many of the Seattle elites have long been bothered by the state’s relatively lax gun laws, but they didn’t have the political power to change them. The rural areas have been able to hold the line, blocking attempts to enact stricter state gun laws, but unable to pass improvements like expanded concealed carry reciprocity agreements with neighboring states. The anti-rights forces always seemed to come up short – until Bloomberg brought his billions to bear in the state.

Even though Initiative 1639 passed in Washington State last fall, several county sheriffs are refusing to enforce it because they believe it to be unconstitutional. (Dave Workman photo)
Even though Initiative 1639 passed in Washington State last fall, several county sheriffs are refusing to enforce it because they believe it to be unconstitutional. (Dave Workman photo)

Bloomberg’s minions did extensive analysis and polling across the country, and they decided that Washington gun rights were ripe for the picking. They rolled in with a cadre of media and marketing professionals, fundraisers and organizers, along with an almost unlimited budget. Bloomberg convinced local billionaires like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, along with a large collection of Microsoft and other dot-com millionaires, to bankroll an initiative effort to criminalize private firearm transfers. They spent some $15 million to convince people to vote for the initiative, which the media insisted had support from “over 90% of Americans”. They are outspending opponents 8 to 1 or more and managed to pass the initiative with about a 60% to 40% split.

Not quite the 90+% the media had promised. But the private transfer ban was just a “good first step,” and Bloomberg remained active in the state, dumping additional millions into election campaigns of anti-rights extremists. Their next target was an initiative to disarm people suspected of being a danger to themselves or others, a so-called “red flag” law. Again they outspent opponents by millions, and again they were successful, but again, this law was characterized as just a “good first step.” The pressure continued. Bloomberg and the Gifford gang continued to fund legislative candidates who promised to march to their gun control drum, and they succeeded in electing enough of them to change the balance of power in the legislature and advance their radical agenda.

Five years ago, Washington was one of the most “gun-friendly” states in the nation. Today they are vying for the title of most gun-restrictive. And the transformation happened without any significant shift in crime or other firearm misuses in the state but was instead motivated solely by political ideology, irrational fears, and money. This is an example of the insatiable appetite of anti-rights zealots. They are never satisfied with their “good first steps” and always, always want to take another and another.

Now gun owners in Washington are being crushed under the heel of the nanny state. If GunVoters fail to effectively rally their fellow gun owners and lovers of liberty to their cause in the next election cycle, Washington will almost certainly become just a northern suburb of San Francisco and a west-coast cousin of NY. NJ and CT.

Individual liberty in the Evergreen State is gasping at what could be its last breaths.

Note: Jeff lived in Washington for a number of years, mounting an unsuccessful bid for the State Legislature in 2002, challenging a 6-term Democrat incumbent in, what was at that time, Eastern Washington’s only Democrat-held district.

Second Amendment Sanctuary Zones, Taking Back Ground?

(March 7, 2019) Over the past year or so, extremist gun control laws have exploded in several states, primarily as a result of urban majorities riding roughshod over their rural neighbors.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Washington and Oregon, two states with historically liberal gun laws and low crime rates, that have been overwhelmed by a combination of growing urban populations and a sudden influx of cash from anti-rights billionaires.

Mike Bloomberg, with the help of Bill Gates and other ultra-wealthy Washingtonians, has funded a string of modest-sounding (but in reality extreme) gun control measures through Washington’s voter initiative process. The result: a once gun-friendly state suddenly in the running for the title of most firearm-restricted state in the country.

Oregon has gone a similar direction, but instead of initiatives, the assault on individual rights originated in that state’s Democrat-controlled legislature, again with the help of millions of dollars from Bloomberg and his pals. But the Northwest isn’t the only place the anti-gun ratchet has been turning. Illinois, where Chicago and its massive crime problem has long driven anti-gun efforts, is looking at statewide burdensome regulations on licensed dealers. New Mexico, and Nevada have also jumped on the gun control bandwagon with increasingly restrictive laws and legislative proposals.

Second Amendment Sanctuary Zones

In response, sheriffs, county commissioners, and city councils around the country have started passing “Second Amendment Sanctuary” resolutions, and declaring their intent to ignore and not enforce laws that violate the right to arms.

Unlike the “Sanctuary” designation adopted by cities, counties, and even states in opposition to enforcement of federal immigration laws, the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement isn’t pushing a local agenda over federal enforcement, but rather they are standing up for the supreme law of the land – the U.S. Constitution – over state laws that infringe on enumerated rights.

One of my favorite political commentators, Bill Whittle, recently voiced concern about the 2A Sanctuary movement on one of his Bill Whittle Now programs on YouTube.

His objection was that by using the “sanctuary” model, he feels that activists are falling into a trap by failing to take the fight to its source – the state legislature – to fix the problem, rather than be isolated and slowly walled off in smaller and smaller “rights enclaves.”

I would agree with him, if establishing small “freedom zones” were the final objective of the movement, but it’s not.

The 2A Sanctuary movement is not a final objective, but rather a tactic in the larger fight. The cities, towns, and counties take these positions, not as barricades to hide behind, but rather as declarations of war against their over-reaching legislators. They are rally points for lovers of freedom, where they can make plans for taking back their state legislatures and restoring the rule of the Constitution.

When an individual citizen stands up and declares “I will not comply” with laws they consider unconstitutional, that one small voice can be easily silenced. When many citizens band together and make the same declaration, they are a much louder voice that is much harder to silence. But when elected officials within a jurisdiction stand together with their fellow citizens and make the declaration on behalf of their constituents – and presumably with the support and approval of those constituents – it is a revolutionary statement that cannot be squelched or silenced. If these local politicians are indeed supported by their constituents, they will be reelected or elected to higher office, and the politicians who have pushed the unconstitutional laws will be turned out for their traitorous actions.

There’s no question that accepting unconstitutional laws as valid within the state, but not in some narrow jurisdiction, would be a serious mistake. Accepting evil for others, as long as rights are protected for me, is never acceptable. Drawing a line in the sand and declaring that creeping criminality shall not be tolerated beyond that line, and then pushing the line outward to encompass the entire state and nation, is exactly the right thing to do and is a noble effort. These local politicians – county board members, sheriffs, mayors and city council members, – are putting their careers, and in some cases their personal liberty, on the line in defense of what’s right, and they are leading the charge to rectify the wrong.

Nanny-state elitists and the sheeple who follow them in their high-rise apartment buildings and gated communities in Chicago, Seattle, Portland, and Las Vegas, must be turned out of office and their radical, anti-rights ideas rejected. That will only happen when large numbers of voters from across the states and nation stand up and take action – calling, writing, marching, and most importantly VOTING.

This is a war for liberty, and there is no neutral ground nor room for complacency. There is also no room for hiding behind “sanctuary” walls. The wrong must be thrown out and the right must prevail, and that is going to require active engagement on the part of all right-thinking Americans. We all must be willing to work toward better solutions, even when our options are limited and imperfect.

If you’re not familiar with Bill Whittle’s Firewall and Afterburner series, and his more recent Right Angel and Bill Whittle Now programs on YouTube, I highly recommend you check them out at BillWhittle.com

The Blessings of Liberty for Our Posterity

(March 4, 2019) On February 16, I had the honor of addressing a rally on the Arizona Capitol grounds, in support of the Second Amendment, hosted by the group Riders U.S.A.

My topic was the importance of teaching our kids about the Second Amendment. You can watch the video or read the transcript below.

Good Afternoon Gun Lobby!

Thanks for coming out on this beautiful day in the land of the free!

I think you all know that this is the land of the free because it’s the home of the brave.

God bless our young men and women who sign that blank check and swear that oath to guard the gates of freedom. And while they’re physically standing in the way of outside aggression against our nation, it’s up to us to guard the ideals, principles, and promises of the founding documents of this great nation.

Just as “the Gun Lobby” is not a bunch of overpaid suits in Washington DC – sorry to disappoint Mike Bloomberg, Nancy Pelosi, Governor Cuomo, and the like, but if the NRA disappeared tomorrow, the Gun Lobby would still be just as powerful, because it’s not the NRA, it’s the NRA members and tens of millions of dedicated patriots just like you, scattered throughout this wide land. So too is the government of the United States not the overpaid suits in Washington, but rather we the people.

“WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

We’ve never been perfect in living up to the ideals expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. Even at the time of their writing, the Framers knew that the Constitution itself didn’t live up to the ideals they were espousing. But that didn’t keep them from expressing those lofty objectives as their – and our – ultimate goal. The target we should be shooting for. Perfection is not attainable in this world, but our charge is to do our best to strive for that unreachable goal, and not just for ourselves, but for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come.

If you look at the original copies of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which I just read, you will notice that there are various words in that short passage which are capitalized. “We the people” is written over-sized, with bold strokes, and all capital letters. The words “Order,” “Union,” “Justice,” “Tranquility,” “Welfare,” “Blessings,” “Liberty,” and “Posterity,” all begin with what would today be considered by our English teachers to be improper capital letters. But at the time, capitalization was commonly used as a way to add emphasis. These were words that the framers expressed with special significance, and one of the most important in that list is the last one: “Posterity.”

Posterity is a word that we don’t use much anymore. It’s very akin to the word “Ancestors,” except it is looking in the opposite direction. As our ancestors are the generations that came before us, our posterity are the generations that come after us, and we have a sacred obligation to those generations. My fear though, is that we have been doing a poor job of educating our children about the principles of liberty, and the ideals that our republic was founded upon.

The Blessings of Liberty are not reserved for old white guys, nor are they reserved for any other select group. They are the birthright of every American, and they are framed in the context of the smallest minority – the individual. It is incumbent upon each of us to know and understand the principles of liberty, and to pass that knowledge and understanding on to our children and our children’s children for generations to come.

The Second Amendment says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state, the Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms shall not be infringed.” What this means in modern language is: Since it’s important that the people be able to come together in an orderly fashion (cooperatively or independently) to defend themselves, the country, and each other in times of need, the Right of the People (that’s you and me and everyone within the jurisdiction of the United States) to keep (acquire, own, possess) and bear (carry and use) arms (guns, knives, tasers, pepper-spray, etc.) may not be restricted or curtailed.

There’s no ambiguity about this short statement or its intent, and those who want to try and complicate and confuse it are simply wrong.

But here’s something that’s key to defending the Second Amendment: The right to arms – just like all of the Bill of Rights – belongs to everyone. It exists in great measure as a protection of all of the other rights we enjoy. We, as defenders of the Second Amendment, must also be defenders of the entire Bill of Rights, and all of the rights and privileges spelled out or implied in our founding principles, and we must defend them for everyone – whether Christian or Muslim, black, white, or brown, Republican or Democrat or Communist or monarchist. As long as they are not calling for violence or fomenting insurrection, their ideas and their philosophies are protected here – by us – including their right to espouse foolish or harmful ideas.

As Americans, we the people must do our best to live up to the ideals of our founding documents, and defend the rights of all to bring their ideas into the public square for open and honest discussion, protecting the liberty of those who might be marginalized or oppressed, to ensure that the smallest minority – the individual – can pursue their vision of happiness, unmolested and unafraid, as long as they are not trampling on the rights of others in the process.

We must live our values. Set an example, and share those values with our children, so that we might secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity far into the future.
It is a difficult charge and a lofty goal, so we must not flinch or falter, keeping our eye on the target as we aim for liberty and justice for all.

You are the Gun Lobby. We are “THE PEOPLE.” It is up to us to raise up our children in the ways of righteousness, so that they might never depart from it, and enjoy the Blessings of Liberty for generations forward.

I’m Jeff Knox of The Firearms Coalition. Thank you for being here. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for being the Gun Lobby. And God Bless America.

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.