Can The National Rifle Association Be Saved?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

I doubt it, but let’s rehearse some recent events before diving too far into my assessment.

Even most NRA members, it would appear, still do not get that the issue of bump stocks (and the ban dictated by the stroke of a pen by one man) isn’t about bump stocks.

“You know what? I didn’t even know what a bump stock was,” said Patrick Callahan, 61, from Wyoming. “I have no problem with a bump stock being banned, to be honest with you. I think there’s always balances.”

Sebastian is still arguing, seemingly, that as long as we all retreat in unison, everything will be okay (or at least as good as it can ever be given that we are likely on the losing side anyway).  We just need to avoid division.  If I’ve misinterpreted Sebastian in this admittedly cursory treatment of his latest post, please feel free to correct me.  But on the previous [related] post by Sebastian which I’ve linked (and will do so again), commenter Stephen Wright lays out the following charge.

Talking no-compromise in a political battle is like Hitler not allowing his troops at Stalingrad (and other places) to retreat and maneuver intelligently like a modern army has to. It’s idiotic. But I fear that there’s enough idiots on our side buying into this that it may split our fairly large minority and keep us from being politically effective.

It’s ironic that when the pro-gun movement is actually historically the strongest we may ultimately lose the war that we had been winning until now.

Let’s leave behind the issue of whether we’re winning (there is indication that at the local and state level, there is progress in things like open carry, despite S.C.’s intransigence, while at the national level there hasn’t been a win in a very long time, Heller and McDonald are on the list of mixed-bags).  Consider the brashness and audacity of the charges.

Stephen seems to be saying, “While this can’t really be compared to WWII, or Hitler’s refusal to retreat, and while I have no plan to break the habit of retreat and actually win anything, and while we have no real leadership and a completely dysfunctional organization, I want to retreat yet again, and if you don’t retreat with me, then our ultimate loss will be on your conscience.”  It’s really a remarkable thing when the only thing upon which we can agree is that one side wants perpetual retreat, and the other does not.  And the retreatists will blame the non-retreatists for any losses.  This drips with irony.

Chris Cox seems to be absent in the debates, but since he is a Wayne LaPierre sycophant, he’s likely on Wayne’s side.  Wayne Lapierre is fighting for his life, and so far it looks like he is winning, even if he takes the NRA down with him.  Oliver North is one of the losers in all of this.

Oliver North announced Saturday that he would not serve a second term as National Rifle Association president, making it clear he had been forced out by the gun lobby’s leadership after his own failed attempt to remove the NRA’s longtime CEO in a burgeoning divide over the group’s finances and media operations.

“Please know I hoped to be with you today as NRA president endorsed for reelection. I’m now informed that will not happen,” North said in a statement that was read by Richard Childress, the NRA’s first vice president, to members at the group’s annual convention.

North, whose one-year term ends Monday, did not show up for the meeting, and his spot on the stage was left empty, his nameplate still in its place. His statement was largely met with silence. Wayne LaPierre, whom North had tried to push out, later received two standing ovations.

It was a stunning conclusion to a battle between two conservative and Second Amendment titans — North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel with a ramrod demeanor who was at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, and LaPierre, who has been battle-tested in the decades since he took up the mantle of gun rights. He has fought back challenges that have arisen over the decades, seemingly emerging unscathed each time. In this latest effort, he pushed back against North, telling members of the NRA’s board of directors that North had threatened to release “damaging” information about him to them and saying it amounted to an “extortion” attempt.

Note well.  Apparently it wasn’t up to him, or even the board of directors.  He was “informed” of this decision.  I’ll return to that momentarily.

As for Wayne, there were some awkward goings-on this weekend.

According to someone we’ve spoken to who’s in a position to know, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre met with influential board members and fund-raisers last night and was asked for his resignation. The meeting reportedly became heated and LaPierre stormed out. He then responded to the demand with a scathing letter to those involved, refusing to step down.

So first there is the issue of exactly how an elected board of directors along with an elected president can demand the resignation of a bureaucrat, and be rejected by said bureaucrat outright and that organization continue to function.  It can’t.  I assess that the NRA is a completely dysfunctional organization and has been for a long time.

Leaving aside the issue of Ackerman McQueen, and $200,000 of wardrobe purchases by LaPierre, the bylaws, people and organizational structure aren’t sufficient to rid the group of ne’er-do-wells, whether LaPierre or the cretins who are financial liabilities and parasites to the organization.  A board of directors who doesn’t direct may as well quit and go home.  If there are too many bad apples in the mix, then it’s appropriate for the entire group to go down in flames, suffering the personal, legal and financial loss attending their malfeasance.  Membership on the board of directors means legal and fiduciary culpability, as it should on any board.

But can this situation be salvaged?  Should it be salvaged?  I said a few days ago that the NRA had supported the NFA, the GCA, the Hughes Amendment, the bump stock ban, and red flag laws.  It’s all true.  This is an incomplete list.  Via David Codrea, this list adds to my own.

The real issue with the VNRA isn’t corruption or not doing enough to push rights. The problem is what the group actively does to violate rights. NFA ’34, GCA ’68, FOPA ’86. Everyone knows those. It shows how long the rot has existed.

They tried to keep HELLER from going to SCOTUS. They actively killed constitutional carry legislation in New Hampshire. They wrote an “assault weapon” ban in Ohio. They sabotaged an RKBA/free speech case in NH.

I had forgotten how many open carry fights the NRA has sabotaged, and it’s also true that the NRA didn’t want Heller going to the SCOTUS.  I consider Heller only a partial win because of the wording Scalia put in there supporting gun control at the local and state level, and the weakness of it leading to McDonald, which still isn’t recognized by lower courts.  But Alan Gura snatched a modicum of victory from the jaws of defeat.

The point is that in almost every case where retreat was possible, the NRA has led the way.  Then oftentimes, as with Heller, they claimed credit for what small victory the SCOTUS gave us.  In every exigency in life, a man must make functional judgments.  Whom to marry, where to work, how much to save, with whom to be associated.

In this case, the analysis is quite simple.  If an organization is working against your interests, it’s an easy decision to jettison support for said organization.  It makes no sense to support people who intend harm to your liberties.  If this is considered on a tactical level (retreat might be a good option now), then it is incumbent on our detractors to explain how said retreat will be reversed and good use made of it rather than sling accusations.  I see a lot of hand-wringing, but I see no detractor channeling Sun Tzu.  If you want to be a general, then learn to lead and learn to win.

The issue of red flag laws is problematic, while the issue of bump stocks is more emblematic.  Either way, it’s a mistake to see this in terms of issues without seeing the larger aggregate as well.  I dislike harping on Sebastian, but his most recent post begins this way.

But what got us here isn’t that we didn’t shout “no” loud enough. We didn’t end up here because we’re not pure enough. That’s always what religious zealots turn to when disaster strikes. It’s a natural human reaction. But it usually leads to doing the wrong thing.

Exactly how it leads to doing the wrong thing he doesn’t explain, he just says so.  And any hint of unwillingness to make more compromises becomes “zealotry.”  Very well.  I believe that the second amendment is meaningless inasmuch as it guarantees our right to keep and bear arms.  I believe that the Almighty has not only extended that right to man, He has demanded that men defend home and hearth, as well as answer for placing and keeping tyrants in power.  The second amendment is a covenant, with blessings and consequences (or curses) for adherence and breakage.  The right to keep and bear arms without infringement is sacred.  We observed before that gun control is wicked.

The Bible does contain a few direct references to weapons control. There were many times throughout Israel’s history that it rebelled against God (in fact, it happened all the time). To mock His people back into submission to His Law, the Lord would often use wicked neighbors to punish Israel’s rebellion. Most notable were the Philistines and the Babylonians. 1 Samuel 13:19-22 relates the story: “Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles sharpened…So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in this hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon also removed all of the craftsmen from Israel during the Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 24:14). Both of these administrations were considered exceedingly wicked including their acts of weapons control.

If this makes me a zealot, then I wear that badge proudly.  And now we’re to the root of the issue.  I may be a zealot, but at least I have an epistemological basis for my statements, and my world and life view dictates my value judgments.

For those who see this through a more pedestrian lens, it will be less important until it becomes important, at which point they would have to explain their next steps because I can’t.

The NRA may survive this, but not in the same form.  It will be known as the home of the Fudds, or it will jettison the ne’er-do-wells, clean house, and begin a campaign of grading politicians truthfully and keeping those grades up-to-date.  It will include in that campaign an honest attempt to stand against the tide of control coming.

If the NRA decides not to approach it that way, it will morph back into an organization that teaches people to shoot bolt action rifles at father-son or mother-daughter events.  But they can begin sending the money back to their constituents and proceed apace with defunding themselves, because you don’t get wealthy by teaching people to shoot rifles.  You obtain some measure of power by truthfully and honestly representing your constituency.

Finally, David Codrea notes of the war between factions that “Not that “Wayne LaPierre prevailing, for now, is a “win” for membership. Nor would it be had North succeeded. This was a coup attempt by NRA’s long-term PR firm Ackerman McQueen to replace former gravy train riders with current ones. There are no clean hands here, and with the weekend battle “won” by current management, don’t expect dramatic changes in the way things are run as long as they’re in power.”

But even if they’re able to rid themselves of the rot within, the question is whether they can return to their roots.  Their tap root is one of preservation of the rights recognized in the constitution, including weapons of war.  “What the Fudds either don’t know (or do, but have no intention of ruining a “good” meme by admitting), is that it wasn’t until after WWII that “the NRA concentrated its efforts on another much-needed arena for education and training.”

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On April 28, 2019 at 9:33 pm, Dan said:

    The issue of gun owners and NRA members not being bothered by certain laws, certain bans, certain actions by the gun grabbing commies in power reminds me of the phrase attributed to cartoonist Walt Kelly’s creation Pogo. “We have met the enemy and he is us”. Gun owners are more often than not their own worst enemies….for a variety of reasons. However the commie left doesn’t care about those reasons. They are merely happy to make use of our divided and unfocused nature in their quest for total power.

  2. On April 29, 2019 at 8:12 am, Bram said:

    So the NRA has the same problem as President Trump and our Federal Government – the un-elected bureaucrats hold more power than the elected leaders.

    I am supposed to maintain an active membership in the NRA as a condition of my local gun-club membership. If LaPierre is still running it when my current membership expires in 2 years, I won’t be renewing – my GOA membership will have to suffice.

  3. On April 29, 2019 at 9:09 am, Gator said:

    Those advocating retreat and compromise are acting as though our opponents on the left are honest people acting in good faith, and that is not the case. Not even close. There is no grand bargain where we give up a few of our rights by agreeing to some of their ‘common sense measures’ and they agree in turn to take their little victory and leave us alone about it in the future. Retreat and give them what they want now, they will just be back again in a few months or couple years with a new list of demands, which will also be labeled as ‘common sense measures’ and the same people advocating retreat will just do so again. Their goal, as many of them have admitted in the past, is total civilian disarmament. They won’t stop until they reach it. So, since there is no ‘give’ on their side, there is no way they will ever stop demanding more, it makes exactly zero sense to agree with any of their demands. Agree to these demands, they’ll be back with more until they reach their goal.

    Another problem with this line of thought is that the Overton window has shifted so far in their favor. The NRA et al aren’t demanding vast changes to existing laws to ease current restrictions on gun rights. They are meekly asking that current laws stay where they are, while the left is demanding more restrictions. That means any sort of ‘compromise’ will only move in their direction.

  4. On April 29, 2019 at 9:10 am, Herschel Smith said:

    BTW, I should have mentioned that I’m not fan of Oliver North either.

    The board has two warring factions vying for control over the money, both equally bad.

  5. On April 29, 2019 at 9:34 am, Gator said:

    A second comment. I just read the article by this Sebastian fellow that you linked. If I’d read anything he wrote in the past, I don’t remember it. But, that guy is a quiesling. I don’t think you misinterpreted him at all. He seems to want to criticize the NRA and their current arrangements and policies while still defending it as an organization. He also doesn’t seem to understand that them doing what he seems to be suggesting is a large part of why they find themselves in this situation. Why donate money to a group that just looks at a problem and then says ‘we should retreat on this one’. Why do they need my money to help the government ban things?

    And I wish people would stop defending them every time they fold like lawn chairs. They say these are tactical retreats and other such nonsense. But these people aren’t von clauswitz. There is no grand strategy at play here. They are just greedy, lying grifters who are trying to milk every last penny out of the rubes who still send them money while surrendering as slowly as possible

  6. On April 29, 2019 at 9:59 am, H said:

    Gator: I’ve followed “Sebastian” for a long time, he’s not a Quisling so much as a Leftie who hates the Right more than he hates gun grabbers. Also an entirely political animal, has stated he will surrender his guns if he loses the political fight, even renamed his blog and changed the URL from “Snowflakes in Hell”, losing all the brand equity it had generated, to the current reference to his state’s Constitution’s equivalent of “shall not be infringed”.

    He likes some of the NRA’s club and range support and perhaps other local/affiliate activity in his back yard, but if you read the comments to his previous “Realistic” blog posting that Herschal also linked to, he makes this very telling statement:

    Everyone has known for years Ask-Mac and their relationship with NRA is a problem, but there hasn’t been anything that could be done about it short of joining the hardliners. Maybe we could put aside differences to clean NRA, but then what? If we clean up NRA by electing a lot of no-compromise board members, that’s effectively going to leave them in control.

  7. On April 29, 2019 at 10:28 am, Bram said:

    As Kim du Toit says – “We are at a compromise position”. If you want to open up negotiations, I’ll be negotiating for dramatically less gun control like the Constitution guarantees.

  8. On April 29, 2019 at 11:29 am, J J said:

    I don’t understand people who can’t see the end game of compromising our rights. Whether its the right to keep and bear arms, the right to religious freedom, the right to peacefully address concerns about the government or the right to be considered innocent of charges until proven guilty.
    Every retreat/surrender/compromise doesn’t mean we live to fight another retreat/surrender/compromise.
    Making comparisons to actual war where men are saved via retreat to be able to rejoin the battle and take the objective and the NRA’s continued compromises on the 2nd Amendment is apples/oranges. The only way this could be a valid comparison is if the NRA had ever retreated and then reattacked with renewed strength to overcome what it had compromised/supported. Last time I checked the list of major gun control laws “compromised” by the NRA are still the laws of the land.

  9. On April 29, 2019 at 12:38 pm, June J said:

    Joined GOA today instead of procrastinating any longer!

  10. On April 29, 2019 at 12:40 pm, John Pate said:

    The NRA without Harlon Carter is a liability.

  11. On April 29, 2019 at 1:39 pm, JoeFour said:

    Any reform probably requires another Harlon Carter, as mentioned above by John Pate! Too bad we can’t vote in Captain Smith!

  12. On April 29, 2019 at 1:43 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Membership on the BOD brings fiduciary responsibility and legal liability. I’ll join the BOD as soon as Joe does.

  13. On April 29, 2019 at 2:11 pm, Ned2 said:

    I always wondered why the NRA only had 5 million members. Out of over 100 million gun owners?????
    Maybe most gun owners have seen the corruption and ineffectiveness for a long time.

  14. On April 29, 2019 at 2:39 pm, billrla said:

    Being in contact with elected officials and bureaucrats leads to rot and corruption.

  15. On April 29, 2019 at 2:45 pm, JoeFour said:

    “I’ll join the BOD as soon as Joe does.”

    LOL….I’d join up but only after I saw the Officers’ and Directors’ liability insurance policy!

  16. On April 29, 2019 at 2:50 pm, H said:

    Ned2: That’s a thesis of a lot of us “hardliners”, if only because we ourselves are not members because we could no longer support the nation’s most effective gun control organization. The increasingly visible graft and corruption just helps to bring its existential crisis to a head.

    The problem, as “Sebastian” hammers on, is that we’re literally uncountable, even he can’t come up with any viable proxies for our numbers. He’s very certain there’s no more than 100,000 … which does bring into question why he’s so terrified of us, to the point he’d rather let the NRA die than cooperate with them.

    One way or another, this appears to be coming to a head; Ammoland ran an “Open Letter to the 2019 NRA Board of Directors” which they quickly had to change to “Open Letters (Plural) to the 2019 NRA Board of Directors” as 2 more came in and counting.

    Latest one from a lawyer with more pages of signatures than copy, including Massad Ayoob, a Rick Remington and a John Richardson whom might not be who we might think them to be, and I’m sure other names I ought to recognize. Most Life or above members with a smattering of Five-year Members. I.e. people who can’t chose the Exit option, and are exercising the Voice option, see the work by Albert O. Hirschman for more on that concept.

  17. On April 29, 2019 at 3:18 pm, Anthony Martinello said:

    I just do not understand why people of average intelligence cannot get what’s wrong:

  18. On April 29, 2019 at 3:58 pm, Anthony Martinello said:

    First, they are “Slide Action Stocks” not “Bump Stocks”. Bump Stock is a political term made up by democrats and the press.
    Secondly, the problem is not the stock, it is the BAN, the CONFISCATION, and no COMPENSATION. I don’t care if it is guns, stocks, pesticides, or baby rattles. As a people we should never allow the government to ban anything. I thought we had learned our lesson with the Gun Control Act of 1968, the Machine Gun Ban of 1986, and the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. Once we give these Marxists the authority to ban something, they will ban anything they want.

  19. On April 29, 2019 at 7:42 pm, Barry said:

    The tide is in fact swinging left. Not because there are so many liberals voting, it’s because there are so many conservatives not voting. Every day I hear fellow conservatives spewing forth venom about some democrat and what they’re promoting in the halls of congress but if you ask them who they voted for they take the superior stand that there wasn’t anyone up to their standards so they refused to vote. Not going to vote for the lesser of two evils so you wind up with the worst of two evils. If you don’t play a part as a paying member of an organized pro gun political organization, if you don’t vote, if you don’t contact your congress people, if you will only support someone who is 100% in line with you then accept what you get and don’t complain, it’s your fault. A parasite is a parasite whether lib or conservative.

  20. On April 29, 2019 at 8:10 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    Nothing in this post could possibly be construed as a recommendation not to vote. As for the NRA being a “pro-gun” organization, that remains to be proven in this debate. You are affirming the consequent, a formal logical fallacy. That’s the subject of debate.

  21. On May 1, 2019 at 5:18 am, Hudson H Luce said:

    The NRA has a long history of being asleep at the switch. In 1994, the Kansas Legislature nearly passed an assault weapons ban, and if a friend hadn’t heard of it and told me and a friend of mine, it would have gone through without a word from the NRA, who, although their lobbyist was present for the hearings, not a word was sent out to the membership. My friend and I collected the names and phone numbers – home and office – of the people on the committee considering the bill. The vote was on a Monday, we got word on the preceding Thursday, and luckily there was a gun show on Friday and Saturday, so we printed up a flyer with a short explanation of what was happening, along with the phone numbers, and asking people to call and if they got a busy signal, to keep calling until they got through. One of the flyers was picked up by a worker at the Leeds Assembly Plant, we found out later, and he made 10,000 copies at the union hall, and passed them out to all three shifts. By Monday, *all* of the circuits for the state telephone system were giving a fast busy signal, and there were fire trucks and ambulances stationed at the Capitol, and the Highway Patrol was using radios to get messages out. The fast busy continued for two weeks, after which the President of the Senate got on radio and television, and begged for people to stop calling, and that the Legislature would never consider such legislation again. Our flyers cost about $30, all told. After that, I joined GOA, they’re a *real* gun rights organization, the NRA is not.

    As for the Second Amendment, it’s an enumeration of a fundamental and pre-existing right, and no compromise is acceptable. If the Government can own a weapon, so can the people – if you look back to the legislative intent, it was intended that there be no standing armies – the people were intended to fulfill that role. The Tenth Amendment actually did amend something, it was an attempt to nullify the Supremacy Clause, but the government has simply ignored it, as it has ignored the rest of the Bill of Rights when the people running it decided that it was convenient or expedient to do so.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Gun Control,National Rifle Association and was published April 28th, 2019 by Herschel Smith.

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