By Jeff Knox
USA – Every year at this time, a third of the NRA’s 76-member Board comes up for election. This year, there is also a question on adoption of a slate of fifteen bylaw changes proposed by “unanimous recommendation” of the Board of Directors. These bylaw changes, presented without debate and no dissenting opinions, are claimed to continue the spirit of the “Cincinnati reforms,” and to give more power to the members.
Quite to the contrary, the proposed bylaw changes destroy the last vestiges of the reforms enacted during the Cincinnati member revolt of 1977. They remove power from the members, further consolidating control over the Association within the Board’s inner circle and staff.
As an Endowment Life Member of the NRA who has been very active in NRA politics for almost four decades, I'm very troubled by the key provisions of this bylaw change proposal, and I am urging all voting members to Vote “No” on this proposal. While some of the proposed changes are mostly cosmetic, and others seem logical, the overall effect of the proposed changes is to take power away from the members, and this is an all-or-nothing proposition. You can't get the good without also accepting the bad – and that's unacceptable.
For most of the past century through 1977, the NRA ballot typically contained 25 names for 25 Board vacancies. The names on the ballot were chosen by the Nominating Committee, which was appointed by the president. No petition process existed. In short, the process was as insular and closed as the Soviet Politburo of the Cold War.
Passing this slate of bylaw changes would put the NRA firmly on the road back to the “Russian ballot” of days gone by, and lock the Association on that course.
In 1977 a group of dedicated members, upset by the NRA’s reluctance to fulfill its duties in the political arena, and the closed electoral system that made change all but impossible, staged a member revolt at the Annual Meeting of Members in Cincinnati. Operating under the bylaws and not-for-profit law, these members, including Neal Knox, moved a slate of bylaw changes that reorganized NRA's structure and created a petition process to get access to the ballot. The members in attendance, angry over plans to move the headquarters out of Washington, were primed to join the rebellion. The meeting lasted from 10:00 Saturday morning to 4:00 in the morning on Sunday, and culminated with my father nominating, and the members electing Harlon Carter as the new Executive Vice President.
In subsequent years, those member-empowering bylaw amendments have been chipped away. Each strike of the chisel was made with assurances that the latest change would “protect the Cincinnati reforms.” The current proposal pretty much completes the job of protecting the Cincinnati reforms right out of existence.
When Dad wrote the 1977 amendment, he set the petition threshold at 250 voting members. That number was deemed difficult, but achievable for someone like a local club president willing to run for the Board. In this internet age, gathering 250 qualified signatures has become somewhat easier, but setting the bar at anything higher than about 500 would take the process out of reach of anyone other than nationally recognized celebrities.
The current proposal would set a sliding threshold of 0.5% of the voters in the past year's election. That would equate to about that acceptable level of 500 qualified signatures, but only if less than 6% of eligible members cast ballots. If just 8% of eligible members were to actually vote, the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot would go up to close to 900 – well beyond the reach of most members – and it could easily go much higher than that. The proposal also sets the bar for a recall petition at over 5,000 signatures currently, and going up exponentially if more people vote.
If you are an NRA member, I urge you to look in your February 2017 NRA magazine for a voting package bound into the middle of it. If it's there, you are eligible to vote, so go to the back of the package where you will find 2 ballots and an envelope. One ballot is for voting on the Board of Directors, the other is for voting on the proposed bylaw amendments.
For the Board of Directors election, I am recommending you vote only for the following 3 candidates, and no others: Sean Maloney, Adam Kraut, and Graham Hill. There are others on the ballot who are good, but they don’t need our help.
Whether you vote in the Director election or not, be sure to completely fill in the circle next to the word “No” on the bylaw ballot, put it in the envelope, sign it, and drop it in the mail.
“As the NRA goes, so go our gun rights.” My dad first penned those words more than thirty years ago, and they're still true today. The NRA management seems to think that a placid, compliant NRA is good for gun rights. That's not true. The organization was born out of strife and is at its best when there is tension. For its leaders to relax into complacent incumbency will not yield an NRA that is willing to press the strategic advantage we have now, nor dig in and fight the hard battles that will come when the political pendulum moves the other way.
The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition is a project of Neal Knox Associates, Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org