Letters to the Editor: Opinion
Updated with Additional Submisions 2:54 pm EST 04/29/2019
1st from Andrew Lander
USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- First off, I would like to congratulate all the newly elected NRA board members, I’m sure your reason for running for the NRA Board of Directors (BOD) was driven by patriotism, pride, and selfless service to millions of law-abiding gun owners. This letter is not for you. I would like to say a sincerer thank you for your willingness to sacrifice your own personal health and sanity to try and guide the NRA through its most turbulent times.
As for the incumbents who are on the NRA Board this letter is for you. I’m sorry to say that I’ve lost all faith in you as leaders. I’m also unsure if any of you actually understand what leadership is. Many of you have been on the board for many years and even decades, and continue to remain an elected member of the NRA BOD, in what appears to those of us who have worked at the NRA as nothing more than a shill or yes man/woman. I’m not just speaking to those on the Finance Committee, or Nomination Committees, I’m speaking to all incumbents including those working on committees that have nothing to do politically and operate only in the realm of the programs side of the Association. I request that you remove highly overpaid executives particularly NRA’s Executive Vice President Mr. Wayne Lapierre, Josh Powell, along with cutting all business ties to Ackerman and McQueen (Ack Mack) and anyone that has ever worked with Ack Mack.
For some of you, it appears that you are nothing more than a paid vote to ensure the longevity of Mr. Lapierre or elected to ensure that Ack Mack can leech off the NRA thus receiving compensation from Ack Mack itself. I can only draw one of the two following conclusions, the first one is that you’re incompetent in your duties as an NRA Board member, or two you’re part of the actual problem.
I worked at the Association for over 13 years ending my time as the Training Counselor Program Coordinator. My job was to coordinate and conduct the NRA Training Counselor Workshops, or the folks who trained NRA Certified instructors. When I started in the training department in 2005 there where 42,000 NRA instructors, when I left the NRA there were over 120,000 instructors. My entire time at the NRA I worked 2-4 job at any given time to pay the bills. There are quite a few employees that still do this at the NRA to make ends meet.
That being said, I can think of no other non-profit organization that compensates their Executive Vice President the kind of salary and benefits that Mr. Lapierre gets relative to how much employees receive. I also cannot understand how a person like Mr. Lapierre treats the people that work for him like his own personal indentured servants unless you know the secret handshake, then you’re compensated very handsomely as long as you follow along blindly providing no resistance to the people running the organization. Those BOD’s that OBEY, are rewarded with NRATV contracts provided by Ackerman and McQueen, or are paid handsomely for speaking arrangements. The things that are taking place within the organization I feel are things that corrupt Congressmen would be doing not the leaders of the oldest civil rights organization in the country. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it is to my understanding that the BOD knew a year in advance of how NRA Employees retirements were going to be frozen and run the risk of not existing at all. Yet before employees received the letter notifying them of the possibility of having little to no retirement. Mr. Lapierre and a few other executives cashed out their retirements so they wouldn’t lose any money. I’m not an attorney, but this appears very fishy and has the appearance of what in the business world is referred to as insider trading. This is not just a moral violation, but one would wonder if it would follow into the realm of possible criminal behavior? When I started at NRA, I was still eligible to be in the NRA retirement program; I was hired in 2004 as a membership specialist at starting salary of $28,000 a year working in one the richest counties in America. The retirement was stopped, (IIRC by the BOD) in 2007 for all new employees. The letter shows exponential drops in percentages as well as 13.3 million dollars funding shortfall for 2018, a 4.5 million dollar funding shortfall for 2017, and $0.00 shortfall for 2016 for non-NRA executives retirement funds. This letter was dated April 15, 2019, and was from Ms. Shawn Soto from NRA Human Resources.
It is interesting to note that all the shortfalls started around the time in which Josh Powell took over as the Executive Director of NRA General Operations. The individual or individuals that came up with the idea to put Josh Powell, a man who has had shady dealings, lawsuits, and what appears to have led multiple failed businesses, in charge of the most important organization pertaining to individual rights in this country is either pure BOD’s incompetence or are possibly somehow involved in these dealings themselves. If you’re a board member who helped to put Mr. Powell in charge, you’re part of the problem. If you’re a board member, who knew about this and did nothing to stop it you’re part of the problem. If you’re a board member and knew nothing about Mr. Powell’s shady dealings until the articles started to come out, you’re part of the problem. If you’re a board member and you’re being paid by Ackerman and McQueen than you’re part of the problem. If you’re not actively seeking the removal of Mr. Lapierre, you are the problem.
I have heard numerous excuses for Mr. Lapierre from board members, including speeches at the recent NRA members meeting on how Mr. Lapierre has taken the Association through the tough times and should trust him since he has been at the helm for the last 40 years.
If I speed through a neighborhood for ten years only to get pulled over with the excuse of “I’ve been doing this all along. Therefore you should let me continue to do so Officer” my excuse is a poor one at best. Mr. Lapierre and his colleagues have demonstrated what appears to be a great deal of impropriety as it pertains to running what is supposed to be the brightest beacon of freedom we have left in this country. The leaders of NRA should not be lining their own pockets, creating never-ending retirements for themselves, and conducting shady under the table dealings with ad agencies that their family members work at or have financial dealings. A perfect example of this is allowing Mr. Josh Powell to pay his father what is suggested [unverified] of being in the 10’s of thousands of dollars to photograph the 2017 NRA World Shooting Championship for one single day. This is highly unusual, and I don’t understand why he would have needed to hire an outside photographer, especially since NRA publications had already sent their own photographers to that event.
Despite the fact that current employees continue to be underpaid, fired, used as scapegoats such as in the recent termination of Mark Richardson ( a loyal employee of 10 plus years and former army veteran) in some cases are ordered to travel. Only to find their NRA credit card has been canceled and have to use their own credit cards to finance their business expenditures is a direct result of Mr. Lapierre’s lack of leadership. This means they must put their personal bills on hold because of the NRA’s financial shortcomings. I had this happen to me personally a few times during my time at NRA. In the meantime, NRA executives continue to accumulate astronomical compensations not seen in any other nonprofit 501(c3).
Then there is the case of the Director of NRA Competitive Shooting Division Cole McCulloch who I believe is currently involved in litigation to shut down a neighboring shooting range to his family-owned personal for-profit shooting range. The name of the range is Shadow Hawk located in West Virginia. Shadow Hawk is privately owned and operated shooting range which is highly respected and loved by the local competitive shooters in the area. Another riddle I have yet to answer is, how does the NRA Competitions Director get paid a handsome salary, and draw a large profit estimated in the in the 100’s of thousands of dollars from the NRA’s World Shooting Championship? The Director of Competitions is the same individual that decides where the World Shooting Championship is held every year. Let’s not forget how Cole forgot to report the winnings from the World Shooting championship in 2016/17, only to have NRA Human resources take 2016 taxes out of 2017 paychecks two days after Christmas. I was on vacation at the time and received a paycheck of less around $300 dollars. Another employee didn’t even receive a paycheck. I also believe what the NRA did was actually a violation of IRS tax code. Then there is the issue of possible cronyism going on in the Competitive Shooting Division, yet I digress. This made me ask the question to myself, why is a current NRA Staff member trying to actively shut down a shooting range?
I always thought the NRA stood as a barrier fighting the good fight. I remember a long conversation with my late friend Pat Rogers (editor from SWAT magazine) who supported the NRA, but said, “I don’t always agree with what the NRA, then again I didn’t always agree with what my mother said, but she was right most of the time.” I felt the same way until the motive of the NRA shifted from fighting for freedom to fighting for money. I personally sat in on meetings in which the discussion was to put USCCA out of business because they were taking what should be ours. I’ll be honest I was a little to shocked to hear the NRA was in the business of trying to put pro-gun companies out of business?
I could go on and on, but to be honest, I have better things to do. Service as an employee to the NRA is behind me now. I personally have moved on to other things, yet still, maintain deep friendships with people at NRA HQ. I hear their pain; I can see their suffering, and at what expense?
So Wayne Lapierre, Josh Powell, and friends can make another million? The only people that can stop this is you! The NRA’s survival is at stake, the soul of the organization, the NRA employees that sacrifices a good paying job, gets treated like dirt by folks at Ack Mack, and are forced to lose the most important thing to anyone, time away from their families, will one day come into work and find out they are working for free. The history of the NRA is being written as we speak, I wonder will that history be a relatively short one, causing a collapse in the ability to protect the Constitution particularly the Second Amendment and thus writing your name in the history books as the last BOD’s of the National Rifle Association? Or will you do the right thing and ensure the NRA remains strong for decades to come. I pray that in the future my follow up letter to this will be thanking you for doing the right thing, rather than writing to all you, see I told you so.
NRA Life Member
NRA Senior Training Counselor
NRA Staff alumni 2004-2018
Please forgive all the misspellings and typos.
There will come a time in every bodies life to choose between what is right, and what is easy.
2nd by Steve Hoback
An Open letter to the NRA MEMBERSHIP and their elected SERVENTS, the NRA Board of Directors.
I hope these words don't fall on deaf ears, as I am just another Bojo on the bus, a small fish in a big – and currently fetid pond: a mere NRA Member. I have, however, an insight on the current situation at the NRA that has developed from both my time as a PROUD NRA staff member, shunned heretic after my departure, and currently disgusted yet DEVOTED Member.
I was blessed to have served as the Training Department's Senior Training Program Coordinator, a position that I was incredibly humbled to be created to bring me on board. I served as part of a Team that was passionate, relentless, vigilant, and tireless in our continuous improvement and protection of the training programs, which are the HEART of the NRA's mission statement. We had a Director who had our backs, a Manager who bled the NRA, and a Team that wasn't afraid – even supported in – telling the Emperor when he was naked. I was naive at the time about Ackerman-McQueen. I heard “Ack-Mac” mentioned occasionally with a shrug, but that was it.
What I did notice and was uncomfortable with was the cult of personality that some of the Executive Staff had. The Director of General Operations, a stuffed shirt, self-interested bully in my eyes (whose, I must admit, basically being told to shut up and sit down at the 2019 Meeting of Members seemed like karma at its best), and the Executive Director both always seemed to be placed FAR above their roles and NOT at the helm of a not for profit Association. In fact, the ONLY member of the Executive Staff at the time, Secretary Major James Lamb, was the MOST deserving of admiration: he worked FOR the Association, not the Association working for him.
I began to sense something was rotten in Denmark shortly after I was tasked with creating the Instructor Sales Program, a program through which Trainers would have access to reduced pricing on items which they could use in their training courses: a “win-win-win” for students and trainers, manufacturers, and the Training Programs. The “win” for the programs was that all of the revenue generated to the NRA had to go into the Education and Training Endowment to help the Training Programs be remain self-perpetuating. My guidelines were pretty clear: quality products, ZERO exclusivity, and no “buy in” on the part of manufacturers. The “contracts” were basically handshake agreements, reviewed by General Counsel, which were welcomed by manufacturers as a pleasant change from the Office of Advancement's hard-sell licensing agreements, which I have NO doubt were blueprinted by Ack-Mac. The program was a moderate success.
However, shortly after, I approached a major optics manufacturer who was more than happy to become involved. Details were worked out, General Counsel approved of the details, but just before launching, I was pulled into the Office of the GO Director and told to stand down temporarily because another optics manufacturer who had NOT responded to my offer to be included, “may not be comfortable with their competition being in the program”. This was my first hint that “perks” to senior staff could be driving decisions, later substantiated when a senior staff member went on to a position for the protected manufacturer.
Closer to home for me was the idea of web-based training. The Training Department staff had been tasked with vigilantly ensuring that NRA credentials were in no way associated with online training. This determination was made based on three of the keystones could not exist in a web-based course: TPI, Total Participant Involvement; evaluation of the Knowledge, Skills, and ATTITUDE of the student by the trainer; and – most importantly- safety, as the students' safe gun handling could NOT be observed and unsafe acts not be identified, remediated, and corrected, or – failing that course of action – the student being identified as not passing because of Attitude.
Just prior to my leaving Staff, there began to be inklings of the development of web-based NRA Basic Firearms Courses, specifically, the Basics of Pistol Marksmanship Course. My peers were adamantly against this, and we were amazed that it was even being considered. After I left, the whole debacle of “blended learning” went ahead full steam, without the consideration of the input from trainers in the trenches being asked for input. This was, in NO doubt, a result of the ever-growing Ackerman-McQueen power within the NRA. We all know the farce that the launching of Blended Learning was, and the offshoot of this rape of the integrity of the Programs was the introduction of Carry Guard, an Ack-Mac inspired program that, it must be noted, is the HEART of the New York lawsuit that the “Old Guard” on the Board who voiced the need for secrecy at the Meeting of Members referenced.
This blatant ramrodding of a non-NRA developed course also resulted in the appointment of a new Education and Training Director who was, unbelievable, a major player in the CarryGuard program and who, for all intents and purposes, was given the equivalent of a “no show union job” that organized crime would be proud of.
I have left many names out. A little research can fill in blanks.
Again, I am PROUD to be a MEMBER of the National Rifle Association of America. I am PROUD to have worked with Bill Poole, the late Charles Mitchell, Andy Lander, Mark Richardson, Sean Thornton, Samantha Olsen, and the many other, underpaid, overworked, and dedicated staff members in the trenches during my time there. I am saddened and – at times – angered by the few who have apparently turned to “the dark side” and sold out in the name of job security or – often worse, personal gain or power, after preaching “you gotta be here for the passion, not the paycheck”.
In closing, MY Association is at a crossroads. It has become the swamp that many have lashed out against in our Federal government. The “not for profit” status of the Association, if kept to its charter, bylaws, and mission statement is NOT in jeopardy. The FOR PERSONAL PROFIT actions of the “Old Guard” Board Members, certain of the Executive Staff and Directors and Deputy Directors, and Ackerman-McQueen influence have not only endangered the not for profit status but the INTEGRITY of the Association. In addition, the heedless, unbridled hero worship of many Members and their antipathy toward holding the Old Guard accountable has helped to create the monster that is destroying the Association from within. This PROUD member of the “unwashed masses” that the Old Guard looks down on and feels deserve secrecy from the inner workings has had enough and will no longer tolerate the foxes keeping watch over the hen house.
NRA Life Member
NRA Training Counselor
Former NRA Training Department Staff Member
Regarding Referred Resolution from the 2019 NRAAM
Letter to NRA BOD Apr 28 2019