They made a lot of good points, but there’s more to the story. Of course, in the NRA version, the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit against the NRA and four of its top executives is all just one facet of the wider political attacks on gun rights and gun owners. There is some truth to that position, but it is not the whole truth. Without question the NY AG Letitia James targeted the NRA for political reasons.
What the NRA article doesn’t mention though, is that when James and company started their politically-motivated investigation, they found very real, very serious problems with the way the Association had been doing business. Had the NRA been squeaky clean, as its members have every right to expect them to be, the AG’s investigation would have come up empty, with nothing but specious, unsupportable accusations to show for it. That’s not what happened. Instead of finding a well-run organization with exceptional financial controls and transparency, the NY investigators found a chaotic mess of greed, nepotism, cronyism, and subterfuge.
The fact that the NRA turned out to be a den of self-serving elitists, putting their own desires over the needs of the Association, seriously undermined the Association’s very valid First Amendment case in their suit against Governor Cuomo and NY bureaucrats. The fact that the NRA’s CEO was flying around on private jets (with friends and family – for luxury vacations) at Association expense and spending hundreds of thousands of NRA members’ dollars on his personal wardrobe, unilaterally making multi-million-dollar agreements with good-buddy vendors, while accepting expensive, personal gifts, going on NRA-paid junkets, vacations, and safaris with his wife and other friends and family in tow, all while sidestepping Association Bylaws and policies designed to act as checks on such behaviors, and while being paid millions of dollars a year, totally destroyed his credibility and the credibility of the Association.
For over 30 years, the NRA’s PR firm actively promoted a cult of personality around Wayne LaPierre, effectively making him the face and voice of the NRA. Meanwhile, the same PR company, with a lot of help from legacy media and proponents of gun control, painted the NRA as “the gun lobby,” the representative of all gun owners.
When LaPierre’s indiscretions became public, he went into virtual hiding. He avoided television and radio appearances, and refused interviews. His only media appearances were in controlled venues with carefully screened audiences that allowed limited direct interaction with the public. With the so-called “leader” going to ground, there was no one to step up and speak for the NRA. The two most likely prospects for that job, NRA-ILA Director Chris Cox, and former NRA President and FOX News personality Oliver North, had both been drummed out of their respective positions and accused of trying to stage a coup against LaPierre. Other well-known potential spokespersons like Dana Loesch and Colion Noir, were, like North, actually employees of the PR company, Ackerman McQueen, which was an early casualty of the scandal. NRA had sued Ack-Mac, accusing them of defrauding the NRA and of trying to seize control of the Association. There was some merit to that suit, but Ack-Mac’s scam was a mutual effort.
The lawsuit was eventually settled, with the NRA paying Ack-Mac some $12 million.
All of this plays an important part in the efforts to silence gun owners in general, not just the NRA. LaPierre’s exposure, and the scorched-earth attacks on anyone who might pose any sort of threat to his position, has left a vacuum in the discussion of firearms in our nation. There’s simply no one with the credibility or pulpit to counter the endless assaults on gun owners and the NRA. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, and Erich Pratt of Gun Owners of America, along with a few others from other organizations, and a few researchers, politicians, and gun media personalities, have tried to fill the void, but they don’t have the authority inherent in the title of “leader of the NRA.”
I personally don’t think LaPierre was ever a particularly good spokesperson for our cause, but he usually said most of the right things, and when he spoke, he was a recognized personality with the weight of the Association behind him. His position gave him authority and power no one else could equal. Legacy media news and talk shows aren’t interested in spending long segments of air time with some unknown designated PR flack or the leader of a rights organization that neither the audience nor the host has ever heard of. They want the Big Kahuna, and unfortunately, they have been carefully trained to think that means Wayne LaPierre.
As LaPierre has been self-destructing, anti-rights opponents have waged a coordinated effort to shut down and cancel another of our community’s most powerful voices, economist and researcher John Lott. In fact, Mike Bloomberg hired Mike Spies, the same investigative journalist he had used to expose LaPierre’s chicanery and the whole NRA scandal in 2019, to dig up dirt on Lott.
Bloomberg and others in the gun control world, had noticed that Lott frequently appeared on various TV and radio programs and was routinely publishing solid pro-rights articles in major publications around the country. They had learned that they couldn’t effectively counter Lott’s research and arguments, so they launched a cancel campaign, simultaneously attacking Lott personally and criticizing publications and outlets that were giving him a voice.
The efforts to discredit Lott were mostly unfruitful. However, they succeeded in sowing some seeds of doubt and built a repository of ad hominem ammunition from which critics can easily draw. Their efforts to push Lott out of the “mainstream” appears to have been more effective, though, as his byline seems to be less common in the pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post than it once was. He is still frequently seen in more conservative publications and programs, which is good, but the division of media into “right and left” camps means that we spend more time preaching to the choir and less time reaching the ignorant.
That’s a problem.
Lott appears to be trying to counter some of this by increasing his activity on social media, but that’s very difficult with limited time and money. Believe me, that’s something I’m very familiar with.
Lott’s organization, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CrimeResearch.org), is looking to hire a social media professional to help get their message out, and they’re seeking financial support to help fund that effort. You can help by going to Lott’s donation page here and pitching something into the pot. Every little bit helps, so please help those who are working for you.
It’s worth noting that while the NRA has been losing members and revenue, other rights organizations have been growing. Unfortunately, those other groups haven’t been growing nearly as fast as the NRA has been declining, so it’s important that we all put our money to good use. As we have always said, the first place for you to consider donating to should be your local, state-level grassroots groups, then look to helping national-level groups that are doing good work. Of course, we always appreciate your help keeping The Firearms Coalition in the fight and working to keep you informed. Our frequent articles exposing NRA “leaders” aren’t very conducive to support from the gun industry, as no one wants to offend LaPierre and company. So, like your local grassroots groups, we depend on you.
Our movement is losing ground, especially among younger people and city dwellers, even as we’re seeing an unprecedented rise in the number of new gun owners. The silencing and canceling campaigns, along with the NRA’s self-inflicted wounds and the media and politician’s increased efforts to demonize us, our guns, and our rights, are working. Thanks to the efforts of the legacy media, more people now associate so-called “assault weapons” with the increases in violent crime, even though these types of guns are rarely used in crime. Of course, the growing crime rates result from decreased enforcement and prosecution of criminals, but you won’t hear that from the legacy media. More lies are being told, and fewer of the lies are being effectively refuted, thanks to the void at the top of our communication pyramid. We’re winning in the courts, for the most part, but losing ground in the court of public opinion.
It’s up to you to help reverse these trends. As we’ve said for decades, You are the Gun Lobby. Don’t leave it up to the NRA, GOA, SAF, The Firearms Coalition, or any other rights organization to do it for you. It’s up to you. Educate your neighbors every chance you get. Forward and share good articles so more people see them, and never let a lie go unchallenged. When you see false statements about “mass shootings,” more kids dying, and the evils of “weapons of war on our streets” in your local papers, TV news, and social media, call them out. Get the real facts from John Lott, AmmoLand News, the NRA, GOA, etc., websites and magazines, and answer the lies with facts. And, of course, support those who are working for you.
Together we can overcome adversity and the heavily tilted playing field, but we all must do our part. You are the Gun Lobby.