Editors Note: This is AmmoLand News' first article in a series examining the role, challenges, and future of the NRA Executive Vice President position.
Fairfax, VA – -(AmmoLand.com)- For nearly three decades, Wayne LaPierre has been the face of the National Rifle Association. While he has been out there, fighting to preserve our Second Amendment rights, many who oppose our Second Amendment rights call him the top lobbyist for the gun industry, that is quite misleading.
NRA Executive Vice President
LaPierre is the Executive Vice President (and Chief Executive Officer) of the NRA. This job title means that he oversees the entire organization, of which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), which lobbies state and federal lawmakers, is just a division. Now, defense of the Second Amendment is an immensely important part of this mission, but it is not everything the NRA does.
You see, the NRA organization has wide variety of other functions, all of which are supported by your membership dues (NRA-ILA’s efforts to defend your rights come from donations, NOT member dues). What sort of functions? Well, we can start with hunter education, firearms safety training, and law enforcement training. There are also those who put together the various publications like American Rifleman, American Hunter, America’s First Freedom, and Shooting Illustrated. These activities and fall under the purview of the General Operations Division of the NRA, aka NRAGO.
NRAGO activities, while not directly political, also promote and defend the Second Amendment. Their firearms safety training reduces the possibility of accidents. Hunter education not only improves safety, but it also helps people understand our natural resources in a non-preachy way. Training law enforcement helps build crucial bonds between law-abiding gun owners and cops, showing the latter that the former are not the enemy.
Here is what some of the worst opponents of our right to keep and bear arms, like New York governor Andrew Cuomo, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) won’t tell you: These efforts pre-dated the formation of the NRA-ILA, the infamous “gun lobby,” for a long time. [the gun industry has their own organization and lobbyist, it is called the National Shooting Sports Foundation.]
The NRA only got into the political lobbying business because our rights were being attacked and escalated its efforts in response to the growing seriousness of the threats to gut the Second Amendment.
Wayne LaPierre is only the latest to serve in this position as NRA's Executive Vice President – a job title that was mostly obscure until the 1977 Revolt in Cincinnati when former NRA President Harlon B. Carter was elected to the position and served there for eight years.
Carter’s election ousted Maxwell Rich from the post after Rich had contemplated reducing NRA’s role in the political fight for our Second Amendment rights.
It was during Carter’s tenure as Executive Vice President that Neal Knox (father of Jeff Knox) had a falling out with NRA leadership over the tactics and strategy used to defend the Second Amendment. Carter, a former Border Patrol agent, was replaced by G. Ray Arnett in 1985.
Arnett, a former Department of the Interior official, left after some controversy in 1986. That controversy led to a legal settlement. Arnett was replaced by J. Warren Cassidy, who was, at the time, the head of NRA-ILA. LaPierre then succeeded Cassidy in that post.
In 1991, LaPierre replaced Cassidy as NRA Executive Vice President. Since then, he has presided over an NRA that has grown to over six million members, and which still is arguably the most effective organization defending our Second Amendment rights. He’s dealt with controversy at times, like when former President George H. W. Bush resigned his Honorary Life Membership in 1995 after LaPierre called out ATF abuses.
In 2000, LaPierre drew fire when he claimed Bill Clinton tolerated a “level of killing” in order to push gun control. That declaration stunned many with its outright bluntness and caused a lengthy battle that year, but LaPierre’s fight for our rights arguably was a significant factor in keeping Al Gore (who was campaigning on gun licensing schemes like those in New York) from winning West Virginia and Tennessee, and thus swung the election to George W. Bush. Of course, during George W. Bush’s presidency, where we finally saw the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected an individual right in Heller v. District of Columbia, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito both providing decisive votes in the outcome.
In the decade since, there have been setbacks, including court rulings that have upheld discriminatory “may issue” concealed carry laws and unwarranted bans on certain semi-automatic firearms. With LaPierre at the helm, federal legislation to advance the anti-Second Amendment agenda has been stopped cold. Also, massive gains have been made regarding protecting our Second Amendment rights – and one of the biggest reasons has been Wayne LaPierre.
Fast-forward to today, where it is widely known that Wayne LaPierre is contemplating retirement. In our next articles of this series, AmmoLand News will look at who should take over the helm of the NRA and be our next NRA Executive Vice President. What are the qualities that make someone the ideal choice for the job? What are the current NRA challenges and who are potential candidates.
About Harold Hutchison
Writer Harold Hutchison has more than a dozen years of experience covering military affairs, international events, U.S. politics, and Second Amendment issues. Harold was consulting senior editor at Soldier of Fortune magazine and is the author of the novel Strike Group Reagan. He has also written for the Daily Caller, National Review, Patriot Post, Strategypage.com, and other national websites.