As a life member and certified instructor of the NRA, I have been a long-time supporter of “our nation’s oldest gun rights advocacy group”. For years I would proudly display my NRA Life Member bumper sticker, and wore my Life Member pin proudly on my US Army baseball cap next to my military pins. However, in recent years I have watched, in utter dismay, as the organization I once revered tumbled deep into the rabbit hole. Now, my NRA life membership has begun to resemble an old tattoo; looking worse every year, always covered up in public, can’t remember why I got it in the first place, and difficult to get rid of. So, lets take a look at what is broken, why it is broken, and whether or not it can be fixed before the entire organization crumbles.
The announcement of yet another hasty departure of an NRA President, this time Lt.Col. Oliver North [USMC-Ret], out after just 6-months on the job, has blown the lid off the proverbial NRA pressure cooker. He cited internal financial disputes, questionable business practices, ongoing issues with stonewalling by the NRA establishment mafia [LaPierre, Cox, et al], as well as concerns that their non-profit status could be revoked, as his primary reasons for departure. While this rude awakening may have come as a surprise to the Lt.Col., many observant NRA members are not shocked to see him hitting the eject button so soon.
Problem 1: Partisanship Trumps Patriotism
Long gone are the days in which the NRA was solely a firearms training and 2nd Amendment advocacy group. As of the past few decades, they have slowly morphed into what is more of an mouthpiece for the establishment wing of the Republican Party. The NRA has allowed it’s love for the party to outpace it’s love for freedom, liberty and the founding principles that made America great. The NRA has never been shy at lashing out [rightly so] at gun-grabbing radicals. Yet, they have remained mostly silent when “gun-friendly” Republicans throw gun owners and the 2A under the train. Here are some examples:
- The NRA justifiably railed against Obama for his attempts at executive gun control measures in his second term, yet they have bowed and cowered when Trump did the same thing with his rewriting of the BATFE rules banning bump stocks via executive privilege.
- The NRA justifiably railed against Obama for his preemptive disarmament of disabled vets and SSI recipients for being “mentally incompetent”, yet again they bowed and cowered when Trump said “take the guns first, and worry about due process later” after mass-shootings in NV and FL.
- American Rifleman [NRA’s monthly gun mag] constantly rails against obvious enemies [Schumer, Pelosi, Bloomberg, et al], but never a word about less obvious enemies, like FL Governor Rick Scott [R] who put his signature on a massively unconstitutional “red flag” gun law and banned all firearm purchases for legal adults age 18-20. Other Republicans have also supported “red flag” laws, including John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI) and Phil Scott (VT).
I don’t know about you, but I joined the NRA to defend the 2nd Amendment, not to defend one particular political party; especially not one that has been complicit in eroding our rights. How can we expect our Republican leaders to keep their campaign promises if we refuse to hold their feet to the fire when those promises are broken?
Problem 2: Anti-American Entities on Board
While I try to steer clear of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, I always wondered if after enduring so many legal and political losses at the hands of the NRA, the gun-grabbing radicals would simply try to covertly infiltrate the NRA in the same way they infiltrated Hollywood in the 1920’s and 30’s, the UN in the 40’s and 50’s, academia in the 60’s and 70′ and the Federal government in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. After all, this technique worked in all of those areas, so why not with the NRA?
When NRA board member Grover Norquist was accused of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, I tried hard to apply the concept of “innocent until proven guilty”. After all, it was based on an accusation with little in the way of actual evidence to support it. Nonetheless, it got me thinking about some of the questionable behaviors and actions from purported “allies” that the NRA has supported [or at the very least turned a blind eye to]. As a matter fact, for most of the 20th Century, the NRA was drafting far more gun control laws than it was fighting. Here are a few “compromises” that made my stomach churn.
- The NRA supported California’s Mulford Act of 1967, which essentially banned the carrying loaded weapons in public for lawful self-defense.
- The NRA supported multiple portions of the Gun Control Act of 1968, including the minimum age and serial number requirements, as well as creating bans on “prohibited persons”, as well as blocking the shipping of guns across state lines to anyone but federally licensed dealers.
- The NRA assisted in drafting both the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1938 Gun Control Act, and, then-NRA President Karl T. Frederick testified before Congress in support of massive restrictions and licensing schemes for carrying firearms in public.
One might say that this was in the past, and it all changed dramatically in the early 1970’s after a BATFE raid on an NRA life member left him dead. Since then, the NRA has shifted away from some of it’s support for gun control. However, the old adage holds true, “when someone shows you who they really are, believe them” – my mother-in-law.
After mass shootings in NV and FL in 2017, the NRA had a prime opportunity to pressure politicians for national concealed carry reciprocity, which may have actually made a real, positive impact on public safety. Instead, they voiced “support” for preemptive “red flag” gun confiscation laws, and went silent when Speaker Paul Ryan [R] took the Hearing Protection Act  off the table in The House.
With a record like this, is it any wonder why the NRA earned the nickname “Negotiating Rights Away”?
Problem 3: Financial Mismanagement and Corruption
The NRA has been embroiled with allegations of poor financial management and shady business dealings, which has led to ferocious in-fighting. Is it not ironic then that an organization so divided would have NRA Executive VP and CEO Wayne LaPierre unanimously reelected by the Board of Directors?
For those of you who have been tracking Mr. LaPierre’s nearly 3-decade tenure, you know he is the “real” boss of the NRA. Aside from raking in over $1 million per year in salary from membership coffers, he is like the Dick Cheney of the George W. Bush White House, or the Hillary Clinton of the Bill Clinton White House. The NRA office of “President” has been little more than a revolving door of warm bodies filling a seat, and Lt.Col. North learned the hard way that the old guard NRA elites are a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately for the NRA elites, Lt.Col. North is not afraid to tell it like it is on a public stage. Unlike his predecessors who scurried out the back door quietly when faced with such resistance, the Marine Officer had plenty of experience being dragged through the mud in front of a gun-grabbing Congress and a hysterical media back in ’87 for doing what he could to help stop the spread of communism in Central America.
Problem 4: Appeasing the Gun-Grabbers
Sometimes, I feel a bit sorry for the NRA for always being the scapegoats for hostile, gun-grabbing zealots in the wake of any tragedy. The NRA and it’s members are always at fault, guns are always at fault, and the 2nd Amendment is always at fault. The only person that is not at fault, is seems, is the person who actually committed the crime. The collectivists always love to distribute collective punishment for individual crimes.
Unfortunately, the NRA has been making the same grave mistake that many “gun-friendly” politicians have made in the past, by trying to appease this vicious mob and compromising with them. What they don’t realize is that the gun-grabbers will always hate the NRA, no matter what they do. The NRA would be better served in standing firmly behind our principles… IE “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. If the NRA keeps adding “if’s”, “and’s”, or “but’s”, they will have nothing but enemies remaining on both sides of this issue.
Can it be salvaged?
We can certainly hope, but hope alone will not save the NRA. Here is one man’s opinion on what needs to happen to really save the NRA.
- The NRA leadership needs to be proverbially gutted and quartered like a fall elk.
- The executive offices need to be vacated and the board of directors sanitized.
- The NRA needs to sever it’s ties with the Republican establishment and become a true, non-partisan, rights advocacy group.
- And most of all, NRA members need to “get woke” about what this organization is really doing to our cherished 2nd Amendment rights.
Unfortunately, I am not optimistic that any [let alone all] of these things are going to happen anytime soon.
The real questions is this… in knowing these things about the NRA, do you still believe it is worth saving? What’s more, this rude awakening has me questioning if it ever was what I once thought it was. Perhaps it is time to join the GOA…
Stay vigilant my friends. There are rough waters ahead either way.