Bob Barr Elected NRA President, Reform Slate Sweeps Other Offices

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

I have a passing acquaintance with Bob Barr thanks to my longtime tenure at NRA News. We've had a few conversations over the years at the Annual Meetings, and he's been a guest on Cam & Co in the past, though it's been awhile since he's been on the show. I have nothing against Barr as a person. He's a fascinating conversationalist and a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, but I confess he wasn't my first choice for NRA president this year. 

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There were a lot of positive signs over the weekend that gave me hope the reform camp was going to prevail during Monday's board meetings, but Barr's election gave me pause. As of this writing, I haven't spoken to any board member to find out what, if any, reassurances Barr might have given board members about his commitment to reform before the vote was cast, but he was the hand-picked candidate of the nominating committee, which means he was the preferred choice of the status quo. 

Barr's election was the only win the nominating committee got on Monday, however. Kudos to The Reload's Stephen Gutowski, who was at the board meeting to tweet out updates during breaks, informing us that the board chose the reform candidate as First Vice President, who (under normal rules, anyway) will take over as president in two years. 

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Reformers also won the election for Second VP, albeit by a slightly narrower margin. 

That's a pretty big swing from the "old guard" ticket to the reform candidate, and a real sign that we've seen on the board itself that the "friends of Wayne" contingent is losing support. This is pure speculation, but I wonder if some board members in favor of reform ended up voting for Barr because he's more of a "face" than Buz Mills; more experienced in front of the camera and giving speeches, as well as perhaps a greater access to potential donors. 

If the NRA is going to reform itself, that experience can be put to good use. The organization's leadership has been virtually absent from the media for the past few years, except when networks were reporting on their legal troubles. Barr's pugnacious and feisty enough to be a good interview, and he's got the chops to dismantle a hostile questioner. 

The real power within the NRA, at least during Wayne LaPierre's tenure, was in the office of Executive Vice President. Andrew Arulunandam has been serving as interim EVP after LaPierre stepped down, but the nominating committee put up Ronnie Barrett, founder of Barrett Manufacturing and the designer of the M82 Barrett rifle as LaPierre's official replacement. 

Reformers nominated Doug Hamlin, who's currently the NRA head of publications. I figured they'd look outside the building for their candidate, but board members may have been looking for someone with the institutional knowledge to carry the organization into the future. 

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Once again, the reformers came out on top. 

It wasn't a clean sweep for the reform slate, but it was pretty darn close, and that's supremely good news for NRA members who want to see the organization regain its strength. With the election of reform-minded officers, it looks like a majority of the board understands the dire position the organization is in and the need to rebuild the trust of current and former members. I just hope it's not too late to overcome the challenges the NRA faces. 

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