Opinion by Harold Hutchison
United States – -(AmmoLand.com)- I have been defending the Second Amendment in one form or another for 25 years, ranging from opposing gun control in debates during AP government class to professional involvement in a variety of capacities, not the least of which includes my columns at AmmoLand News. I am proud to be among those standing between those who would impose the types of cruel injustice that we have seen occur in New Zealand this year at the hands of Jacinda Ardern and American citizens who wish to exercise their rights.
The present situation is a very dire one – and I have said so on this site on multiple occasions. So, with my 25 years of perspective, I would like to address NRA members, the Board of Directors, and the executives of the NRA.
First, to the NRA members. I can state with complete confidence that Duane Liptak spoke the truth about the staff at NRA earlier this year. I should know – I was one of them. I took the calls and answered letters from members during the fight to stop Bill Clinton’s effort to exploit the Columbine shooting for the purpose of wiping out gun shows. That no new legislation passed whatsoever is a testament to the tactics and strategy NRA used in May and June of 1999.
Let me talk for a bit about the tactics and strategy part. I think that the vast majority of AmmoLand readers want to see gun laws that infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens guns gone. The problem is, we’re not at a place to get to that objective in a relatively short timeframe. We’re actually pretty far, despite the progress made on many fronts.
It will take electing Senators and Representatives willing to vote down those laws that infringe upon our rights. It will take seeing that judges who will uphold the Second Amendment get confirmed to courts. To get the Congressional majorities and the judges needed to accomplish that objective, we need to make sure that enough voters will either support such repeal, or at the very least not view that as a deal-breaker. That takes lots of work, making good arguments that are fact-based, being mindful of how our defense of the Second Amendment comes across, and building a pro-Second Amendment culture across the country. Even then, we are at the mercy of events, and we can be certain that the likes of Michael Bloomberg won't just sit by and let us regain our rights.
That said, living in the Washington, D.C., area is not cheap. If anything, NRA staffers are badly underpaid, especially given today’s reality of blacklisting and social stigmatization. These days, it can go beyond even that. Chris Cox had his house vandalized. NRATV host Dana Loesch had to move her family because of threats stemming from her support of the Second Amendment. That’s just what made the news. There’s the other stuff that won’t make the headlines. It’ll be the prospective employer seeing NRA on a resume and deciding not to hire. It could be harassment at a store or restaurant. It could be neighbors shunning them or refusing to let their kids play with the kids of NRA employees.
NRA employees, as well as the members of the Board of Directors and the executives, all make sacrifices to defend the Second Amendment. Sometimes, it’s just time and potential earnings from more lucrative opportunities. Other times, it’s not getting a job, or someone declining to rent to them. Cox and Loesch have faced really bad aspects of this, vandalism and threats. All of that stuff, by the way, meets with non-condemnation or even approval from the media.
I can get having tactical or strategic differences with the NRA’s defense of the Second Amendment. I can understand concerns about the financial situation of that organization. But to imply that NRA’s staff, Board of Directors, or executives don’t care about preserving our rights shows a level of disregard for the sacrifices these people have made that is unfathomable and reprehensible.
Speaking of the financial stuff: I know there is controversy over NRA Carry Guard, and whether or not it steps on USCCA’s toes. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but that is a minor matter in a free market. Its legality has also been disputed. Here’s what you should know on that front: There are a number of major non-profits – some you have heard of – which have involvement with various insurance products (at the very least) that go far beyond NRA Carry Guard. For instance, the American Association of Retired Persons has worked with the Hartford to provide auto and homeowners insurance for its members. Cuomo’s response? Crickets.
But here are two other places to look: The American Bar Association has its own insurance setup to benefit its members, with a wide variety of products. The American Medical Association runs its own insurance company. Look at all the products that the company is offering, some of which are specially designed for its members.
Andrew Cuomo and Letitia James haven’t even bothered looking at those two set-ups, which are far more extensive than NRA Carry Guard is. Yet it’s NRA Carry Guard that is targeted. Their actions are akin to the abusive John Doe investigations in Wisconsin. This is intended to punish the NRA for opposing their radical agenda; in Cuomo’s case, this beef goes back for two decades.
I know this present infighting is causing a lot of doubt and uncertainty. I wish it weren’t happening. I wish things had gone better, and I wish the NRA had gotten its act together sooner. But we can’t change the past. We can only move forward, learn the lessons, and try to do better on all fronts. The new changes are a start, but only a start.
In that, I will say that Scott Bach and Larry Potterfield are slightly off base: I have seen no proof of deliberate, premeditated malfeasance or any scheme for personal enrichment as alleged by long-running critics of Wayne LaPierre. That being said, it is obvious, based on a fair bit of 20/20 hindsight, that the NRA Board of Directors and the executives, including LaPierre, were not as vigilant as they could – or should – have been vis-à-vis Ackerman-McQueen and that corners were cut.
NRA and Ack-Mac apparently worked together well for decades before their relationship falling apart, and the track record of success over the years is a sign that the NRA clearly did get value for what was spent – even if it might not have been the best value. When things are going well, the understandable “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage can take hold. The demise of the relationship, as necessary as it was due to recent events, will be a loss for those defending the Second Amendment.
As for those who have been very critical of Wayne LaPierre and who have held back donations: You need to decide if you hate Wayne LaPierre more than you care about the Second Amendment.
The NRA is in an existential fight with Andrew Cuomo, and if they lose this, there is no safe harbor – the same attacks the Cuomo-James regime is using on NRA will be turned on the Second Amendment Foundation, Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America, and United States Concealed Carry Association. There will be no safe harbor.
At the very least, do not punish NRA-ILA and NRA-PVF for the failures of Wayne – keep supporting legislative efforts and the political work needed to keep pro-Second Amendment lawmakers in office and to remove those hostile to our rights. [nra-pvf & nra–ila are independently funded and do not share funding or monies with nra proper]
NRA Board of Directors
Now, to the NRA Board of Directors: There is a crisis of confidence in the NRA’s leadership. Most of the fault can be laid at the feet of Andrew Cuomo’s abuses. But some of it falls on you as well. Mostly, it was sins of omission, because there was a great deal of success from the NRA’s long collaboration with Ack-Mac. Nobody wants to rock the boat when things seem to be working well. The demise of the relationship and what looks like a lengthy legal battle with this former vendor will be damaging.
But the sins of omission don’t just stem from the Ack-Mac relationship. They also involve being asleep when it was obvious the threat of the abuse of power by those in government was rising. After the 2013 revelation of the IRS scandal, and Andrew Cuomo’s famous declaration the following year that Second Amendment supporters had “no place” in New York, there should have been a thorough and sober assessment of potential vulnerabilities, and a tightening up of things going forward and if the Ack-Mac/NRA divorce was to happen, it wouldn’t happen in the middle of an existential fight.
That extra time, over three years, could have had NRA better prepared for Cuomo’s abusive assault, maybe to the point that Cuomo wouldn’t have even tried it. But the lack of preparation goes beyond the Cuomo assault. The threats from corporate gun control and Silicon Valley also seem to have caught NRA by surprise to some degree.
There is a way to regain that confidence and end the legal fighting. An audit of the NRA and Ack-Mac that is conducted by an outside firm could help resolve both the financial issues and the crisis in confidence while also helping to develop policies to ensure that NRA does better in getting the most value for the members’ money.
There also needs to be some work done to anticipate future threats. Andrew Cuomo’s career has been made with trying to find back doors to render the Second Amendment meaningless, even when legislation is voted down, and politicians are voted out. These latest abusive attacks have already hampered NRA badly. Do we want to be caught by surprise the next time? Will NRA survive a next time?
Finally, to address the NRA executives, including Wayne LaPierre. Mr. LaPierre, you’ve done well through so many battles. After Sandy Hook, the NRA kept anti-Second Amendment legislation from passing at the federal level, as it did after Columbine. NRA helped defeat the use of lawsuits by big-city mayors to force gun manufacturers into compliance or bankruptcy. The concealed carry situation has greatly improved from where it was in 1984.
That being said, like the Board of Directors, you did not maintain the vigilance that you could and should have maintained over Ack-Mac. You failed to foresee the new threats to our rights and have a plan to mitigate or defeat them. Those failures helped put the NRA into this position.
Regrettably, you have become a lightning rod for criticism aside from the aforementioned failures, most of which is unfair. At this point, you can best serve NRA by announcing a controlled plan to step down on our terms, not the media's or the anti gunner's, after the 2020 election, with a replacement to be selected at the 2021 NRA Annual Meeting.
The good news is that you stepping down will free up resources NRA needs to defeat Andrew Cuomo. Just as your critics need to decide if the defense of the Second Amendment is more important than their dislike of you, you need to decide if the defense of the Second Amendment is more important than you.
I think that we all can agree that the defense of the Second Amendment is much more powerful when we have a strong and united NRA. It is my hope that the NRA can overcome its internal squabbles and focus on electing pro-Second Amendment candidates to federal, state, and local offices. The stakes in 2020 are very high, and could very well be for all the marbles.
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.