USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- The NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits in Nashville, Tennessee, are fast approaching. Are you planning to attend? I hope so because this might be the last opportunity for the members to save the organization before our political enemies tear it down completely.
This isn’t hype or bluster. The NRA is in serious trouble, and anyone telling you otherwise is either uninformed or lying.
The most severe external threats currently facing the NRA are coming from the attorneys general of New York and Washington D.C., where the NRA and its various other associated entities, such as the NRA Foundation, are chartered.
These AG’s have expressed open hostility toward our Association, and they have the legal authority to have dramatic impacts on these entities under the laws regulating their charters. Both have launched investigations into the Association’s financial activities, their spending, their political activities, and other aspects of their businesses, questioning their tax-exempt status, their fundraising tactics, their political spending, executive compensation, grants, loans, and generally, whether the leadership has been responsible in the way they have managed the assets of the Association. Which legally belongs to the members. Investigations have also been launched or are being discussed by the IRS, the Federal Elections Commission, the U.S. House and Senate, and others.
With the NRA’s ongoing legal battles with the company that was their most important vendor for decades, the PR company Ackerman McQueen, or AcMc, and revelations that have come out of those lawsuits and through the efforts of investigative journalists, there are strong indications that NRA leaders – particularly CEO Wayne LaPierre – were self-serving and irresponsible with the members’ assets. At worst, these revelations indicate possible criminal extortion and fraud, while at best they indicate very poor fiduciary control, cronyism, and mismanagement. Those who aren’t familiar with the details of the accusations and revelations are encouraged to read my previous articles covering some of those details.
But what can the members do? The sad fact is, not much.
Up until 1977, the NRA’s Annual Meeting of Members was a fairly pedestrian affair. Members would gather one evening a year to hear reports from their officers, ask questions about NRA activities, such as rule changes in shooting competitions, look at the corporate finances, and basically do a lot of harumphing and back-slapping in a pseudo-business meeting. The meetings typically lasted only a couple of hours or so. Then everyone would head out for a late bite, a good night’s sleep, and another day of fondling the latest offerings from their favorite manufacturers out on the much less extravagant show floor.
That all changed at the Annual Meeting in Cincinnati in 1977. There, a group of concerned members who had learned that NRA’s leadership was planning to sell the DC headquarters building, move the organization to Colorado, and get away from all things political, came into the meeting with a plan to shake things up. The group, which called itself the Federation for NRA, was led by long-time NRA members like John Wooters, Francis Winters, and Neal Knox (full-disclosure Neal was my father), who strongly supported all aspects of the NRA’s training, safety, and competitions mission, and who wanted the NRA to be more engaged in politics and defense of gun owner rights, not less involved.
The usual 2-hour Members’ Meeting turned into an 8-hour marathon, lasting from 7:30 in the evening until 4:00 the following morning. During that meeting, the members fired the Executive Vice President, added or amended several bylaws, and tried to replace several members of the Board of Directors. Replacing Directors failed because the NRA attorney pointed out that since the Directors were elected by the full membership in a mail-in election, only the full membership could replace them.
The Federation had laid the groundwork for the meeting for months, not giving any details publicly, but encouraging Voting Members to be sure and attend the Members’ Meeting. At the meeting, they had designated floor managers wearing matching hats and carrying walkie-talkies to coordinate their efforts. My father, Neal Knox, was the primary spokesman for the reformers, introducing each of the reform motions and leading the fight from the floor.
In the end, the Association got a new Executive Vice President, Harlon Carter, and new rules for nominating and electing Directors, giving Members a greater say and more choices. The Federation and the Old Guard established an uneasy peace for the good of the Association. However, they continued to wrestle with each other for ultimate control of the organization for years afterward.
The NRA was changed forever that night, and there are a lot of Members who would like to stage a similar revolt in Nashville this April. Unfortunately, that’s not even a remote possibility.
After the Cincinnati Revolt, both sides of the fight, the “Old Guard” and the “Federation,” took steps to close the cracks the Federation had used to accomplish their revolt. The Federation closed some of them to keep counter-revolutionaries from swarming a future meeting and reverting to the way things had been before. The Old Guard helped close others to try and hold onto what power they had remaining, and squelch any new threats.
These days, the Members’ Meetings have morphed into multi-media, self-congratulatory, rah-rah sessions, with as little input from the Members as possible. They typically make a major production out of the process of identifying the youngest and oldest Life Members, drawing that out as long as possible. Then the President and Vice Presidents give short speeches praising the accomplishments of the Association and its leaders, then the EVP and Executive Director of ILA give speeches, again honoring the Association’s achievements and warning about the threats we face. Members are not invited to ask questions or make comments. The last thing on the agenda is Member Resolutions. This is effectively the only opportunity for Members to try to directly raise issues or discuss matters. Still, Member Resolutions are non-binding and can do little more than offer suggestions to the Board and staff.
The meeting starts at 10:00 on Saturday morning, April 18, 2020, and any resolutions must be submitted to the Secretary in advance, usually by 11:00, giving the staff and Board Members time to develop plans for dealing with them. If at all possible, and especially if there are resolutions that the establishment finds problematic, they will attempt to adjourn the meeting before getting to the resolutions. Drawing out the other parts of the meeting typically means that resolutions won’t come up until well after noon, which is the time scheduled for the meeting to close. Failing that, they might rule a resolution out of order or combine several similar resolutions into a single one. I have had resolutions declared out of order before they are even read to the members.
If we get to the resolutions, they will try to front-load them with any silly or outrageous resolutions being read first. This is intended to bore and frustrate the Members and make them more amenable to a motion to adjourn. There will typically be only a few resolutions offered, and a small group of Directors sitting near one of the microphones will try to refer them to a committee of the Board for further consideration – meaning read them and dismiss them. If a significant resolution makes it to the floor, and the motion to refer it to the Board fails, this same group of Directors will try to create confusion by offering amendments, arguing that it would be imprudent to discuss the topic in front of TV cameras – especially considering the Association’s current legal battles – offer rambling diatribes about their years of experience in the gun world, and use various parliamentary tactics to delay, distort, and derail the matter.
What the Members can do, is to Attend, Stay to the bitter end, Demand that everything be Heard and Discussed, and Refuse to be Shut Down.
In the end, if the Members stand firm, raise pertinent issues, ask tough questions, and adopt one or two good resolutions, that include a requirement that the resolution(s) be published in the Official Journal within a reasonable time, it’s possible that enough Directors will see the resolution(s) as a mandate from the Members, to put some starch in their spines and take some significant actions.
It’s a long-shot, but it’s the only shot we’ve got.
About Jeff Knox:
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father, Neal Knox, led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War.
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 has offices in Buckeye, Arizona, and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.