NRA’s Heroes

The Knox Report

From the Firearms Coalition


NRA’s Heroes


By Jeff Knox

(April 8, 2008)  Over the years I have often run into people who have withdrawn their membership in the National Rifle Association because they are angry about a position NRA has taken, or failed to take, on some piece of legislation.  These folks are often surprised when I encourage them to renew their membership and learn that I am an Endowment, Life Member myself.  Many people have withdrawn from the NRA based solely on the terrible treatment my father suffered at the hands of NRA officials, but even with the malicious personal attacks Dad suffered, he never stopped supporting the organization and its goals because he understood that NRA isn’t the suits at Headquarters; NRA is millions of shooters and gunowners all around this country and Neal Knox would never abandon them.

The recent death of Charlton Heston was widely reported and his loss will be prominently grieved at the coming NRA Meeting of Members.  I will say that, though I didn’t always agree with him, I had the utmost respect for Mr. Heston and appreciate what he did for the NRA and the gun rights movement, but I will leave it to the NRA and his publicists to eulogize him.  I would rather tell you about another hero of gun rights we lost recently.

                Joe DeSaye was a family man, an entrepreneur, and a patriot.  His parents emigrated from France and homesteaded in Montana where he was born.  He grew up working on the family farm and became passionate about hunting, shooting, and firearms – and the liberty promised in the U.S. Constitution.  In 1946 Joe began selling sporting goods and quickly grew the part-time business into an extensive wholesale and retail enterprise called J&G Sales, selling firearms, ammunition, and accessories on-site and by mail-order nationwide.  The business continues today, owned and operated by one of Joe’s sons.

Readers of Shotgun News will be familiar with J&G though most probably never heard of Joe.  Joe was a hard man, a very tough businessman, very opinionated, and very committed to the cause of liberty.  I liked and respected Joe very much and he was one of Dad’s closest friends and advisors.  When Dad was fired from his position as Executive Director of the NRA-ILA back in the early ‘80’s, he was blackballed by firearms publications.  Dad wasn’t ready to give up the fight for freedom and fade away and it was Joe DeSaye who gave him a vehicle for communicating with serious gun guys. 

Joe routinely bought several pages in Shotgun News in which to advertise his business, but he was so upset by what was going on and so committed to Dad, and the Second Amendment, that he provided some of that advertising space to Dad for a gun rights column.  Up until that time, Shotgun News only advertisements so Joe kept paying to have Dad’s column printed in the magazine until Shotgun news finally realized that it was something their subscribers liked to read.

Dad and Joe both understood that NRA is the best hope for preservation of firearms rights and that to surrender or abandon the organization would be akin to throwing down your gun and drawing your knife in the middle of a firefight.  When you're out of ammo or your gun jams, you fall back and reload or repair, you don't just throw the gun away.  But that is what many in the movement advocate on a regular basis. 

Joe believed that Dad was NRA’s best hope and Dad appreciated Joe’s counsel and support.  They would often spend hours on the phone discussing the best ways to get, and keep, NRA moving in the right direction.  And Dad wasn’t the only one benefiting from Joe’s wisdom and financial support; Joe was always willing to put his money where his mouth was and to follow his money with strong opinions.  Many politicians and NRA Board Members were the recipients of Joe’s enthusiastic advice.

That’s what made Joe so effective; he took it all upon himself.  While many people write an occasional check or zip off an occasional letter or e-mail, believing they’ve done their part; Joe wrote checks, wrote letters, made calls, visited offices, caught people at social events and trade shows… He was a one man organization and his impact on the movement can never be measured.

If you’re one of the people who have dropped out of the NRA or are thinking about doing so, I encourage you to rethink your decision.  If NRA were to simply go away, then grassroots and other organizations would step in and fill the void, but NRA is not going to go away.  That means they are going to continue playing a critical role in the gun fight and if you’re not a member you won’t have any say in just what direction that role takes.


Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included.  Text is available at  To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108. 

©Copyright 2008 Neal Knox Associates