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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

My Thoughts on the NRA's New President


Short Version:
Jesus Christ, NRA, what were you thinking? Were you even thinking?

Regardless of the fact that Oliver North's convictions were vacated on appeal, he is not only a man tarred with the specter of scandal but is also associated with illegally smuggling guns. Appointing a convicted-if-vacated gunrunner to be the public face of a national gun right organization is as short-sighted and tone-deaf as appointing not-convicted-but-clearly-guilty child murderer Casey Anthony to run the Girl Scouts of America.

By appointing North to be your president, you are embracing every single stereotype that Bloomberg and the various gun control groups have been saying about gun owners. You didn't just give them ammunition; you loaded the gun, handed it to them, and asked them to shoot you with it.

I literally cannot conceive of a worse decision short of appointing Bloomberg himself as NRA president.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/07/us/oliver-north-nra-president.html
photo by Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Longer Version:
I am immensely frustrated with this, both for the above public reasons and for the following personal ones.

All convention long, I worked my ass off to get a sit-down meeting with President Peter Brownell like I managed last year. When I discovered I had been invited to the invitation-only President's Dinner at the end of the convention, I was ecstatic and my mood only built from there when I was able not just to meet many people with the words "Board of Directors" on their name tags, but also talk to them about my concerns for what the NRA was doing and how to fix it - 
(Specifically, to stop the "culture war" nonsense that their public relations group Ackerman McQueen was churning out. They need to stop with the Us vs. Them mentality and quit trying to tie gun ownership to conservatism because that kind of thing is only pushing away allies. Gun Ownership is not inherently conservative or liberal;  it's a right, and rights are neither conservative or liberal, they just are. If the NRA wants to grow its membership and become more inclusive, it must focus only on its core mission of Firearm Education & Safety and Second Amendment Rights and nothing else.)
- and more importantly, they listened to me when I talked. They paid attention, they asked questions, they said my voice was needed within the group and they encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing because it was important and necessary. I was able to get a few minutes with Mr. Brownell, and he took notes when I gave him my bullet points. I was even able to meet with Wayne LaPierre himself briefly, where I gave him my card and explained the mission of Operation Blazing Sword and asked him to please use me as a resource. 

Things were going very well... and then, the next day, it was announced that Brownell was stepping down and North was taking his place. 

Now let me first say that I completely understand why Mr. Brownell stepped down. He already had a full-time job being the CEO of Brownells (aka "The Amazon of Firearms") and then was NRA President on top of it. The man was incredibly busy, and I can't blame him for wanting a break. Nor can I blame him for choosing his family business over an organization where he was both term-limited and largely a figurehead. 

I can't speculate as to the rumors that he was frustrated with an intractable "old guard" who resisted his ideas for a more inclusive NRA because I don't know anything except the rumors. It wouldn't surprise me, mind you, but I don't know one way or the other. 

So I can't fault Mr. Brownell for leaving. I do, however, fault the Board of Directors for appointing Oliver North in his stead. Businessmen negotiate, but Marines fight, and appointing Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North to be the head of the NRA sends an unmistakable message that the NRA is now on a war footing. While there's nothing inherently wrong in fighting for gun rights and the Second Amendment, I fear that we're going to see a doubling down on divisive rhetoric that will not only drive away potential allies but also mean a complete reversal of Brownell's plans for a more inclusive NRA. 

Will the NRA survive this? I don't know. I hope they do, because they're the nation's oldest and largest gun rights organization. It's going to depend on a lot of factors, including what their new president says and does. Maybe they will take my words to heart and understand that inclusionary language will bring them more members, more money, and more political influence than divisive rhetoric.

But if they won't... perhaps they don't deserve to survive this. 


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