Reformers Turn Out in Force at NRA Members Meeting

AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File

Today's meeting of the NRA's Board of Directors is could very well end up as the most consequential gathering of board members since 1977, when activists derailed an attempt to move the organization to New Mexico and take a step back from political advocacy. This time around reform-minded board members are confronting the legacy of corruption and misspending from former NRA leaders like Wayne LaPierre, and one of biggest fights that's brewing is between reformers and the "old guard" over the issue of the NRA's next executive vice president. 

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Another issue that's likely to become a topic of debate at today's board meeting is the NRA's potential move to Texas. Reformers got a shot in the arm (so to speak) on Saturday during the NRA Members Meeting, where a resolution in support of a move was broadly rejected by the NRA members in attendance. 

Sociologist and gun owner David Yamane posted video with most of the debate of the resolution, and I'd encourage every NRA member who, like me, couldn't be in Dallas this weekend to check it out. 

A few takeaways: 

First, the crowd was overwhelmingly critical of the resolution itself, but not necessarily hostile to the idea of the NRA leaving its Fairfax, Virginia headquarters. Several of those who spoke out against the resolution argued that any action should come from the board once the slate of reform candidates who won a set on the board have been sworn in, adding that it's premature to discuss a move when so many details have been left out of the discussion. 

I don't know if the old guard was trying to suppress attendance by holding the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum on Saturday instead of on Friday, when it usually takes place, but if so it backfired bigly. Attendance looked to be down from typical Members Meetings, likely because a number of members were already waiting in line to enter the Leadership Forum, but reform-minded members were out in force. Sure, it might have been nice to see Donald Trump speak in person, but shutting down the old guard was a bigger priority for many of those in attendance on Saturday morning. 

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NRA President Charles Cotton did himself no favors by belittling board members like Amanda Suffecool and Maria Heil, who courageously spoke out against the resolution on Saturday. Cotton responded to Suffecool's opposition by noting she's only been on the board a short time, which drew a chorus of boos from the crowd. Several board members are now calling on Cotton to apologize to Suffecool, calling his behavior "unprofessional and unbecoming" of NRA leadership. 

Cotton also unbelievably appeared not to be able to determine the outcome of the vote when the question was called, though the crowd was overwhelmingly opposed to the resolution. That drew another round of jeers from the members in attendance before Cotton announced that the secretary "could count better" than he could, and the no's carried the day. 

For those hoping to see a restoration of the NRA, the vote was an important indication that the old guard has lost a lot of support among the rank-and-file. That doesn't guarantee that reformers will emerge victorious when the board meeting wraps up this afternoon, but it's still a positive sign, and a much better outcome than members rubber-stamping a resolution in support of the move. 

Another positive development is the election of Gun Owners Action League's Jim Wallace as the 76th board member. Wallace defeated old guard candidate Joel Friedman, though the vote totals are disappointing given that only those attending the Annual Meetings could vote. Wallace won election with 212 votes, while Friedman garnered 142. In a twist, however, Friedman will also be serving a one-year term on the board. Board member Carl Rowan, Jr. stepped down from his position, and since Friedman was the runner-up in the 76th Director election he'll take Rowan's place. 

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The NRA's nominating committee has also released it's preferred slate of officers, and is recommending Ronnie Barrett be named the new Executive Vice President. I like Barrett, but as John Richardson at Only Guns and Money points out, he's also a "friend of Wayne" who would hardly represent a real change in direction for the board. 

We'll have more coverage of the outcome of today's board meeting once it wraps up this afternoon, but there's good reason to be cautiously optimistic as the board members settle in for a momentous meeting in Dallas today. 


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