A Brief History of the NRA Executive Vice President Position

Editors Note: This is AmmoLand News' first article in a series examining the role, challenges, and future of the NRA Executive Vice President position.

A Brief History of the NRA Executive Vice President Position: Current CEO Wayne LaPierre.
A Brief History of the NRA Executive Vice President Position: Current CEO Wayne LaPierre.

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.

Harlon B. Carter
Harlon B. Carter

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.

J. Warren Cassidy
J. Warren Cassidy

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.

Read Next Gun Button


Harold Hu, chison

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.

  • 22 thoughts on “A Brief History of the NRA Executive Vice President Position

    1. I am reserving my opinion concerning the NRA until Special Council Mueller concludes his investigation of the NRA funneling between $2M and $5M of Russian money to influence the election of our current and obvious corrupt president! It should be illegal for any foreign entities to try to influence any of our elections, regardless of whether it is local, county, state or national.

    2. JDC, $10 million net worth does not make him an “elite”, as that story states, but quite well-off. Now-a-days, when many people are earning we’ll over $100k annually, having at least a few million in net worth is not that unusual. Many CEOs not only make millions more than him annually, but are worth hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, as is the case with the anti-rights “elites”. I do agree with the rest of your post.

      1. Heed the Call-up.

        Didn’t mean to imply a $10m net worth (even after a divorce) was untoward. I’m OK with folks who can invest/save/invent whatever the amount as long as it isn’t ill gotten gains. (…and I’m retired military who didn’t have a big salary most of my career).

        I’d like to think that even in DC if someone is paid a million dollars + a cushy retirement, he’s doing more than a so-so job. That was the main gist of my thoughts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I just consider him to be doing a so-so job.

        I’m an NRA member just for the very reasons of #’s of members you so eloquently laid out. I don’t have to think LaPierre is the second coming of Elvis to know how important it is that we speak with a fairly united voice vs the ant-gunners.

    3. Chris Cox, head of ILA will be the next NRA Executive VP–and Wayne gets more than 1 million in pay each year–the exact pay scale of his and some others in the NRA is actually kept secret even from the NRA’s board of directors.

    4. I’m very sorry that I gave the NRA so much money and became a Patriot Lifetime Benefactor member. They are not true and complete 2A supporters, but are instead just enough to get support from freedom loving Americans. Then they compromise everything else that they can away to the ever increasingly tyrannical governments of this United States of America. I wish it were possible to reclaim everything that I gave them and give it all to the 2A foundation. The 2A foundation understands that any form of compromise on the 2A allows for infringements. That’s why our Founding Fathers wrote the amendment so bold and plain so everyone could understand it. It is coming to the point that there needs to be more of the first part of the 2A (Militia’s) being established and in place in order to regain our freedoms that we have been loosing. Our governments have been stomping all over the last part of the 2A in forms of infringements (regulations and restrictions are infringements). That’s why the most important part of the 2A is at the beginning of it and it needs to be well ORGANIZED and established. It is truly the teeth of the Second Amendment. It IS NECESSARY for a Free State. Think upon it, then ACT upon it!

    5. For all you crybabies, who find one thing or another wrong with the NRA to justify not being a member, make no bones about it the NRA is what stands between you and a tyrannical government bent on making us slaves to the collective. If you own a gun, you should be a 2nd Amendment supporter. The best and easiest way to do that is by being a member of the NRA, despite your personal peeves about one little part of what they do or don’t do, and by getting out and speaking out about the abuses to our Constitution and Rights. The 2nd Amendment Foundation is a good alternative to the NRA, but not half as effective because of lower membership numbers, as are the GOA, NAGR, NSSF and State organizations.
      If you don’t want to lose your gun rights, inch by inch, get involved in SOMETHING and fight for them!!

    6. LaPierre gets $1,000,000 base salary(per annual NRA documents at annual meeting several years ago) plus benefit package which probably approaches 50% of his base. For that, one would think we could expect a warm engaging smile instead of a pissed off Commie organizer look!?!??! Every time I engage an anti-gun Liberal, one of the first remarks is “That NRA guy (LaPierre) is always pissed off and mad.” An engaging smile is the easiest method to improve one’s appearance and connection with others in gaining their support and changing their perspective and beliefs. LaP fails on that point at the very least. Also, when the NRA pays Ted Nugent $50,000 plus expenses to thwang his guitar and talk to about 2000 members at the NRA Conventions on Sunday afternoon (that’s annual membership dues revenue of 2000 members alone); and, pays him $60,000 annually to sign 1200 guitars for Friends of NRA auctions, I lose empathy for their constant pleads for donations. If Nuget wants to serve as NRA Director he…and all Directors should be at the Conventions full time…..walking the floor and talking with members……signing guitars for free (still a write off for him) and being actively engaged with the membership. Don’t want to do that….don’t be a Director.

      1. I met Wayne at a convention in Minneapolis by being in a line. He too was waiting in line! I was impressed with his forthright personality and appreciated that ever since. God bless this man and gun owners who besmirch him are fools.

    7. When are they going to address the Wall Street Journal Article written last week that talks about favoritism and they insider network??

    8. Where’s the don? Wayne your fired! The nra dropped the ball last mid term elections. I live in a swing state that was up for grabs and did not see one nra advertisement, except one one little postcard in the mail with a few names on it. We lost my state to the blue turds. Thats what me and my brothers in arms get for years or donations? Does all the money go to lining the pockets of over paid layers and executive’s. I’m starting to wander if the nra has become just another money grabbing organization.

    9. Based on the 1934, 1968, 1986 acts, and current concessions, it would appear that the NRA isn’t the organization it claims to be – defending our RKBA. It actually does do other part, shooting and firearm safety training, on which it was initially established, but it is mostly a large, money-sucking pig. There are many others in leadership roles that need to go, and bring in people that believe in our RKBA and the 2A, if the NRA truly wants to be a defender of our rights. Unfortunately I became a life member a few years ago, before I saw what it really is. Amusingly the Leftists have meltdowns over the NRA, but the NRA has not supported our rights when it has been most needed.

      Sadly, the organizations that do believe in our rights do not have the membership levels and clout that the NRA does. The NRA does just enough to make many of us want to support them, and then requests more money to “fight” for our rights. It seems to be just another business who’s primary activity is trying to extract money from us.

    10. (Chuckling) Boy, that was some glossed over early history, especially the part about Neal having some differences and then jumping right to Wayne taking over. “Revisionist” history might be the understatement of the decade in how the dirty tricks of it all went down. Of course I don’t believe Harold is old enough to have been around and witnessed it all either. 🙂

    11. How about a follow up article on exactly how much these NRA execs are paid? I believe they have several who are North of $2M each. Nobody can convince me that paying someone $2M over $1M (or less) means you get a “better job” out of them, nor that that money could be spent better on core NRA missions. Given that dues have gone up 2x in 3 years, it is obvious they aren’t trying to control costs.

      1. Despite what the MSM says, the NRA DOES NOT OWN any Congressmen and women. The NRA has to educate the voting public to elect representatives who have read and appreciate the Constitution.
        Politics is one thing, the Constitution is another and statistics can be twisted.
        Often the NRA and SAF, GOA, CCRKBA, JPFO and other groups and associations are just holding ground.
        Bloomberg, Soros, and the Microsoft/Google fortunes are controlled by rabid anti Second Amendment individuals.

        When JFK was murdered, the antis almost banned telescopic sights. The NRA pointed out to Congress that telescopes sights saved lives because hunters could see and tell that it was a deer or a human being.
        Seems simple, But politics is about controlling and using the ignorant.
        Hollywood doesn’t help.
        Inflation is what makes the NRA membership dues increase and for those who don’t know… in 1966 a Life membership was $100 and you had to swear an oath to the Constitution and have a sponsor such as another member, a judge or military officer. In the last 50 years inflation has reduced the 50 cent dollar to 2 cents and a $1,500 Life membership is just staying even.

        1. I differ with you only slightly. My point is exactly that. The NRA’s message has grown stale under Wayne’s leadership. Defense may win football games, but it is a losing strategy for the 2A. All that happens is that every year another “sensible gun law” is passed and we are a little less free, and those “sensible” laws don’t help law abiding citizens at all.

          If you are going to pay top dollar for talent, you should be a results oriented organization.

          As for dues, most of the NRA’s money doesn’t come from dues, but by corporate support. Not sure when the last time your employer gave you $4m in a special retirement benefit…mine hasn’t (ever).

          Found a good article that isn’t really sensationalist. Does a good job of laying out a discussion about LaPierre and the NRA.

          http://time.com/money/5178193/wayne-lapierre-net-worth-nra-money-salary/

          1. Over 20 years ago TIME published an editorial paper that said that the “gun issue” was settled and there was no right to keep and bear arms. Hence forth they would only cover the anti-gun, no right position.
            Not a word of any article in TIME is worth a damn. It is all anti-constitutional propaganda.

    12. When LaPierre retires I imagine membership roles will increase dramatically. Myself along with tens of thousands of others have not and will not join, or refused to maintain their membership in the NRA because of LaPierre’s abuses of his position and flagrant use of NRA funds for his own aggrandizement and profit will now join and support the NRA when he retires, providing NRA re-focuses on 2nd Amendment issues and not salaries and perks of the executive VP.

    13. “Wayne LaPierre is contemplating retirement.”

      It would also be a excellent time for Ms. Hammer to sulk away and return the NRA back to it’s members.

    14. Do you remember the Peruta v. San Diego lawsuit? Sure you do. It is the lawsuit where the NRA told the 9th circuit court of appeals that cities and states can ban Open Carry in favor of concealed carry and told the 9th circuit that overturning California’s Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 would be “drastic.”

      Well, the NRA lost its Peruta v. San Diego lawsuit in 2016, and then filed a brand new lawsuit which again argues that states and local governments can ban Open Carry in favor of concealed carry.

      So far, the NRA has not echoed its support for gun-free school zones in its latest lawsuit, Flanagan v. Becerra.

    Leave a Comment 22 Comments

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *