August 29, 2019
By David Codrea
“I’m not inclined to discuss private conversations with President Trump or other key leaders on this issue,” an “Important Statement from NRA CEO & Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre” announced. His tone came across as commanding. He seemed assured that he calls all the shots and he will brook no questioning. That’s unsurprising posturing, really, when you understand attorneys general for New York and Washington DC are looking to pull the man down as directors jump ship and a donation-dwindling rebellion brews within the ranks.
LaPierre is riding a tiger and holding on for dear life. But it’s a situation of his making and some do question the way wagons have been circled, directors seen as potentially dissident have reportedly been taken off committees, and the inner sanctum of LaPierre loyalists are spreading the gospel that questioning his leadership is wrongheaded, unfair and plays into enemy hands.
That “He’s the NRA” attitude is a reversal of the association’s “I’m the NRA” recruiting campaign from years back. But at the risk of being branded an “NRA basher” (yet again), this Life Member has a couple questions.
Since when is our employee advising on how far a president can go with proposed infringements a “private conversation”? Sure, if required for an audience LaPierre could agree not to quote Donald Trump. But what the EVP said to the president while acting as our representative is our business, not only because we pay him, but since we’re the ones who will have to live with any compromises.
Also, what’s the deal with “CEO” in LaPierre’s title? Per the Bylaws:
"The officers of the Association shall be a President, one or more Vice Presidents, an Executive Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, an Executive Director of the National Rifle Association General Operations, and an Executive Director of the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action ...The Board may not abolish said offices nor create any other offices."
NRA directors and staffers need to be held to the Bylaws in the same way government officials need to be held to the Constitution, and the Purposes and Objectives hold a key for what is needed, once management’s self-created dumpster fire burns out. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first let’s see what resulted from the “CEO’s” private chat with the president.
Tweeting Trial Balloons
“Serious discussions are taking place between House and Senate leadership on meaningful Background Checks. I have also been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected,” the president announced on Twitter. “Guns should not be placed in the hands of mentally ill or deranged people. I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country. Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone!”
Where have we heard the term “common sense” used to demand “gun safety laws” before, aside from practically every gun-grabber out there who finds it a less scary and thus more useful term to exploit than “citizen disarmament” and “monopoly of violence”? What the “biggest Second Amendment supporter” with the YUGE “but” is talking about are “red flag” confiscation and registration-enabling infringements by ending private sales, presented under the euphemism “universal background checks.” Those are now “front and center” for the Republican “leadership,” with Mitch McConnell going a step further and admitting “that the Senate could look at a ban on assault weapons.”
“That’s all reconcilable,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway argued, downplaying proposed new edicts on Fox News Sunday. If she means it is with the core constituency of gun owners who gave Donald Trump his first term, that remains to be seen.
“We can protect people’s civil liberties, privacy, constitutional rights and public safety all at the same time,” Conway assured us, without explaining how magic will work.
Was it really that long ago, with Republicans seemingly in control of it all, that many gun owners were confidently talking about deregulating suppressors and enacting nationwide concealed carry?
More ‘3D Chess’?
Not so fast, apologists for the president counsel. When he says “serious discussions are taking place,” he’s evidently not really serious, at least according to them.
“Trump just beat Democrats on guns,” retired newspaperman and author Don Surber declared. “They want to make gun control an issue. He said, OK, and took control of the gun control debate. The debate will be on his terms and in his language. That is power positioning.”
Some might counter “power positioning” means refusing to make concessions to anyone who would undermine that which the Founders deemed “necessary to the security of a free State.” Kind of like someone who is really the “biggest Second Amendment person” would do...
“Trump is unlikely to commit political suicide by betraying us on guns,” Townhall columnist Kurt Schlicter agreed. “Trump has always come through in the end, but on the way, his unique tactics can make us nervous.”
How the president “came through” on bump stocks is left unsaid, and that “unique tactic” should make all gun owners nervous, especially with 2020 Democrat contenders licking their chops over what they’ll be able to impose via executive order and rewriting rules.
In any case, those assuring us we still have a friend might want to explain that to the president’s daughter Ivanka, who “is reportedly calling members of Congress to feel out various gun control proposals and to figure out what needs to be done in order to get them passed.” They may also want to find a way to prove Trump was just being flippant when he said Chris “Fredo” Cuomo should be red-flagged and not allowed to have guns for losing his temper in a restaurant verbal altercation. In any case, the guy with the power to destroy lives doesn’t get to joke about it, at least not with the “I will not comply” crowd.
Not so fast again, Trump defenders counter. He appeared to backtrack, telling reporters in the Oval Office that there are already “very strong background checks” and warning against a “slippery slope” where “everything gets taken away.”
Except a day later, the president was reversing polarity again, claiming “I have an appetite for background checks,” and that he never told NRA they were off the table. That makes those of us with an appetite for freedom wonder if the guy is really intent on blowing it, or if he’s confident a critical mass of desperate gun voters will swallow whatever he dishes out to them.
A disturbing question comes to mind: If Donald Trump is engaging in more than strategic rhetoric and he sells gun owners out yet still retains the presidency, what won’t he dare do when reelection is no longer an issue for him?
Meanwhile, Back in Fairfax...
There’s a new lawsuit filed by a disillusioned donor who wants his money back. Allegations have been made about a $6.M mansion for LaPierre. A former senior employee in the NRA Treasurer’s office charges outside counsel billed inappropriately and intimidated staff.
And the hits just keep on coming. After I’d submitted the draft of this article to Firearms News, a reader advised me of new developments, with NRA firing a “longtime outside counsel” and two other attorneys, one an outside counsel and one an in-house attorney, resigning. NRA writes it off as attributable to “back alleys of greed, lies and betrayal." We’ll have to see what the lawyers say, and if they say it under oath.
Meanwhile, the interminable emails with desperate pleas for money keep coming in.
“Our guns are at stake. Our freedom is at stake. And the country we love is at stake,” an email marketing missive purporting to actually be from “Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President” (at least it doesn’t say “CEO” this time) warns. Yet, anecdotally at least, it looks like many members are holding off on doing that, waiting for the house to get in order and advocating sending their money to state groups, or to Gun Owners of America or the Second Amendment Foundation.
So what’s to be done to reinstate confidence and open the donation spigot back up?
LaPierre leaving seems like the necessary big first step, even though he still has a core of loyalists with connections in states like New York, New Jersey and California defending his record and his continued tenure. Perhaps coincidentally, all of those states have crappy gun laws and SOP for opposing more still seems to be sending polite requests to hostile legislators from “safe” districts.
After that, we see factions forming.
“Chris Cox is immediately re-instated and elevated to CEO and Executive Vice President,” the wife of the disgruntled donor filing the lawsuit demands. That would be the same Chris Cox who signed the statement calling for regulating bump stocks like machineguns, and a made a video calling for the legal oxymoron of “red flag laws” that provide due process.
Will you open up your wallet for that?
There’s another group, more organized, purporting to “Save the Second by reforming the NRA.” Ideas like a smaller, term-limited board sound intuitively good, but there’s no empirical proof that things will improve. Face it, that depends on who serves on the board and what their priorities are. Mandatory attendance is the right thing to do just on principle, but again, it’s what they do at the meetings that counts. And greater member engagement can be a worthy goal provided their energies are productively focused.
Where I urge caution is in their fifth goal, to “Return to exclusive focus on Second Amendment issues.” It sounds great on the surface, but the devil is in the details and this one raises a huge...uh...red flag, at least as initially drafted:
“Have you ever seen Planned Parenthood advocating for immigration reform? ... No, they don’t. That’s because they are single-issue organizations, and they focus their energy on that single issue. The NRA should do the same.”
That's exactly the wrong advice. Immigration IS a Second Amendment issue. Politicians who vote to enable things like “amnesty” and a “pathway to citizenship” are, in the end, undermining every “good” bill they sponsor and vote for, and supporting every “bad” bill they vote against. NRA refusal to consider how a politician votes on that DIRECTLY RELATED ISSUE in its political ratings results in “A” grades and endorsements for candidates who vote “right” on guns, but then turn around and set the stage for having everything undone when the immigration policies they support come to fruition.
The reasons should be obvious: All credible polls show such populations favor gun restrictions by an overwhelming (71% to 25%) margin. Further, after over 20 years the needle barely moves to the right.
Here’s a challenge for those who would still argue NRA is right to ignore this: Audit those polls against experiences in places like California. Then produce credible data – not opinion, not anecdotes and isolated examples, but something that can be independently validated – demonstrating that “amnesty” and a “pathway to citizenship” for MILLIONS of foreign nationals in this country illegally (and legally, with CURRENT culturally suicidal policies) WILL NOT overwhelmingly favor Democrats and anti-gunners. Every real-world metric shows this will result in supermajorities in state and federal legislatures that will then be able to pass all kinds of anti-gun edicts. It will result in nominations and confirmations of judges to the Supreme and federal courts who will uphold those edicts and reverse gains made to date.
If whoever ultimately takes the reins at NRA doesn’t address this, it’ll be game over, at least legislatively and judicially, meaning who needs them?
Ultimately, it will be game over anyway unless we do one other thing, and pronto: Recognize that the Founders were pretty smart chess players themselves, and when they recognized the importance – the necessity – of a well regulated militia for the security of a free State, they knew what they were talking about.
I plan to flesh that out in a forthcoming article.
About David Codrea:
David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms Newsand AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.