Up until now, I’ve deliberately avoided addressing the situation at the National Rifle Association. Since I didn’t feel like I had a very good handle on all of the ins and outs of the fight(s) between the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, Wayne LaPierre, Oliver North, and the Board of Directors, I thought I ought to keep my mouth shut and listen to those more savvy than me. There have recently been some very good perspectives offered by Tom Gresham, Michael Bane, and…if you really want to get into particulars…John Richardson has been tracking things closely over at his Only Guns and Money blog.
But I’ve been asked by a few folks to weigh in on the mess, so here goes.
First and foremost I would stress that if we wish to preserve the Second Amendment, we absolutely need the NRA. I hear from gun owners all the time who refuse to join over some fault they’ve found with the organization, be it too much junk mail, too much country music at NRAAM, or a disagreement with a position taken. The point I always make, and will repeat here, is this: Regardless of how you feel about [insert favorite gripe here], do you honestly think you’d be better off today if the NRA had never existed? Where do you think your gun rights would be today if that were the case? The truth is that the NRA is the 800-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to gun rights, and if we lose the NRA, we lose the single most effective gun rights lobbying organization in the world. Standing by and allowing the NRA to burn to the ground (or worse, throwing gas on the fire) while our anti-gun rights enemies sharpen their knives will cost us the Second Amendment. There is no other organization in the country which is capable of putting up the kind of fight it will take to save it. Period.
That said, my broad view of the current situation boils down to the highly incestuous relationship and then litigious breakup between the NRA and Ackerman-McQueen, the NRA’s long-time PR firm. Add in a serious lack of transparency with the NRA’s finances (especially where Ack-Mc is concerned) and what seems to be a fairly large scale abdication of oversight responsibility by the NRA Board of Directors, and you’ve got a seriously dysfunctional organization which is now in the crosshairs of the New York Attorney General and others. Not good.
As a result, we now have what is essentially a civil war within the NRA. On one side we have Wayne LaPierre and his loyalists fighting tooth and nail to maintain the status quo and control of the organization. On the other we have several members of the Board of Directors (and other key figures) calling for a review of the NRA’s books by an independent auditor (which I think is imperative) and Wayne LaPierre’s resignation or removal.
It seems pretty clear to me that whatever the reason, the status quo with Wayne and his team running things isn’t working. They are the ones who got us into this mess, and seem to be refusing to get us out, going as far as removing Directors from committees if they ask hard questions or call for independent audit. But as a battalion commander of mine once said, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting.”
I for one do not want to keep getting what I’ve been getting from the NRA, at least not as of late…so I think it’s time to stop doing what we’ve been doing. Even if Wayne LaPierre were personally innocent of any wrongdoing in all of this, the fact remains that it happened under his leadership. Being a leader is more than a six-figure salary and expensive suits; the commander is responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do. If the organization does well, the credit goes to your people. But if things go south, you don’t try to place the blame on them. As the leader, you take the hit and either fix it…or step down.
The bottom line is that our National Rifle Association…and by extension, our Second Amendment…has been placed in serious jeopardy on Wayne LaPierre’s watch, and given his behavior as this has unfolded, I am unconvinced that he can or will fix it. Time to step down, Wayne.