NRA fratricidal fire hits Second Amendment hard
By Mark Alexander
Disclaimer: I write this as a longtime life member of the NRA. Indeed, we hold that the First Civil Right is to "keep and bear arms," a right justly considered to be "the palladium of the liberties of a republic."
Founded in 1871, the NRA is the oldest of our nation's organizational Second Amendment (2A) defenders. Nine U.S. presidents have been NRA members, including Ulysses Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and, most recently, Donald Trump.
In 2018, the NRA boasted a membership of 5.5 million and annual donor revenues of around $400 million. That included about $125 million from membership dues. Pew Research reported in 2017 that 14 million Americans identified as NRA members, but the NRA says that number is inflated because of the favorable position it held in gun-owner circles.
However, the organization has had a rough stretch in the years since.
Things were politically challenging under the progressively leftist administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and times are no better now under Joe Biden. But since 2018, the Left has redoubled its efforts to take down the NRA — and NRA infighting has certainly assisted that effort.
To understand why the socialist protagonists leading today's Democrat Party constantly endeavor to undermine the Second Amendment, look no further than the words of the primary author of our nation's Constitution, James Madison, in the most detailed exposition on its meaning, The Federalist Papers.
In Federalist No. 46, Madison wrote these timeless words: "The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation ... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any..."
Likewise, Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by Madison himself, wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (1833), "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power of the rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them."
That "barrier against the enterprises of ambition" and "strong moral check against usurpation and arbitrary power" is precisely why Biden and his leftist cadres have as their ultimate objective the deconstruction and repeal of the Second Amendment.
Building on the pandemic theme, the Biden/Harris regime has focused all its guns on a 2A assault, claiming our nation is besieged with an epidemic of "gun violence."
But in fact, our nation is besieged with an epidemic of cultural violence, most of it urban, which is the direct result of generations of failed statist Democrat policies that have eroded our culture from top to bottom — including, most notably, the disintegration of families and the children who were once nurtured by them.
These policies created generations of poor Americans and enslaved them on urban poverty plantations in every major city nationwide — modern-day plantations that are the locus of much of our nation's cultural devolution. The devastating consequences of institutionalized poverty play out in an endless loop of daily violence — and only the loudest of those tragedies ever make it into the mainstream news.
The fact is, violent crime is a culture problem, not a gun problem, but for Demos, suggesting there is a culture problem would undermine their entire political platform.
It's tragically evident that our nation has reached the pinnacle of privilege and complacent ignorance when some of its citizens demand the revocation of the constitutional right that assures all others. Which is why 2A advocacy organizations, first and foremost being the NRA, must remain on the frontlines of the leftist assault.
By 2021, NRA revenue had dropped below $200 million, with membership also declining. The organization blamed the COVID pandemic for both declines, but revenue and membership drops are mostly tied to organizational infighting, political/legal assaults, the rise of alternative gun advocacy organizations, and grassroots movements now linked by their 2A support but not by membership in a national organization.
NRA presidents have come and gone, and I have met a few of the notable ones over the last 30 years, including Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss (1988-90), Charlton Heston (1998-2003), David Keene (2011-13), and Oliver North (2018-19). But it is the CEO/Executive VP who controls and manages the organization, and that position has been held by 72-year-old Wayne LaPierre since 1991. And in recent years, LaPierre has been the source of both controversy and dissent.
The NRA's internal divisions became public with Oliver North's resignation in 2019 during that year's high-profile national convention and NRA board meeting. In his resignation letter, North wrote about his concern regarding the organization's spending, and specifically that of LaPierre: "There is a clear crisis — it needs to be dealt with immediately and responsibly so the NRA can continue to focus on protecting our Second Amendment." North was in the process of setting up a special committee to look into alleged financial misappropriations, which he believed were serious enough to threaten the NRA's nonprofit status.
At the time, our friend and NRA board member Allen West called for LaPierre's resignation after details of LaPierre's personal use of NRA funds became apparent. West, a longtime defender of the Second Amendment, said: "There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. ... It's very important for us to have the trust and confidence of the members." West added, "The membership of the National Rifle Association deserves better when it comes to fiscal responsibility because they donate their hard-earned dollars, $25 or $50 at a time, for the protection of the Second Amendment, not the protection of the cabal of cronyism."
The board retained LaPierre after the first round of fratricidal fire, including North's resignation and West's condemnation, but questions about LaPierre's mismanagement of funds have not been resolved — nor has member discontent with LaPierre's million-dollar salary and multimillion dollar compensation package.
However, things were about to get worse for LaPierre and the NRA.
In August 2020, New York's leftist anti-2A attorney general, Letitia James, filed a civil suit against the NRA, alleging fraud and misuse of charitable funds by some of its executives, including LaPierre. DC Attorney General Karl Racine filed a similar lawsuit against the NRA. In January 2021, LaPierre announced the organization was relocating to Texas and declaring bankruptcy, but a federal judge in Texas ruled that the move and bankruptcy petition "was not filed in good faith" but in order "to gain an unfair litigation advantage" against AG James, and to avoid being regulated by New York.
Fortunately, in March 2022, the state of New York ruled against James's effort to carve up the NRA, finding it violated the rights of free speech and assembly of NRA members. But the court allowed her actions against LaPierre to proceed.
That brings us to last week — Allen West is back with a bid to replace LaPierre at the NRA's annual meeting and convention later this month. He has been nominated by a few current and former NRA board members.
Personally, I think LaPierre should have retired in humility back in 2018. Whether West can rally enough board support to replace LaPierre is doubtful, especially given West's charge three years ago: "There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors."
But, on behalf of grassroots 2A advocates nationwide, what I am certain of is this: The NRA's fratricidal fire hits the Second Amendment hard. For this reason, I believe the NRA could use a new and dynamic leader to do what West wants to do, and that's "restore, reform and reclaim the NRA for what it was intended to be."
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.