April 29, 2022
By Jeff Knox
The 151st Meeting of Members of the National Rifle Association of America will be held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston Texas on May the 28th at 10:00 AM. It is possible that this could be the last opportunity for the members of the NRA to exert our influence and force the Board of Directors to move toward reform of the Association.
You’ve heard that there are problems at the NRA. You know that the Attorney General of New York (where the NRA is chartered) filed a suit against the Association alleging all sorts of improper actions by top management, and calling for the Association’s dissolution. And you might know that this lawsuit has severely shaken the faith of the membership in the current crop of NRA “leaders,” resulting in falling revenue, and declining membership.
What you might not know is that Wayne LaPierre and others have admitted to many of the charges against them, offering various excuses, or pleading ignorance about things that it was their job to be aware of. The former Treasurer – who, we discovered, was let go from his previous position after being caught embezzling over a million dollars – during his testimony in the NRA’s failed bankruptcy trial, spent over an hour refusing to answer almost any question asked, based on his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. While that’s not an admission of guilt, it does constitute what the public relations guys call “bad optics,” and isn’t particularly reassuring. Other testimony in the failed bankruptcy scheme – which cost NRA members tens of millions of dollars, with some estimates exceeding one hundred million dollars – included the Chair and Vice Chair of the NRA Audit Committee (the committee that’s supposed to make sure that NRA’s finances are checked and double-checked to ensure no impropriety or conflicts of interest) admitting that they had misled outside auditors regarding Wayne LaPierre’s role in the Association’s finances, had misled the members of their own committee regarding LaPierre’s reporting of potential conflicts of interest, and had retroactively pushed through approvals in the Audit Committee, of various questionable contracts and reports from LaPierre, all based on their contention that they “trust Wayne.”
These same NRA Directors, who admitted under oath to placing their personal trust in, and friendship with, Wayne LaPierre, over their fiduciary responsibilities as leaders of the Audit Committee and members of the Board of Directors, are also the President and Second Vice President of the Association. In their capacity as officers, these two, Charles Cotton and David Coy, along with the First Vice President, Willes Lee, who has also expressed his full faith and confidence in LaPierre, serve as the Executive Compensation Committee, which has authorized payment to LaPierre of over one point six million dollars per year while all of this soap opera has been playing out. These three officers also constitute the Special Committee on Litigation, which was created specifically to oversee the handling and response to the New York lawsuit and related suits, bypassing the regular Legal Affairs Committee. This Special Committee of the President and the two Vice Presidents has authorized payments in excess of two million dollars per month (over $30 million per year) to the law firm Brewer Lawyers and Counselors, for the past three years.
Those familiar with NRA history are aware that back in 1977, when the NRA’s leadership tried to take the Association completely away from politics and toward more outdoor life, competition, and nature conservation, the members revolted, firing the Executive Vice President/CEO, and reorienting the Association to make the protection of the right to arms a core focus. The Cincinnati Revolt, as it became known, was a major turning point for the NRA, leading to massive growth and a new day of unprecedented political influence.
Since the revelations came out about the self-dealing, cronyism, and excessive compensation that has been rampant in the upper echelons of the NRA for decades, many NRA members who remember the Cincinnati Revolt, have suggested that it’s time to do it again. They suggest that, since the NRA Board of Directors refuses to hold their executive staff accountable for their confessed misdeeds, not to mention the more serious accusations that haven’t yet been proven, the members should again revolt, take control of the next Members’ Meeting, and throw the miscreants out.
Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Over the forty-five years since Cincinnati, the Board and NRA “leaders,” have gradually changed the Bylaws of the Association, removing the power of the members to take any serious action during a Members’ Meeting.
That doesn’t mean we’re completely helpless though. It is still the Members’ Meeting, and the members can still take control of their meeting, but we are limited in exactly what we can actually accomplish in the meeting. We can’t fire Wayne LaPierre or remove the President and Vice Presidents who have been shielding and supporting him. But we can make political points. We can “manage the optics.” We can express our displeasure and declare our total loss of confidence in LaPierre and his apologists. And we can demand that the Board of Directors do their duty and remove these miscreants from their positions of power.
The Board will hold elections on Monday, following the Saturday Members’ Meeting, in which they will vote for President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, and Executive Vice President/CEO, and all of those positions will be filled on simple majority votes, so, if they wanted to, a majority of the Board in Houston could end this lunacy by simply electing alternative candidates. Unfortunately, there’s a very good chance that the majority of the Board present will simply ignore our demands, and reelect LaPierre and company. It’s likely that something like a third of our elected Directors won’t even bother to show up for the meetings in Houston, leaving the decision-making in the hands of the LaPierre sycophants and the cowardly fence-sitters on the Board. Meaning that it’s likely that LaPierre and company will come out of the Houston meetings with possibly a little more egg on their faces, but retaining their positions of power and privilege.
But that’s no reason not to try.
I’m proud to say that my father, Neal Knox, was a leader of the Cincinnati Revolt, and went on to be instrumental in the rebirth of the NRA as a political juggernaut. In 1978, Harlon Carter, the new Executive Vice President/CEO of NRA, nominated by my father at the Cincinnati meeting, convinced Dad to leave his position as Editor and Publisher of Rifle and Handloader magazines, to take over as Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. He vowed to, in his words, “take the NRA into harm’s way.” By 1979, Dad had declared war on the BATF, and had introduced the Gun Decontrol Act, later known as the Firearm Owners Protection Act. In the 1980 Presidential election he put the previously unrealized power of the NRA, behind Ronald Reagan. Richard Wirthlin, Reagan’s pollster told him, “You may not have won the election for Reagan – but you made it a landslide.”
We can’t pull another Cincinnati Revolt, but we can show up in Houston on May 28, make our voices heard and our demands known. We can call on Directors, our elected servants, to live up to their obligations to the Association and its members by rooting out the corruption and exposing the truth.
We can also begin the process of taking the next step, which is to reshape the NRA Board by electing reform candidates, pledged to end the drama and cronyism that has been running rampant for far too long within our Association. If you or someone you know would be an excellent candidate for the NRA Board of Directors, please contact me via email: Info at FirearmsCoalition dot org.
All of our candidates will need to collect hundreds of signatures from Voting Members of the NRA – Life Members and Annual Members with at least five consecutive years of membership – and that’s going to be a tall order, so if you’re willing to help with that, again, reach out to me via email.
We might not be able to force changes in Houston, but we plan to make sure that our concerns are heard, so if there’s any way you can be in Houston on May 28, we need your help. There’s not a lot of complicated strategy needed to make this work. It will be clear from the outset who is on what side of the debate. The Chair and the folks on the dais, along with a contingent of NRA Directors hovering around the microphones on the floor, will be actively working to shut down any criticism or uncomfortable questions. A number of angry and frustrated NRA members, including me, will be doing our best to raise critical issues, ask difficult questions, and push for rational discussion.
At a minimum, we ask that you support our right to speak, and oppose efforts to shut us down.
The NRA Meeting of Members will take place between 10 AM and about Noon, on Saturday, May 28. Be sure to get your voting credentials in advance, and don’t get wrapped up in the cool guns and gear on the exhibit floor and miss the meeting.
More information will be posted on our website, www.FirearmsCoalition.org, as the meeting date draws closer. You can also contribute to the cause on the site, to help us get the word out to other NRA members.
I hope to see you in Houston.
Jeff Knox is Director of The Firearms Coalition®, an independent rights advocacy organization comprised of gun clubs, grassroots organizations, and individual activists. Founded in 1984 by gun rights legend, Neal Knox, The Coalition has been actively working to educate, inform, and influence the public and our servants for almost 40 years. To join us, support our work, and subscribe to our newsletter and other services, visit our website at www.FirearmsCoalition.org. The website is currently undergoing an overhaul, so please excuse our dust, and let us know if you run into any difficulties.