West to challenge Lapierre for NRA's top leadership position

Harry Hamburg

The 151st Annual Meetings of the National Rifle Association are set to kick off in Houston, Texas in less than three weeks, and there’s already a lot of anticipation over this year’s meetings, which are the first to be held on a full-scale basis since 2019. Tens of thousands of NRA members are expected in Houston, and while many of them will be content to wander through the acres of guns and gear, take in some of the speeches at the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, and meet and greet friends they haven’t seen since the last convention, some are heading to Houston with another item on their to-do list: replace Wayne LaPierre as the NRA’s executive vice president.

According to a press release issued today by NRA board member (and Kansas judge) Phil Journey, retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West has “answered the call” of those who say the NRA is in dire need of internal reforms and will stand for election as executive vice-president of the National Rifle Association, challenging the 30-year reign of LaPierre, who has been EVP and CEO of the gun rights group since 1991. From the press release:

Col. West said, “In the military, we have a saying, it is that Warriors move to the sound of the  guns. It is with sincere humility that I have consented to my nomination to be Executive Vice  President of the National Rifle Association. History has taught us that when the people are disarmed, they are subjugated, enslaved to tyranny and totalitarianism. The Nation’s oldest civil rights institution is the National Rifle Association. I would be honored to secure that legacy  going forward for future generations of legal, law-abiding American citizens and gun owners.  My goals are to restore the honor, integrity, and character of this venerable organization along with refocusing on our core competencies, shooting sports/marksmanship, and defense of our  Second Amendment constitutional right.”

West’s potential challenge to the current NRA leadership has been rumored for several days now, but this would seem to make it official. It’s worth noting that in West’s comment he doesn’t directly refer to Wayne LaPierre or the investigation of the organization by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who originally tried to dissolve the gun rights group over alleged financial misdeeds but was thwarted by a federal judge earlier this year. Instead, the judge said that James can continue to go after any individual NRA executives or board members who may have violated the law but can’t try to “help” NRA members by scuttling their organization, which would only harm the interests of NRA members.

James recently responded with an amended complaint seeking the removal of Wayne LaPierre and NRA general counsel John Frazer, while also asking for an “independent compliance monitor” and “independent governance expert” to be named to oversee the organization. Former NRA board member Rocky Marshall, who’s a part of the group of “reformers” encouraging West to challenge LaPierre, said in that same press release that the “management of the NRA will be  replaced at the annual meeting in Houston or by the New York courts in the upcoming trial,” and called West a “man of integrity, honesty, and humility” who is ready to lead the NRA.

Uninstalling Wayne Lapierre won’t be easy, however, and it won’t be up to NRA members, at least not directly. Instead, the position of executive vice president will be determined by a vote of the NRA’s 76 directions, and as The Reload’s Stephen Gutowski notes, a challenge by Rocky Marshall last year ended up with a lopsided victory for the incumbent.

Board member Philip Journey, alongside former board members Rocky Marshall and Bill Dailey, hopes West will have more sway with the board than when Marshall ran against LaPierre last year. LaPierre received 44 votes in that race, while Marshall got only 2. However, the roll call vote was the first official challenge to LaPierre’s leadership in years, and about 30 members of the board did not vote for either candidate.

West is a former board member himself, but that doesn’t mean that his candidacy will be any more popular than Marshall’s was a year ago. Still, West’s name and resume does mean this race should get a little more attention from members, especially since it will be taking place at the end of the first full blown Annual Meeting since the start of the COVID pandemic. If attendees become aware and vocally supportive of West’s bid while they’re in Houston (especially at Saturday’s member’s meeting) the director’s meeting could become very interesting, but I think it will take clear signs of widespread disapproval of Wayne LaPierre on the part of the membership (including high-dollar donors) in order for West to have a real shot at winning over enough board members to be successful.