There will be no appeal to the dismissal of the NRA’s bankruptcy.
The last-ditch effort by a group of unhappy NRA board members to wrestle control of the group away from CEO Wayne LaPierre and his allies through bankruptcy fell flat this week. Phillip Journey, who led the effort, told The Reload his group could not raise enough money to pursue the appeal.
“I think it was the best route to help resolve things and fix them,” he said. “I just can’t pay the freight. That’s really it.”
Journey attempted to raise $100,000 in a week to fund the last-ditch appeal effort but fell short.
The NRA’s announced it would go into federal bankruptcy on Jan. 15, 2021, as part of a strategy to block New York Attorney General Letitia James’s (D.) attempt to dissolve the group in state court. While most board members retroactively approved the bankruptcy, Journey and two other board members objected to LaPierre leaving board members in the dark about the filing beforehand. The group filed a motion in the case requesting the judge appoint an examiner to look through the NRA’s books for further evidence of financial impropriety.
When the case was dismissed, so were the dissident group’s hopes for a court-appointed audit. Journey decided the best path forward was to try and appeal in hopes a trustee would be appointed to displace LaPierre and a committee of NRA members would be created to oversee the group’s restructuring. With that path now blocked, he said he might try to intervene in the New York case but admitted it was even more of a longshot, since that effort would be even more expensive.
“If we can’t get the money for the appeal, how are we ever gonna do five times that?” he said.
Instead, Journey said he will likely focus on reforming the NRA from inside the board. But, with nearly 40 percent of the 76-member board skipping the emergency meetings on the group’s bankruptcy altogether and nearly all of the members who did attend approving the move, it will be a heavy lift to get many to approve of his reform efforts.
“What I intend to do is serve out my term, try to get reelected, and continue to work towards improving the association’s internal governance and responsiveness to the members,” he said.
Journey said reform is needed to survive. He said the group’s finances are a mess, membership has stagnated over the past eight years, and the NRA is living “hand to mouth” with no clear path forward.
NRA leadership did not respond to a request for comment, but LaPierre sent a letter to members talking up the group’s future in the aftermath of the bankruptcy being dismissed. The NRA spent over $20 million in legal fees on the failed bankruptcy gambit, which experts warned was a “Hail Mary” from the beginning, but LaPierre framed the dismissal as a win for the group. He specifically pointed to Journey’s examiner motion being rejected as a positive for the group.
“Importantly, there was no financial watchdog (an examiner) appointed, as sought by some,” he said in the letter.
LaPierre boasted the NRA’s decision to file bankruptcy did not lead to the removal of their leadership team and called the dismissal “far from the ‘doom and gloom’ predicted by the so-called experts, many in the far-left media, and gun control advocates” and cautioned NRA members against believing everything they “read in the newspaper.”
Journey said the lack of newspaper coverage ultimately doomed his attempt to counter LaPierre in court. While he had spent decades advocating for gun rights, including previous stints on the NRA board and as president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, he said most people outside Kansas didn’t “know me from Adam” or whether he was trustworthy enough to support.
“We were kind of caught between a rock and a hard place of not negatively affecting the case and getting the word out and trying to persuade people that we’ve got the best interest the association at heart,” he said. “I think it’s nobody’s fault but mine. I could not get the recognition in the national media, to the extent necessary, to present to the members that this was the answer. And that I was a reasonable alternative worth taking a chance on to try to fix the NRA.”
He said fatalism among gun owners skeptical of the NRA also hurt his chances at raising money to reform the group.
“All you got to do is look at some of the comments on Ammoland,” he said. “And I think there’s an awful lot of gun owners out there that want to burn the house down they’re so mad.”
A review of comments on the Ammoland post detailing Journey’s plan shows some support for him but far more anger and distrust directed at the NRA.
“I’ve trusted the leadership to do the right thing,” one commenter who claimed to be a 50-year NRA member said. “To spend our hard-earned dues and donations responsibly. Now I find they’ve abused that trust, and I’m unsure who to trust. How and why was it allowed to get this bad? I’m pissed as hell.”
“In America, you have the right to fail. NRA leadership has failed its mission and membership miserably as well as criminally,” another said in the most upvoted comment on the piece. “There’s no such thing as too big to let it fail. Bailouts are bull$#|£. If you can’t/won’t run your organization honestly, you deserve to fail.”
A third commenter put it more succinctly.
“NO More MONEY, until Wayne is GONE. Period, End of Message,” the person said.
Journey said he understood the anger but believes the NRA is too valuable to the gun-rights movement to let it be dismantled without a fight.
“I want to rebuild the house,” Journey said. “I don’t want to burn it down. I don’t want to hurt anybody. I just want the thing to keep going, and I have serious concerns that it’s going to be able to.”