The NRA: A Tale of Two Organizations-Maybe

The NRA: A Tale of Two Organizations-Maybe

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Anyone who has seen any of the classic movies about Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper probably remembers the phrase, “The King is dead! Long live the king!” The combination of these two clauses mark both an end, and a beginning–the first marks the end of an era, immediately followed by the arrival of a new era. So it may be with the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Organization 1 – The NRA

There is little doubt that those of us who are involved in shooting sports have at least heard of the NRA. If you have been around long enough, you probably remember the tag line that “the NRA was chartered in the state of New York in 1871 to improve the shooting skills of post-Civil War Americans by encouraging people to engage in competition shooting.” For nearly 100 years, its primary focus was target shooting, hunting, and sportsmen, with only sporadic involvement in national gun legislation. One indicator of its success is reflected in the statistic that in 1940 there were more organized gun clubs than organized golf clubs.

However, NRA detractors interested in protecting the Second Amendment are quick to point out the NRA advocated for enactment of the National Firearms Act of 1934, the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Yet, since the mid-1970s, and in the wake of members’ malcontent over the 1968 GCA, the NRA incrementally shifted its focus to fighting infringements of the Second Amendment from increasingly hostile anti-gun activists, and legislatures. Although unable to suppress the passage of 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, it was successful in promoting its sunset provisions, and the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)” in 2005, an act designed to protect manufacturers from suits alleging they should have foreseen their products would be used in violent acts.

The NRA is currently caught up in several imbroglios, both internal and external. The external pressures are a function of anti-gun forces trying to reduce its lobbying influence on Congress. In one instance, New York state is investigating the NRA for alleged violations of its original charter, and non-profit status. Internally, the NRA is entangled in suits and counter-suits with its former public relations firm, and in allegations of fiscal impropriety by its Executive Vice President, as well as accusations of cronyism levied against its bloated, and sometimes figure-headed, board of directors. One result of the in-fighting is the abandonment by former NRA members from what is seen as a non-functional, unresponsive, and ineffective organization that is pro-gun in name only, and is only nominally pro-Second Amendment.

Organization 2 – The NRA

One of the recent boasts from the NRA leadership is that it has five million gun owners on its rolls. One implication from this is that there are five million voters who would resist legislation infringing on the rights of gun owners.

Another implication is that many of those five million are eligible to vote in the NRA annual elections. As a matter of note, annual members who have been so for five or more years are eligible to vote in the annual NRA elections, as are its life members. However, very few eligible members do vote annually.

The argument levied here is that instead of abandoning the NRA, we, its rank-and-file membership, should stay and fight to defeat the cronyism in the board of directors, demand accountability from the executive leadership, and restore a solid heading toward the goals of providing firearms training and education, and protecting the Second Amendment. A grass-roots assemblage of NRA members is trying just that: “Save the Second.” Its “vision is to save the Second Amendment by strengthening the National Rifle Association. We hope to grow the NRA’s membership, improve its public image, and secure the NRA’s long-term ability carry out its stated purpose of protecting our ‘individual rights of self-preservation and defense of family, person, and property,’ as provided in Article II, Section 1 of the NRA Bylaws.”

The “Save the Second” suggests the NRA can be salvaged from its current malaise and imbroglios through five goals: (1) Reducing the number of the board of directors; (2) Establishing terms limits for its board of directors; (3) Requiring board members to personally attend directors’ meetings; (4) Encouraging rank-and-file membership engagement, and thereby requiring accountability from the executive leadership and the board of directors, and (5) returning the NRA’s focus to “firearms-related activities and causes (gun safety, education & training, recreation, competition, hunting, collecting, [2A] advocacy, etc.).”

“Save the Second” has already launched an effort to achieve one of its goals; a petition from its membership proposing the adoption of an amendment to the NRA bylaws that establish attendance requirements for its directors. The next board of directors meeting convenes in September, after which the “Save the Second” promoters will publish its decision.

If you are a member, or former member, of the NRA join with “Save the Second.” Perhaps we can turn the NRA to its being a pro-firearms advocacy organization we can all be proud of supporting. Only after trying to right the ship and failing can we legitimately abandon it.

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