Wayne LaPierre will face a new challenger to lead the NRA.
Allen West announced on Monday he will challenge LaPierre to become executive vice president. West said he would accept the nomination offered up by dissident current and former NRA board members looking to replace LaPierre. He said he is running to “restore the honor, integrity, and character” of the NRA.
“It is with sincere humility that I have consented to my nomination to be Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association,” West said in a statement.
West’s fame could boost the latest internal effort to unseat LaPierre. Dissenters are motivated by allegations the NRA leader diverted the group’s funds towards lavish spending on personal expenses, including numerous private flights for family members, luxury vacations, suits, and yacht trips. LaPierre has denied some of the allegations and remained firmly entrenched in his position as executive vice president of the organization while the group has faced financial struggles, a failed bankruptcy, and a corruption suit brought by the Attorney General of New York. Despite significant infighting, which has seen some of the most prominent members of the NRA board and leadership resign or get forced out over the past three years, LaPierre has managed to maintain his position.
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 two. 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.
The group behind the draft effort has lined up endorsements from several NRA and gun industry insiders. Former board members Richard Carone and Joseph Olson, former NRA Assistant General Counsel Thomas M. Moncure, Jr., and DPMS Arms Founder Randy Luth encouraged West to run, the group said.
“The management of the NRA will be replaced at the annual meeting in Houston or by the New York courts in the upcoming trial,” Marshall said. “Colonel Allen West is a man of integrity, honesty, and humility and will lead the NRA with the leadership skills that all NRA members will be proud to support.”
Former NRA Secretary Edward James Land, Jr. was initially listed among those who support West’s candidacy in the group’s press release. NRA lawyers immediately disputed Land’s support for West and shared comments rebuffing the endorsement. When contacted by The Reload, the Jim Land at an email address provided by the dissenters confirmed he does support West. However, he said he is Buford James (Jim) Land, an NRA Endowment member, not Edward James Land, Jr., the former Secretary of the NRA. The dissenters retracted Land’s name from the group backing West after being informed they spoke with the wrong Jim Land.
“We apologize for the error and any confusion,” the group said in a statement.
Edward James Land, Jr. said he never endorsed West and has always been supportive of LaPierre.
“I fully support my friend Wayne LaPierre, who has dedicated his life to the NRA and the Second Amendment,” Land said in a message forwarded by the NRA’s outside council. “I call on all board members to vote for Wayne. Those who are spreading rumors should immediately cease and desist from using my name.”
Other insiders have been strongly critical of West’s potential run against LaPierre. David Keene, a current board member and former president, attacked West as a failure in an oped. He said West is little more than a talented speaker and accused him of being a puppet for the dissenters.
“By backing West, they are telling us that it really doesn’t matter who replaces Wayne,” Keene said in the piece. “While questioning Wayne’s abilities, they would put their faith in a man who has failed at virtually everything he’s done and is now simply available and looking for a job.”
Annual disclosures from the group show Keene was been paid about $130,000 by the NRA while sitting on its board between 2017 and 2019.
West is also a former board member. In 2019, he was highly critical of LaPierre and other members of NRA leadership. He called on LaPierre to resign after that year’s board meeting and accused NRA leadership of further corruption.
“I do not support Wayne LaPierre continuing as the EVP/CEO of the NRA,” he said at the time. “The vote in Indianapolis was by acclamation, not roll call vote. There is a cabal of cronyism operating within the NRA and that exists within the Board of Directors. It must cease, and I do not care if I draw their angst. My duty and responsibility is to the Members of the National Rifle Association, and my oath, since July 31, 1982, has been to the Constitution of the United States, not to any political party, person, or cabal.”
Then-NRA president Carolyn Meadows, first vice president Charles Cotton, and second vice president Willes Lee pushed back against West’s statements at the time.
“It is unfortunate that certain board members have resorted to making false and misleading public statements about proceedings of the NRA board of directors,” they said in a joint statement.
Cotton has since taken Meadow’s place as NRA President. Lee has moved up to become first vice president. West ended up leaving the NRA board in 2021 during an unsuccessful effort to primary Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R.).
Keene defended LaPIerre’s more than 30 years as the head of the NRA. He argued many of the group’s accomplishments were dependent on LaPierre controlling the organization.
“Wayne more than anyone else is responsible for what we have accomplished and while he can give a fairly good speech when he has to, it’s the long hours of dedicated service to our cause that has made him virtually indispensable.”
He further painted Wayne as the only thing standing between the destruction of the NRA and the Second Amendment. He said West was a “show horse” while LaPierre was a “work horse.”
“Putting Allen West into a position, which requires managerial competence, would amount to malpractice,” “Perhaps in choosing Allen West, their intent is simply to destroy NRA and all that Wayne has worked over these many years.”
The criticism from Keen has not stopped West from returning to the group to try and beat out LaPierre.
“In the military, we have a saying, it is Warriors that move to the sound of the guns,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Wayne LaPierre did not respond to a request for comment.
The NRA board will hold its leadership election during its upcoming meeting starting May 30th. The board meeting will be held in Houston, Texas, after the group’s first Annual Meeting in three years. The proceedings will be open for all NRA members to attend.
UPDATE 5-10-2022 10:41 AM EASTERN: This piece has been updated to include further background as well as comment from Edward James Land, Jr. indicating he did not endorse West. The dissenters produced emails purported to be between themselves and Land confirming his endorsement. However, the NRA questioned the validity of those emails. The dissenters retracted Land’s endorsement on Tuesday morning after The Reload confirmed they had contacted the wrong Jim Land.