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Getting to Know Your NRA: Organization

It’s a common complaint to hear “I hate NRA, because one time they did X, and I just couldn’t stand it. They lost my support.” where X is any generic minor transgression you can think of. I’ve also heard people get upset for major transgressions, like losing world record filings, and for something like that I can understand. But much if it is trivial, which is why I found Miguel’s post so amusing. My suggestion to most people is that you can’t treat NRA as it if were a monolithic entity. Much like any workplace, there are people in it who are competent, people who are incompetent, people who are great people, and people who are bozos, or any combination of those traits. I feel that too often people who have encountered the dysfunction (and believe me, it’s there) fail to understand that dysfunction may be the result of encountering one dysfunctional employee, or perhaps a dysfunctional division. It doesn’t have to reflect the Association as a whole.

Wayne’s Office

Wayne is essentially the CEO of the NRA, and Wayne is either the big rock star of the issue, or the biggest snake to come along since the Garden of Eden, depending on who you talk to. For better or worse, what people love and hate about NRA gets attributed to him. But LaPierre is really no different than any other CEO, in that he is dependent on underlings to run the day-to-day operations of the organization. He is the highest executive staffer in the organization, and the public face of the National Rifle Association. Critics of the Association very often focus myopically on Wayne, as if he’s NRA’s biggest problem, but this misses the boat. I’m not even sure it’s the right port, to be honest.

NRA-ILA

ILA is the legislative arm of NRA, and it’s headed up by Chris Cox. The existence of ILA is in NRA’s bylaws. ILA is not as large as most people assume it to be. If it were its own organization, they would be considered a small company. ILA has about 80 people on staff, compared to about 500 NRA employees in total. Most people are surprised by that, because ILA has such a high profile in terms of NRA’s public mission, that many people assume it’s the largest division of NRA.

General Operations

Most of NRA’s traditional functions, in terms of competitions, shooting sports programs, law enforcement training and competition, the regular NRA training programs, and so on. The head of General Operations is Kayne Robinson. You’ve all doubt noticed¬†NRA Blog, and its emphasis on shooting sports, competitions, etc. NRA Blog is run by the staff in General Operations, and their focus represents the mission of General Operations.

NRA Secretary’s Office

This is an office also stipulated in NRA’s bylaws. The Secretary’s office does a number of things, in addition to keeping the records for the Association. They are responsible for planning the Annual Meeting, which at this point is not a minor feet in event planning. This is one of the largest events in the country, it’s put on every year, and generally speaking, for as big as it is, goes pretty smoothly. The Secretary of the NRA is Major Ed Land, who’s military accomplishments you can read about here.

NRA Office of Advancement

These are the people who seek out donors for the NRA Foundations, and the numerous programs it supports. No, Advancement aren’t the person who sends you all the letters asking for money you used to heat your house last winter, Advancement seeks out bigger donors — people donating money into the thousands of dollar, and up to millions of dollar amounts. You can find out more about the type of work Advancement does at nragive.com. This is a relatively new office at NRA, created to help specifically help NRA seek out larger donors, and fully endow much of its non-political function. NRA has historically been dependent on small donations from its membership in order to fund all their programs. The problem with that is that donations fluctuate with the number of NRA member, with the economy, and the constant begging for money annoys membership. Most people I’ve spoken with understand that’s a problem, but NRA can’t fund itself on membership dollars alone.

NRA Board of Directors

The NRA Board is composed of 76 members. 75 of them are elected for a three year term on the general ballot which is send to voting members of the NRA (lifers, and people with 5 unbroken years of membership), with one elected to a one year term at each Annual Meeting also by voting members. In theory the NRA Board controls the overall direction of the Association. In practice it sometimes works that way, and sometimes doesn’t, for reasons I’ll get into later. Board positions are not paid positions. In fact, most Board members sacrifice a good deal to serve in their positions.

NRA Publications

These are the folks who produce your magazines, the flagships being American Rifleman, American Hunter,¬†and America’s First Freedom, but in addition to that they have other worthy publications like Shooting Illustrated, and Shooting Sports USA, which members can subscribe to in addition to the publication that comes with their memberships. In addition to providing something that feeds their interests, NRA’s publications are also a critical means for the Association to communicate with its members, and also serves as the vessel for getting ballots out to people.

NRA Office of General Counsel

These are NRA’s lawyers. Every corporation of any reasonable size has counsel, but consider NRA’s lawyers have be well versed in a very broad area of law, and have a considerably more significant role to play within NRA than your ordinary corporate lawyers would in a conventional corporate structure. Office of General Counsel is headed up by Robert Dowlut. But they are not solely responsible for legal issues within NRA. NRA-ILA is actually charged with controlling NRA’s legal strategy, and then you have the Civil Rights Defense Fund, which is controlled by a Board Committee. But obviously Office of General Counsel plays a pretty significant role in all of these endeavors.

5 Responses to “Getting to Know Your NRA: Organization”

  1. Dann in Ohio says:

    Nice overview, but do not forget, unlike most of the other por-gun and anti-gun organizations… the NRA provides and supports training, competition, youth programs, conservation and gun safety. When was the last time the Brady Bunch or GOA provided or supported formal or regular gun safety training to adults or youth.

    I support the efforts of the NRA, SAF, BFA (Ohio), and other organizations, but I will not support those organizations that seem intent on degrading the NRA or each other when they are fighting for ultimately the same thing, just with different approaches.

  2. Pete says:

    Nice post.

  3. Kathy says:

    I used to read my NRA mag cover to cover. Now I just ignore it for the most part. Freedom First turns my stomach being (to me) very over the top bashing people/government. I don’t hunt, so I haven’t bothered to get American Hunter, perhaps that’s the magazine that I should be getting. It might hit more of my interests now that I think about it.

    Why did they get rid of Woman’s Outlook? Too many people writing in saying how good it was (even MEN!)?

    • Bitter says:

      I don’t think it was making enough money to reasonably support itself, Kathy. I can’t remember if I heard that as speculation or from a serious source. But, it does make sense. They definitely did try to make it work, but I don’t know if there were ever enough advertisers to help out in covering the costs of writing, managing & producing a separate magazine.

  4. Meg Guegan says:

    Thanks for this post! One point of clarification on the NRA Office of Advancement… Advancement actually raises money for ALL NRA entities, not just the chartiable ones. We work with donors to make gifts that benefit whatever their interests are. Many individual donors prefer the charitable options (NRA Foundation, NRA Freedom Action Foundation, Whittington Center, or Civil Rights Defense Fund) but some individuals and corporations want to give to non-charitable NRA programs such as NRA-ILA or media outreach. As, you stated, our main focus is on large gifts, not just cash but sometimes through estate gifts (put the NRA in your will), gifts of firearms collections, real estate, life insurance policies, etc.

    Finally, Advancement runs the NRA Ring of Freedom donor recognition society. Donors who give $1,000 or more in a calendar year qualify for this program. Some of the benefits include special event invitations, welcome gifts, and a subscription to the Ring of Freedom magazine. More info can be found here: http://www.ringoffredom.com

    Meg Guegan
    Director of Communications
    NRA Office of Advancement

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