A mailer encouraging people to join the NRA
A mailer encouraging people to join the NRA / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: A Sign NRA Members Are Fed Up [Member Exclusive]

The National Rifle Association’s board election results came in this week, and they provide pretty good evidence for how the group’s membership is reacting to its current ordeal.

Every candidate who explicitly ran on replacing current leadership and instituting significant internal reforms was elected, according to results published in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. Two of the top three vote-getters were reform candidates. The same can be said for three of the top five and four of the top seven. The final board candidate who ran on instituting internal reforms, who is a relative newcomer to NRA activism, also won a seat in the top 16 of the 26 who were elected.

NRA voters also approved the creation of a new chief compliance officer position.

The reformers, who ran as a block on a common campaign platform, will be sworn in at the group’s next board meeting later this month. The outcome suggests many NRA members are on board with the changes the reformers want to impose. It could convince other board members to join the dissidents’ cause and alter the course of the organization in the wake of a years-long corruption scandal that recently culminated in the resignation of longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre and a jury finding that the group didn’t safeguard its charitable assets.

NRA members voted Phillip Journey, Rocky Marshall, Jeff Knox, Dennis Fusaro, and Owen “Buz” Mills onto the board for three-year terms. Other than newcomer Fusaro, all of them have been vocal critics of LaPierre and his allies on the NRA board for years.

Journey, Marshall, and Mills all joined in an attempt to get a federal judge to appoint an independent examiner during the NRA’s failed 2021 bankruptcy filing. They had criticized LaPierre and his allies, such as current NRA President Charles Cotton and outside counsel William Brewer, for initiating the expensive and doomed attempt without even telling the board. Journey and Mills were not renominated by the board after raising their concerns. Instead, they had to get back on the ballot by collecting enough signatures to qualify.

“I want to thank the dozens of members who took the time to gather the voting members’ signatures for the petitions that put us in the ballot and the tens of thousands of members that voted for reform,” Journey told The Reload.

Knox hasn’t been on the board in the five years since the allegations that LaPierre and NRA leaders diverted millions of dollars in funds toward lavish personal expenses, including private flights and fancy vacations. But he has been fighting to oust LaPierre and his supporters for decades. His father first appointed LaPierre CEO but eventually came to regret it after corruption allegations first surfaced against him in the 1990s. Knox’s father was unable to dislodge LaPierre, but he has carried on the fight from outside of the group’s board since then. Now, he’ll do so from inside.

“I’m not sure whether to celebrate or cry,” he told The Reload. “I prefer to stay home and live a quiet, country life, but I love this Association and have been a Life member for over 40 years. I’ve hated watching it eroded by greed, incompetence, and misplaced loyalties. I just hope enough Directors now realize how bad the situation is and who’s responsible for it, so we can work together to restore trust and begin the process of rebuilding.”

The reformers want to wipe the current leadership clean of those who were involved in any of the questionable spending or approved of it after the fact. That likely includes Cotton and interim CEO Andrew Arulanandam. Brewer, who has racked up over a hundred million dollars in charges to the group for the legal strategy he has masterminded in the wake of the corruption allegations coming to light, would also likely be on the chopping block.

In addition to removing key leadership members, the reformers want to change the group’s bylaws to avoid a repeat of what got the NRA to this point. That probably means more transparency about who receives NRA contracts, less control by the board of who gets nominated to run for the board, and potentially even fewer board members overall.

But that brings us to one of the reformers’ first challenges. Five members on a board of 76 clearly isn’t a majority. It’s unclear where most NRA board members stand on the group’s current leadership or legal strategy. So, the reformers still face an uphill battle to gain control of operations and implement meaningful changes.

That will be especially hard to do before the sword hanging over the group’s head falls this summer. The second phase of the group’s New York trial is set to begin in mid-July and will ultimately determine the NRA’s leadership. If the NRA strips out the leaders who facilitated LaPierre’s corruption and implements internal changes over the next two months, it has a better shot of avoiding court-appointed monitors for its finances and operations.

“I am going to be looking for private remedies, internal remedies, rather than state oversight,” Judge Joel Cohen said during a March hearing, according to The Trace.

Of course, even making changes might not guarantee he decides not to intervene. Failing to adopt the changes internal reformers want may not push him to take action either. After all, Brewer’s main argument throughout the case is that the NRA already has cleaned up its act–a claim the reformers reject.

In the end, the current fight over NRA leadership could all look inconsequential by the end of the trial. But, at the very least, this is the first concrete sign we’ve seen that many NRA members seem to believe the reformers could right the ship in time. That’s what the newly minted board members certainly say they’ll try to do.

“In a little more than two weeks we will be at the members’ meeting and board meeting in Dallas,” Journey said. “We intend to do all we can to restore the NRA to its former glory.”

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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