NRA Dissidents are Working Thwart an Alleged Scheme by LaPierre Loyalists


While most attention is focused on the Manhattan courtroom where Judge Joel Cohen and a six-person jury will decide the fates and futures of all the defendants in New York state’s case against the National Rifle Association, another group of NRA members are working behind the scenes to help chart a new course forward for the beleaguered organization, no matter the final verdict.

According to current board members I’ve spoken with in the past 24 hours, the latest briefing given to some board members by NRA attorneys didn’t talk about the current trial. Instead, the major portion of the briefing concerned the appeal process and how they see moving forward.

Admitting appeals are in the works is, essentially, a tacit admission the attorneys aren’t thinking they’ll win a decision. In their defense, it’s tough to win any case where the defendants have already admitted to committing offenses only alleged by prosecutors.

But it’s easy to forget this case isn’t just convoluted, it’s bifurcated. There are two parts of the case; the Attorney General’s actions against the individual defendants (Wayne LaPierre, Wilson “Woody” Phillips, John Frazier, and Josh Powell) and the action against the organization itself for a variety of alleged acts of malfeasance, from misuse of member funds to a lack of corporate oversight.

Whatever the outcome, the individuals’ admission of the misuse/misallocation of funds, allegations of retaliation against whistleblowers, and other admitted missteps, the entire case has been an embarrassing nightmare for the industry. While corporate executives still profess support for the idea of the NRA, they’ve quietly continued to keep their purse strings closed.

As neither portion of the case has been decided by a jury yet, it’s only conjecture as to the ultimate outcome. And the historic courthouse at 60 Centre Street, New York City, New York 10007, has seen its share of unexpected outcomes.

But it’s also safe to say there isn’t a lot of optimism being expressed by corporate leaders and many disgusted individual NRA members.

Whatever the final verdict and whatever the appeals process being discussed (or planned) by board members who are still loyal to LaPierre, other NRA members — including current and former board members — are working furiously in the shadows to prepare and execute a strategy to counteract what they see as “another convoluted strategy” to protect the status quo in the NRA’s current leadership.

They believe that strategy includes a plan to hold a “Zoom call emergency board meeting” to appoint current NRA president Charles Cotton as acting EVP to fill the position Wayne LaPierre will vacate no later than the end of January.

To the reformers on the board, the whole plan is part of some greater scheme to avoid making any changes in the way the NRA currently operates. They say it won’t diminish the outsized influence wielded by “Wayne’s insiders” and anything that doesn’t remove their access to NRA finances is simply setting the stage for future abuses.

Should LaPierre’s loyalists succeed, the dissenters believe it will validate the New York AG’s assertion that the NRA’s claims of reform fail to stand up under any serious scrutiny. That’s why they’re working on a radically different solution.

They believe that any legitimate reform must begin with a purging and significant downsizing of the current 76-member board, the ouster of current senior leadership, and strict adherence to the association’s operating guidelines going forward.

“A special master wouldn’t be the solution I’d prefer,” one outraged current member told me, “it gives the NY AG a big voice in how the NRA operates going forward. But, if that’s what it takes to clean the NRA up and get it operating correctly, it’s a better solution than letting LaPierre’s loyalists get away with saying they’ve changed things…because they haven’t.”

They realize that bringing the National Rifle Association back around to its mission and operating according to strict guidelines may ultimately lead to their being removed from their  board seats and potentially being banned from future leadership. That, they say, is a small price to pay to preserve the organization.

Meanwhile, the trial grinds on in New York City. As it does, we’ll keep you posted.

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