Shooting Straight: Ding Dong, is the NRA Dead?

i defend the nra banner
NRAAM 2024 is in the books and opinions on the weekend’s events are all across the map. (Photo credit: NRA)

Some people just want to watch the gun world burn, and that sentiment isn’t limited only to those within the firearms industry or the gun world in general. At this point, the general vibe and feel around NRAAM 2024 has been hashed and re-hashed until the proverbial horse isn’t just dead, it’s been obliterated.

So what was the real outcome of the voting and brawls—I mean meetings—that took place in Dallas? Is the NRA going to make it? Does it have a future or is it a doomed entity? Did Papa Wayne drain and damn the entire thing or can it be recovered?

Warning: This is going to be a bit of a rant. That said, it’s also the result of a lot of years of dealings with the NRA and some time taken to ponder the things I saw, was told, or heard during NRAAM this year.

nraam 2024
NRAAM 2024 was held in Dallas this year. Next year it’s headed to Atlanta. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

The official attendance numbers released for NRAAM 2024 hovered around 72,000. Those who were there are almost uniformly of the opinion that number is inflated, but then we’ve all also seen years of 90,000 attendees on smaller show floors.

What was missing this year was the kids. I know what you’re thinking…no kids? Awesome!—but while a lower number of children in attendance might mean a bit more peace, it doesn’t bode well for the future of the NRA or guns in general.

Like it or not, the significant reduction in numbers of families and kids at NRAAM 2024 means the biggest dog in the gun fight is losing members and traction. Without those kids, who will make up the next generation of NRA members? We need those families and those kids, but do the powers that be at the NRA even get that? It depends on which powers you’re referring to.

hank dog
Hank might make a good NRA lifetime member, but he doesn’t have any money. (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

Also important is the fact that members aren’t renewing and membership-related funds are down in the tens of millions of dollars. People are disenchanted and over it, and getting them back will take a herculean effort. Can you really blame them?

I was sitting in the press room when the members meeting was being broadcast and it didn’t take long for Charles Cotton to step up to the podium. That was my cue to exit stage right, because I had no real desire to hear him spout the same old party lines and belittle the people who were there in attendance. I did, however, watch the footage later and spent some time talking to those involved heavily on the reform side.

Perhaps the most noteworthy moment of the meeting came when Cotton talked down to board member Amanda Suffecool. He attempted to dismiss her and discredit her as a reliable source for what the NRA really needs going forward. It didn’t play well with the crowd.

In fact, the boos in response to Cotton’s blatantly obnoxious attitude that rang out were both loud and long…something that never would have happened in previous years. Suffecool gets crap on social media—and in person—from some people who claim to have the NRA’s best interests at heart and while you and they might think they know her, they don’t. If you’ve never spent time listening to her talk about the political movements and necessary heavy lifting needed to save what’s left of the NRA, you’re missing out. She’s a woman with a sharp mind for business and a great deal of passion.

Also during the members meeting, Gunsite Academy CEO Ken Campbell took to the floor to call out the elite powers on issues like their sudden renewed desire to move to Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Lone Star State with the kind of fervor that makes residents of other states roll their eyes. But it’s not strategically necessary and the NRA can’t afford it at this time. He and Rob Pincus made rather unlikely allies on the floor playing political ping pong, doing their parts to push for change.

Fast forward to late Monday night and the NRA board had been meeting literally all day long, working through various votes and not a small amount of verbal judo. It was a meeting that should’ve and likely could’ve taken a fraction of the time, but it ended up going longer than 12 hours.

As you may have heard, the result of the voting was that we did not, unfortunately, get Gunsite owner Buz Mills in as president—that position went to Bob Barr—but some reformers managed to wiggle into some officer positions. As I learned from Gina Roberts, who I am sorely disappointed didn’t make it onto the board, those such as herself who didn’t actually win a board seat this year are now well positioned to potentially fill seats in the future.

The vote results were framed as “win some, lose some” by many and as an overall win by others who are pushing for change within the NRA. Strides were made getting reformers onto the board and in officer spots. Failing to get Mills in as president, however, was deeply disappointing. With Bob Barr as president and NRA publications director Doug Hamlin in as the new EVP and CEO, things remain…tenuous.

Of course, the future of the NRA would be unclear no matter the result of the votes. While much is still to be determined by a judge in New York, many who hope for a better, more honest NRA feel emboldened by the wins, while others such as myself remain skeptical.

I would love to see the NRA return to its original reason for being, championing Second Amendment rights and teaching firearm use and safety. Do I think that’s likely to happen any time soon? No.

The reality is, however, that no matter what you think of the NRA, the association remains our biggest dog in the gun rights fight. A strong, vibrant and well-run NRA is manifestly in the best interests of America’s gun owners and the right to keep and bear arms. Like it or not, they’ve got the branding and notoriety—but it’s hard not to fear that they’re doomed.

I’m not someone known for their enormous optimism (shocking, I know) but the path the NRA has been on for years now only leads to some grim places. We have a judge in the we-hate-guns state of New York set to rule in July on whether or not to go with outside supervision for the NRA which would likely render those in power impotent, for better or worse.

The NRA has endured mind-boggling levels of mismanagement and corruption, on display for all to see for five years now. You may be someone who chooses to ascribe it all to Wayne, but you can’t. There was far more to the NRA’s a corrupt ruling class than one guy in some very fancy suits.

handguns on grill
The NRA is supposed to be a big proponent of gun rights…isn’t it? (Photo credit: Kat Stevens)

There are no easy or quick fixes to the shambles the NRA now finds itself in. Once a great name and power, the association has been working very hard to diminish that power and influence for half a decade now. That doesn’t mean the association can’t be saved, but if you think the reforming and saving can happen overnight—or even in just a year or two—think again.

To the guys—and that’s a gender neutral term here, just like ‘dudes’—who are whining about what they perceive as a lack of action on the parts of certain board members or people vying for board seats, just stop. Take a seat. Go touch some grass. Keep in mind it takes all kinds to change a massive, 150-plus-year-old organization.

Some will fight boldly and loudly, and they tend to garner the greatest cheers from those wanting reform. Others choose to do battle in the shadows, playing the necessary game of politics on the down low, working to root out cronies and correct deep-seated problems.

Both the brash and the quiet serve a purpose, and both are necessary to win this fight. Just because someone doesn’t overtly act as you’d want or say the things in public you claim you would doesn’t mean they aren’t working for change. As much as I’d love to steamroll over it all, excise the corruption, and get on with rebuilding, it just doesn’t work that way.

We’re an industry that eats our own and that’s nothing new. No one’s going to hold hands and sing kum ba ya as the NRA magically returns to it’s former power and glory. It’s going to take time and it’s going to take a lot of work on a variety of levels.

Let’s get on with it, though, and maybe next time around we can get someone like Buz Mills in as president. In the meantime, let’s take what we have and fight. Are we really going to let the anti-gun crowd continue to celebrate the demise of the NRA? Really?

12 Responses

  1. If may reincarnate itself…eventually…but it is going to take a very long time. It’s easier to destroy trust, than it is to restore it.

  2. This sentence doesn’t make sense to me, what am I missing/misunderstanding?
    “Some people just want to watch the gun world burn, and that sentiment isn’t limited only to those within the firearms industry or the gun world in general.”
    Is “gun world” synonymous with POTG? If so, why would the firearms industry want to watch it burn?

    1. “…why would the firearms industry want to watch it burn?”

      As just one example, there are quite a few who would love to see semi-auto magazine-fed scary-black firearms outright banned. There are others…

  3. A great article, and I wish you the best, but the shoe is on the other foot now; the NRA is going to have to come a-courtin’ from scratch. I signed up as a life member 15+ years ago, $300, and every magazine goes straight to the trash. Their gun reviews are a joke, their ads for life insurance and patriotic coins reek of how-high-do-I-jump desperation, and I got sick and tired of Wayne’s fear mongering. I’m glad he’s gone, that’s a start, but the fact that he got away with buying $20,000 suits at all will rankle for a long long time.

    My money goes elsewhere. Bob Barr and that other clown? Not a chance. I will probably die of old age before the organization becomes more worthy of my donations than GOA and SAF.

    1. Same. Formerly a member, canceled just before the COVID circus. My money now only goes to CRPA and FPC (my two of choice, tho GOA and SAF are worthy as well). WLP and his ilk poisoned the well for me. Never going back to the NRA. Ever.

      1. I’m still an NRA life member only because I paid for my membership decades ago in 1 lump sum. Like you though I only donate to GOA, AFA and our state IFC. I see no path forward for the NRA as long as Lapierre’s cronies still have their cancerous tentacles embedded in the organization. Regardless of any attempts to reform it’s reputation.

  4. “…..the NRA remains our biggest dog in the gun rights fight.”

    Old Saying:
    “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

    I’m a GOA Life Member & an NRA Life Member.

    As far as monetary support goes, I’m all in with GOA. They may be the small dog in the gun rights fight, but their temperament and drive mirrors my own.

    1. “As far as monetary support goes, I’m all in with GOA. They may be the small dog in the gun rights fight, but their temperament and drive mirrors my own.”

      *Applause 🙂 *…

  5. At this point, I’m waiting to see if those appointments result in tangible action.

    I’m not happy with the lack of urgency being shown, but the results of the next election will show if progress is being made, or not. I’ll defer final judgement until then…

  6. BTW, Hank is one handsome pupper who obviously loves his mom… 😉

  7. NRA under Frederick sold us out in 1934. NRA under Orth sold us out in 68. NRA under LaPierre sold us out in 86 onward. Good riddance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *