The lighted stage at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting
The lighted stage at the 2022 NRA Annual Meeting / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Signs of Change to Look for at the NRA Annual Meeting [Member Exclusive]

“I am going to be looking for private remedies, internal remedies, rather than state oversight.”

That’s what Judge Joel Cohen said during a March hearing on the second phase of the NRA’s corruption trial, according to The Trace. This weekend’s Annual Meeting may be the last opportunity for the NRA to go a different direction before Judge Cohen decides on remedies. Of course, not everyone in a position to put the NRA on a different path wants one.

So, here are some things to watch this weekend in Texas.

First, it’s essential to understand the dynamics at play. There are two sides with two diametrically opposed views on what the NRA should do.

NRA President Charles Cotton, interim CEO Andrew Arulanandam, Outside Counsel Bill Brewer, and other current leadership members do not think anything should change between now and when Judge Cohen hears the second phase of the corruption trial in July. Since the beginning of the NRA’s corruption scandal, they have argued that mistakes were made, but the NRA has fully addressed them and no further changes are needed. They’ve stuck with that argument through the failed bankruptcy filing as well as the first phase of the New York trial.

The leadership’s plan was to get through the first half of the trial and then try to convince Judge Cohen they’d already applied internal remedies and that further action wasn’t necessary. If they prevail this weekend, expect very little change in the group’s trajectory. Maybe we’ll see Cotton move from President to CEO and Executive Vice President or some other similar shuffling of longtime leaders, but no policy reforms or real turnover of internal power.

Even though it has no legal significance and may be costly, the current leadership is still committed to moving the NRA’s headquarters to Texas. So, an official announcement of that plan would be another sign of the way the wind is blowing.

On the other side of things are the reformers. At the beginning of the month, NRA members voted Phillip Journey, Rocky Marshall, Jeff Knox, Dennis Fusaro, and Owen “Buz” Mills onto the board. They knew what they were doing, too, because that group has been calling for leadership to step aside for years at this point.

The way to tell if they’re winning is pretty straightforward: They convince the rest of the board to kick out leadership and change tact in the New York case.

That’s a tall order for a coalition that only has five members who’ve been public with their desire to reorganize the NRA. After all, there are 76 board members. The board as a whole has shown little appetite for any significant changes during the past half-decade its corruption scandal has dragged on.

But that was before Wayne LaPierre, who commanded a great deal of loyalty on the board, resigned. It was before the jury found the group failed to safeguard its charitable asserts and retaliated against whistleblowers, including several reformer board members. It was before the NRA membership signaled it agrees with those same reformers by making them among the highest vote-getters in the latest board election.

So, maybe more board members are willing to back a major reform effort than before.

All of this will likely come to a head at the board meeting on Monday. The decisions made there will clarify the NRA’s future.

However, the meeting of the members on Saturday could provide useful insight into the fight. How many members show up could indicate the interest level regular members still have in all this. Whether those who show up make a ruckus might tell how passionate any opposition is, and how board members or leadership respond to any opposition could indicate how strong they believe their hand to be. In the past, board members who support the current leadership haven’t been shy about defending them and berating the opposition during heated exchanges at the members’ meetings.

Whoever prevails in the internal fight, they will face an increasingly difficult time in turning the NRA around. The group is still massive compared to its counterparts, but it has shed a ton of members and, subsequently, revenue. Administrative legal expenses are choking off much of what is left. At a certain point, the NRA will reach a point where recovery is probably impossible.

This weekend will likely tell us which path the NRA takes in the near term. In all likelihood, that choice will have a monumental impact on its long-term viability.

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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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