Once More Into the Breach: Trying to Save the NRA

Jeff Knox addresses NRA members during 2023 Annual Meeting. (Photo credit: John Richardson)
Jeff Knox addresses NRA members during 2023 Annual Meeting.
(Photo credit: John Richardson)

Tombstone, Arizona – -(Ammoland.com)- As I do almost every year, I once again made the trek to the NRA Annual Meeting of Members to try and push the NRA Board of Directors to take responsible action to do what’s best for NRA members and the Association.

Historically, it has been an exercise of futility, and this year was no exception.

Some 77,000 NRA members gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana, over the weekend of April 14 through 16th, 2023, for the association’s Annual Meeting and Exhibits. Most were just there for the guns and gear in the exhibit hall, but a few hundred took the time to attend the Annual Meeting of Members in an adjacent hall on Saturday morning. While the turnout for the meeting this year was much better than in recent years, it was still woefully low, with only about 600 to 700 members (and spouses, etc.) in attendance.

This year’s meeting was significantly abbreviated, as they cut out the customary speeches from the various officers. President Charles Cotton opened the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, a nice rendition of the National Anthem from a local City Councilman, and an excellent prayer from NRA Director and Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina Mark Robinson, who made an impassioned plea for all to put duty and service above personal benefit, and strive for hearts of service. This was followed by the annual comedy routine of Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre trying to identify the oldest and youngest Life Members in attendance.

Usually, this would be followed by “Reports” (speeches) from each of the Association’s top officers. Still, instead of hearing from the President, two Vice Presidents, and the Directors of General Operations and the Institute for Legislative Action, only NRA employee Wayne LaPierre delivered a speech.

Former Congressman Bob Barr, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on Elections, delivered an actual report, going through the numbers on the recent Director elections and revealing that only about 3% of eligible NRA members bothered to return their ballots. Still, LaPierre’s was the only traditional speech in the meeting. It was a relatively good speech, with all of the patriotic buzzwords and invocations. Still, nothing to write home about, and the lackluster reception of the audience, both before and after the speech, was noteworthy. A few years ago, he would have received a standing ovation for just being introduced. Still, this year his introduction received polite applause, and the close of his “barn burner” got fewer than 25% of attendees unenthusiastically on their feet.

From there, the agenda jumped right into Resolutions. The first of those was from a gentleman I hadn’t met, who proposed several changes to the way the Association runs its elections. Secretary Frazer read the resolution to the assembly. Then President Cotton declared that, since election procedures are spelled out in the Association’s Bylaws, the proper way to propose the changes would be through an amendment to the Bylaws. He then declared the resolution “out-of-order” and moved on. President Cotton could have suggested a couple of minor changes bringing the resolution “in-order” by making it a request that the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee explore the proposed changes and either act on them or report back to the membership as to why they were not workable or desirable. Then the membership at the meeting could have voiced their support or opposition to the ideas. But that’s not how NRA “leaders” roll these days.

Next up was a resolution I introduced calling for a vote of No Confidence in President Cotton and Second Vice President David Coy.

In my resolution, I pointed out that the Association has been going through some serious problems and that all of those problems are the result of things that the Audit Committee was supposed to notice and prevent or correct. President Cotton and VP Coy have, between them, been Chair and/or Vice Chair of the Association’s Audit Committee for more than twenty years. I argued that their severe failures in their duties on the Audit Committee make them culpable for the struggles the Association has been going through. I also noted that both have, in sworn testimony, admitted that they guided outside auditors away from LaPierre’s office and acted on LaPierre’s requests based on personal friendship and trust, ignoring their obligations and duties on the Audit Committee.

Again, the resolution was read to the assembly by Secretary Frazer, then President Cotton raised some technical issue regarding a particular portion of the resolution, arbitrarily declaring that portion of the resolution to be “stricken” from the text before allowing me to speak to my resolution. I objected to the striking of anything from the resolution. Still, in the interest of avoiding complicating an already complicated discussion and vote, I agreed to move forward with the resolution as amended by the President. I laid out my case and yielded the floor. Several Directors were already heading for the microphones to argue against the resolution, and, as expected, their main arguments were aimed at me, not the resolution or the validity of the facts it contained.

A vote was taken, and the resolution was defeated.

Next up was my resolution of No Confidence against Wayne LaPierre.

Secretary Frazer read the rather long resolution in a deadpan fashion, and I was again given the opportunity to speak to my resolution. I emphasized that in the past four years, the NRA has lost about one-third of our Annual Members – about 1.5 million of them – and almost one-half of our annual income – a decline of about $180 million per year compared to 2019.

I also pointed out that not only was LaPierre’s $1.7 million salary unjustifiable, but he also received a generous expense account and had another hidden expense account provided by a primary vendor, accepted generous gifts from vendors, and had NRA pay for private jet travel for himself and his extended family on multiple trips to the Bahamas. Where he enjoyed weeks of vacation time on a vendor’s luxury yacht, all without reporting any of it to the Audit Committee. The resolution also highlighted several damning statements LaPierre has made over the years, including his declaration that “The NRA believes that (bump-stocks) should be more tightly regulated,” “The NRA believes in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period,” the NRA supports background checks on all gun transfers at gun shows. NRA supports red flag laws as long as some semblance of due process is included.

After I stated the case for the resolution, Directors again rushed to the microphones in LaPierre’s defense, again focusing on me and my motivations while mostly ignoring the facts of my resolution. A few made lame attempts to justify things like LaPierre’s private jet travel and security expenses, and someone blamed COVID for the losses in membership and revenues (ignoring the fact that all other gun rights groups have seen record growth during the past 4 years), but most just either praised LaPierre as a hero or condemned me as a villain. I was most disappointed by Mark Robinson’s denunciation of the resolution as an attack on the NRA. I had hoped his earlier prayer was an indication that he was aware of the self-serving chicanery that’s been rampant in the higher echelons of the NRA for years and was ready to get on board with efforts to right the ship.

Still, I guess self-serving actions are only wrong when it’s not his friends engaging in them.

A few regular members stood to support or oppose the resolution, with some of them clearly entirely taken by surprise by the accusations and denouncing the “lack of proof.” Obviously, they’ve not been paying any attention at all. I suppose we could politely request that my articles citing court documents, and NRA internal reports be published in the NRA’s official journals so NRA members could keep informed, but I doubt the folks at headquarters would go along with that.

For the second year in a row, a troll from a YouTube “comedy” duo known as “The Good Liars” was able to get recognized at a microphone to dive into a twisted rant about guns and children. I realized he was a troll as soon as he started talking, but he was allowed to continue for several minutes before his microphone was unceremoniously turned off. The video clip has already started making the rounds among anti-rights video channels.

In the end, Ronnie Barrett called the question on my resolution, and the vote ran about 1/3rd in favor and 2/3rds opposed, with many in attendance not voting at all. The meeting was then adjourned.

In the Board meeting on the following Monday, as expected, the Board voted to amend the Bylaws to allow Cotton to run for a third term. Then in a surprise move, the board elected Bob Barr to replace Willes Lee as First Vice President. Without the Bylaw change, Lee would have been expected to be elected President at that meeting. Cotton would have been elected to an honorary position on the Executive Council. David Coy would have been moved up to First VP, but apparently, Lee’s recent public commitment to full transparency was seen as something of a threat that had to be stopped.

Of course, they also reelected Wayne LaPierre to another year as Executive VP, and they elected Randy Kosuch as the new Executive Director of ILA, a post he’s filled temporarily since the sudden resignation of Jason Ouimet from that position a few months ago.

The good news from the meeting is that there has been some rebounding in memberships and revenue. Not nearly enough to make a significant impact, but at least it’s an improvement. I remain convinced that the Association is on the brink of bankruptcy and that if they finally do get to trial in the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit, they will lose in grand fashion, probably destroying any chance of preserving or regenerating the Association.

The 2023 NRA meeting resolutions I offered at the meeting are available to read on the Firearmscoalition.org website, along with a number of court documents and financial documents, like several years worth of the Association’s IRS reports. There are also numerous articles about internal NRA issues going back decades. Much of this is also available in the Ammoland.com archives. On either my website or Ammoland.com, enter “NRA” in the search bar, and you’ll have hours of research at your fingertips.

On a personal note: If you appreciate the efforts and expense I go through to keep you informed about what’s going on inside the NRA and my work trying to restore that once-great organization, please consider visiting FirearmsCoalition.org and kicking in a little support so I can afford to keep bringing this information to light.

Every time I write about the NRA, several people in the comments will say something like, “Jeff’s right! All of my contributions are going to GOA (SAF, FPC, or some other rights group) from now on.” What I’ve never seen, though, is someone saying, “Jeff’s right! I’m going to support his efforts by subscribing to his newsletter and joining The Firearms Coalition.” It’s frankly a little disheartening, especially since my detractors routinely accuse me of doing all of this just for profit

My long-suffering wife wishes this was true. A little funding would be really helpful about now. Thanks.