A handful of prominent figures in the gun rights community are calling for reforms at the National Rifle Association following revelations regarding its finances and business practices. The discord is flaring as the NRA begins its annual convention, which kicks off in Indianapolis on Thursday.
On April 17, in partnership with The New Yorker, The Trace published a monthslong investigation revealing years of financial impropriety at the NRA. Staff writer Mike Spies obtained documents that detailed how the NRA’s leadership, contractors, and vendors had extracted millions of dollars from the nonprofit’s budget. Ackerman McQueen, the NRA’s longtime public relations firm, was central to the siphoning.
The NRA and many gun rights advocates dismissed the findings as “a hit piece.” But for others in the gun rights community, the revelations also provoked shock at years of problematic business arrangements, regret about the possible existential threat to organization, and calls for reform at the NRA, including demands for the resignation of Wayne LaPierre, the organization’s leader and highest-paid executive.
Below, we’ve rounded up some reactions from gun rights supporters on blogs and social media:
Demanding leadership changes
Several called for a leadership revamp, starting with the public face of the organization, and the disillusion of the organization’s business ties to Ackerman McQueen.
Adam Kraut, an attorney who is running for a seat on the NRA’s board of directors, wrote an op-ed in the popular blog Ammoland calling for LaPierre’s resignation.
Undoubtedly, the current state of affairs the NRA finds itself in happened under the watch of Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre and various Board Members (those sitting on the Finance and Audit Committees) who apparently failed to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the organization and its members. I am calling for Wayne LaPierre and those Board Members to tender their resignations immediately. The very future of the organization depends on the ship being righted and righted quickly. Of equal importance, I call upon the Board to terminate all contracts with the marketing firm Ackerman McQueen, along with any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and to bring all public relations back in house.
Kraut’s position was echoed by Jeff Knox, the son of late NRA board member Neal Knox, and director of The Firearms Coalition. The elder Knox was removed from the board in 1997 after unsuccessfully trying to unseat LaPierre.
There’s no way to fix the problems without sustaining some pretty severe damage. I don’t know what kind of legal issues would be involved in dissolving existing contracts with vendors and employees, but drastic measures must be taken immediately. Those directors carrying the greatest culpability – members of the Audit Committee, the Finance Committee, and the Executive Committee – should resign. Had the Board not recently made recalls of directors and officers virtually impossible, I would start a recall drive against many of them.
For some, The Trace’s findings only reinforced their feeling that the NRA has compromised its values and is more aligned with politicians and enamored of power than its membership. Several commenters suggested abandoning the NRA for more hard-line groups.
Ben English, writing for Texas Gun Talk, a forum for Second Amendment advocates, spoke to the difference between the organization and its members:
Where the article talks about a cultural divide between the organization and the members, know that it’s real. I saw it first-hand back in the 1980s. The problem has waxed and waned over time, but these days, it seems like it’s as bad as it’s ever been.
Jeff Richardson, the author of the popular blog called No Lawyers — Only Guns and Money, analyzed Spies’ interview with a disillusioned former NRA fundraiser on “The New Yorker Radio Hour.”
The other thing this audio broadcast illustrated is that [Trace reporter Mike] Spies’s reporting depended on a lot of inside information from presumably disgruntled staff at the NRA including handwritten memos and other documents. I am not disappointed in the staff for spilling the beans. Rather, I’m disappointed that it took an article from an outsider with an anti-NRA agenda to illustrate the major internal problems that can and may put the organization itself at risk. By extension, it also puts the battle for the Second Amendment and gun rights at risk. [Michael] Bloomberg himself couldn’t have done more damage than those tasked with supposedly advancing gun rights have done through their own avarice and self-dealing.
In the investigation, a former Internal Revenue Service official said the NRA’s financial practices could, if confirmed, cause the organization to lose its nonprofit status. Several commenters echoed that sense that the group’s days could be numbered.
Here’s Richardson again:
New York State could close down the NRA entirely by moving for dissolution. You have a governor and attorney general in New York that hate the National Rifle Association. You have a Board of Directors which is too large to be effective. You have Ackerman McQueen trying to preserve its position and an outside counsel trying to take their position for himself. And then you have internal civil war going on within the organization between loyalists to one executive and friends of another leader. The bottom line is that there are tremendous troubles within the NRA just when you need it to be steadfast in the face of outside attacks.
Abuses and financial excesses
Despite the precarious financial state of the NRA, its leadership and partners continually steered money away from the organization’s budget to their own coffers, while still using the specter of external threats (whether from liberals or government regulators) as a fundraising pitch for members.
Iraqveteran8888, a popular gun YouTuber, posted on Instagram, saying the NRA “is likely finished and not a moment too soon. The greed, corruption and waste present have been appalling to witness.”
Over at AmmoLand, Knox, the director of The Firearms Coalition, said he knew there were abuses of power at the NRA — but didn’t expect them to be so severe:
Even with my 40-year history in the NRA, I never imagined the abuses and neglect were so outrageous and rampant. The most significant revelation is that NRA employees and attorneys brought many of these issues to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, and the members of that committee did nothing to correct the problems. They didn’t alert fellow directors about the issues. They didn’t call executives and contractors out on the carpet for the abuses. They didn’t call for contract reviews, investigations, or disciplinary actions. Instead, they retroactively approved past actions that should only have been taken with their prior approval and did their best to contain the damaging information, helping to drive away dedicated NRA employees who did nothing other than try to inform them of problems.