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Wayne LaPierre a Bigger Risk Than Fire and Brimstone

According to The Reload, Lloyd’s of London is dropping all coverage for the NRA’s Board of Directors through their officers and directors insurance plan. As Phillip Journey, NRA Board Member, told the outlet, “I mean, if Lloyd’s won’t insure you, who the hell will?”

Well, here’s another way to look at it: What does Lloyd’s of London consider less risky than the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, Carolyn Meadows, Charles Cotton, and Willes Lee based on the fact that they will offer policies to these alternative risks?

Pele, the Volcano Goddess of Hawaiian mythical culture.

That’s right, Lloyd’s was willing to sell insurance to the residents of Leilani Estates who lived on top of an active volcano with a habit of making the earth open up and spew red hot lava at people and property. The decisions by the current NRA leadership are more risky than your front lawn turning into the fire above every few decades.

Intelsat 1 – A 1965 Satellite

The work to even get something ready to launch in 1965 was a massive risk. Not that it’s risk free today, but there are decidedly fewer exploding videos of space-related matter these days compared to those years. Yet Lloyd’s thought, yes, this is a risk we will insure! The current NRA leadership? Nope, too risky!

But to NRA, this is all just fine. They’ve just set aside just $5 million to cover all 76 directors. That doesn’t seem like nearly enough to me, but that’s just my opinion. People willing to speak off of the record to The Reload admit there isn’t much hope in finding coverage so this is likely the only solution moving forward.

Corrupting Influence of Paying Board Members

NRA’s bylaws do not permit Board members to be paid, but that’s been ignored outright, or done via state associations: NRA makes a grant to a state association, which conveniently pays the board member. A lot of folks are surprised by how compliant the NRA Board has been, but I suspect in many cases that’s being accomplished with the threat that those Board members may be required by the NY courts to pay some or all of that money back. Imaging if you had to pay, say, ten years of back salary? It would financially ruin most people. You’d probably be willing to listen to someone who came along telling you they could help you avoid that eventuality.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to underestimate people’s ability to live in their own reality if the actual reality is too threatening for them. It’s human nature. But human nature is why we have institutional controls to prevent this kind of situation.

I’m a big fan in non-profit of a strict “no compensation for board members” rule. Board members should only be reimbursed for reasonable expenses associated with their service to the corporation. Not too long ago, my club implemented such a rule via board policy, and we did have a director with a landscaping contract. He did a good job. Our new outside contractor is slightly more expensive. I hated to vote in favor of ending that. But it had to be done. At some point, we need to get that in the bylaws so it can’t easily be undone by a future board.

You create systems that are resistant to corruption, so clued-in members have certain processes and procedures they are accustomed to which make graft more difficult. If a future board starts dismantling those systems, it should raise a red flag.

NRA Ballots: What To Do

I fully endorse John Richardson’s ballot. Vote for Owen Buz Mills, and that’s it. Write in Frank C. Tait, Wayne, PA, and R.B. Rocky Marshall Jr, Boerne, TX. The rest of them need to come to their senses and show Wayne and Bill the door, and start reestablishing trust and competence in the Association.

What the LTC Data Can Tell Us

I just wrote about the trends in my own county’s license to carry a firearm issuance and noted that year-over-year, the numbers were up more than 65%. So you’d think that I’d be cheering this piece at The Reload for covering the statewide numbers and looking at how Philadelphia County was out of whack with the rest.

But I’m not.

Why? Because while I did look at year-over-year data in my post, it was presented with very important contextual information – like the closure of offices, shifting demand, and where we stood compared to 5 years ago which matters for looking at trends. Now that still isn’t the entire picture, but it puts the 65% increase into an important context that takes into account those with expiring licenses from 5 years earlier. (If everyone renewed exactly when they needed to do so, that is responsible for 42% of the issuances in 2020.) And the introduction of an online application may have shifted more early 2021 renewals into 2020 – all data we won’t be able to see in trends until next spring.

Are license issuances up? Without question. The questions are on how much.

And here’s why The Reload’s piece leaving out information about the shifts in demand bothers me. Because how you present data can change the picture of things quite a bit.

Take the graph below. In red, I used Stephen Gutowski’s model of strictly looking at year-over-year data to plot change in demand on my county since 2004. (I have my county’s historical numbers saved for easy calculations, but not the statewide data.) According to his method, our county’s issuance rates have gone on a wild ride of a low of -26.1% decline (2014) to the high of 65.1% growth (2020) with repeated declines in 2019, 2017, 2014, 2010, 2008, and 2004.

But that steadier blue line? That’s the rate of change on issuances for rolling 5 year periods – the period that licenses are valid in Pennsylvania. That shows a much steadier rate of change from a low of -4.8% (2004) to a high of 16.8% (2013) with small declines only in 2018, 2006, and 2004.

And, if you want raw numbers, here are the rates of currently valid licenses for the same county over the same period (total of previous 5 years of issued licenses). This trend line looks very different than the rates of change in issuance…

Why does this look so different than even my tamer rolling 5 year numbers above? Because of the way it accounts for surge years. The end of 2012 and 2013 were incredibly high due to the political fallout and threats following Sandy Hook in late 2012, so we saw a license issuance drop in 2014 because all of those new licenses issued 1-2 years prior were still valid. That doesn’t mean that all of those newly licensed people disappeared. They should be part of the numbers through at least 2018 when those 2013 LTCs expired. (We did actually see a very small drop between 2017 and 2018 – not all of those people who got their licenses opted to renew them, clearly.)

So while year-over-year data has a place in analysis of where we stand with the right to bear arms movement and possible sympathetic voters in Pennsylvania, it’s not the whole picture and no one should get too excited by extreme swings up because they are usually followed by slight drops later on.

The Health of an Organization

One of my primary objectives as a new club president is to devolve a lot of the Board’s responsibility. The primary mechanism in civic organizations to accomplish this is the committee.

Younger people these days are so unfamiliar with civil society, I often worry about even using the word “committee.” Does it have good connotations? Governments have all kinds of committees, subcommittees, blue ribbon panels, etc and they don’t get anything done. At least not anything of value. Maybe we need a better word for it. We could go all corporate and adopt “team,” but I think that carries a lot of bullshit along with it these days too.

Our club was functionally a one, two, or three man show for a number of years. Sure, we had committees, but they were themselves generally one man shows, and those were often Board members. Until very recently, power was firmly rooted in three to four people at most. The rest of the Board was relatively powerless when push came to shove. Now we’ve devolved a lot of that power to the Board, and I’d like to devolve it further still.

Successful organizations aren’t a cult of personality. Successful organizations have processes. A successful organization is a machine that you can plug people into, and mechanisms are in place to keep the machine running even if the operators change. This is a very difficult task in a volunteer-driven organization. The distribution of power is a way to develop new leadership, and ensure when people step out, there’s other people who can step in. It also doesn’t hurt to ease members into the leadership culture.

This year we’re going to give an actual Annual Report to the members that goes beyond just totals for the year. People aren’t going to volunteer for a black box. If an organization has processes, people have to see where they might be able to pitch in. So you have to be open about things. Any civic organization should be open about its operations. Beware leaders who seem to like hiding things. Sometimes you do have internal matters, but it should be the exception rather than the rule.

Speaking of culture: organizational culture is not an accidental thing. It is deliberate, and one area that can’t be separated from leadership. The leadership of an organization sets the culture. If they don’t, actors (sometimes bad actors) will come in and do that for you.

So what’s the lesson here? NRA has a lot of problems that are frankly familiar to me on a smaller scale. Though my club thankfully didn’t have the massive grifting. But I served on a Board where we were a rubber stamp before a power vacuum changed the dynamics. That power vacuum empowered the Board as a body to step up, and things have gotten better. Not perfect, but moving in the right direction. Like NRA, my club also has an overly large Board. What I’m saying is there can be hope. NRA has a leadership problem. The Board are sycophants, sure, but you’d be surprised how much toxic leadership can hold sway over a Board. From my point of view NRA needs to be rid of two people: Wayne LaPierre and Bill Brewer. Wayne because he’s hapless. I don’t believe Wayne could successfully run a Boy Scout troop. Bill Brewer because he’s correctly identified Wayne as a guy who will believe anything, and pay him anything. I don’t believe Brewer has the best interests of NRA at heart, and if we’re rid of Wayne, but Bill gets to name Wayne’s replacement, we just replaced Ack-Mac with a worse parasite.

The rot often seems to run all the way through, but I can promise you it does not. Toxic leadership is a cancer. The first order of business in enacting a turnaround is to remove it. From there, health will probably improve.

What’s in the Water in California?

It seems the Democrats in California just keep saying the part they are supposed to keep quiet out loud.

Is it because they are too comfortable in a cultural and local politics majority? If that was the case, you’d expect to hear more statements like that from NYC leaders, too. The reason I say it’s a California thing – or maybe a “guys name Eric” thing – is because I had the same thought as Stephen Gutowski when he posted about it:

Hated to Do It

I have disabled comments until I can figure out a better solution. I’ve honestly been thinking about this for a while, but I’ve just decided to pull the trigger on it. These days I don’t really even have time to read all the comments, so I’m slow to react if I do at all.

Generally my policy has been one of tolerance provided everyone was being respectful. I’ve only nuked racist shit, and people who just couldn’t control themselves when warned.

I don’t want to get into moderation and picking and choosing which views get aired, so for now it’s just off.

More Hassle. Less Opportunity. More Licenses?

Like many government offices, and especially those in Pennsylvania, in person access to the offices that process applications & renewals for licenses to carry were either completely cut off or significantly reduced for much of 2020. In order to keep demand reduced, Pennsylvania’s Governor extended renewals of many government documents and licenses that normally expire. For example, no one whose license to carry (LTC) a firearm “expired” last year from March 20 on has an expired license yet. They are good through the end of June for now. And, if the concern remains about having people flood into offices, then they may be extended yet again.

Regardless, the Bucks County numbers for licenses to carry issued in 2020 (both new and renewals that didn’t even need to happen) were up by just over 65% compared to the 2019 numbers! If you could the total of LTC holders over the previous 5 years (period they are valid), that means the number of residents 21 and over who could carry firearms concealed was up 13% by the end of last year.

According to State Police statistics, 15,324 licenses to carry firearms were issued in Bucks County in 2020. In 2019, that was only 9,280. And that isn’t just people getting licenses renewed since, in addition to the fact that people didn’t even have to renew for most of 2020, the office only issued 8,833 licenses 5 years prior. So that means that even if every single person from 5 years prior definitely renewed, we were still adding about 74% more concealed carry licenses in the county over that period.

One of the things that the Sheriff instituted is online application and renewals with in person pickup so that they could get more people reviewed safely and only deal with interactions for pick up which doesn’t require as much time face-to-face (or, more of concern, breathing the same air). That does probably account for some of the increase, though the requirements to obtain one didn’t change at all. And the price definitely didn’t drop – it actually increased slightly for those opting for online payments.

If any of that demand on renewals was deferred until 2021, then we could be in for some epic numbers for 2021.

If you assume that all of the LTCs issued in the last 5 years are still valid, then that means 56,514 Bucks County residents were licensed to carry at the end of 2020. The county-level census data isn’t available, so the best I have is the 2019 estimate that doesn’t allow me to sort by under 21, just under 18. So the total includes some 18-20 year olds who aren’t qualified. Regardless, that number is just over 501,000, so that means about 11% adults are licensed to carry here. Every 9 or so people you see at the grocery store? One of them is likely to have a license to carry.

That’s not too shabby. Of course, it means we really need to step it up with more local opportunities for all of those people to shoot, connect with a community of gun owners, and hopefully get them some ammunition to go into those little-used guns.

The Californication of Colorado is Complete

All that fleeing from California isn’t going to help things. We want them packed and stacked in one very democratic state. Witness Colorado nuking preemption as an example of what happens when Californians flee their state in large numbers and settle elsewhere. This would have been inconceivable when this blog started in 2007. But it’s reality now: we have an anti-gun mountain state.

Journey’s Effort to “Save” the NRA

It seems that more of the various groups that have splintered off into pushing some kind of reform at NRA have ultimately come to back Judge Phillip Journey’s efforts to challenge NRA’s legal moves.

I’m not 100% sure that I think his approach is ideal, but I’m also looking at the fact that there don’t appear to any petition candidates at all.

In fact, via voting the best options I can see other than writing someone in (which won’t likely be enough, but it won’t likely hurt) is to bullet vote from the list of candidates for Owen Buz Mills as the only one on the list to drive him to the top of the results. Because even though others might win seats, they care desperately about how “popular” they are and where they come into the rankings. Rank the dissenting board members high and you are still sending a message.

Back to the legal issues at hand, I don’t have any great insight there. On one hand, I tend to believe the bankruptcy legal experts who were watching this case closely not for anything to do with NRA, but the unique circumstances around it. They are pretty pessimistic. On the other hand, I also see that Judge Hale specifically addressed what NRA should expect – a not so subtle nod to stripping leadership & possibly Bill Brewer of power – if they try to refile, which opens the door to refiling. I do think there’s truth that the trial resulted in disclosures that make it more likely the NY AG can push for dissolution. I also think the fact that the federal court did weigh James’s attacks on NRA as a political foe into account when trying to decide if they deserved bankruptcy protection from her office signals to other courts that going in this direction is going to set a very bad precedent.

Either way, it’s about which court you think would give NRA the fairest shake. Neither one makes me comfortable which is why I’m more open to a legal strategy that is simply summed up as: “Whatever Wayne LaPierre, Carolyn ‘Burn the Records’ Meadows, Charles Cotton, and Willes Lee oppose is what I probably support.”

I went ahead and threw a few bucks at the effort. I’m not going to press the readers to do so since I don’t know if there are good answers in any of this, but I think it’s important to share it’s out there.

Ultimately, one reason I’m on board with the effort to try and save the NRA from people like Wayne is because we have a huge resource in our community that NRA has moved away from both tapping as a resource and supporting – gun clubs. Not commercial gun ranges, but non-profit, volunteer-run gun clubs. NRA’s support of clubs has gone downhill in the last 20 years. Part of that is because they were really behind the times in the shift to newer shooting sports that were taking off which reduced the amount that rising club leaders needed to build connections there or learn about resources. But they didn’t manage to connect with these people on any other level when it comes to club support.

As much as NRA has dropped the ball on this, they still have the institutional knowledge (within the volunteer organization as a whole, even if not always on staff) and name recognition to rebuild this resource and start offering more things that are relevant to clubs in need. As much good as I do think some groups are doing on the legal fights, no other group has tried to step into this space. Yet, if no one does, once these ranges are gone, they are gone for good. And that’s forever a loss of a Second Amendment habitat for growing new shooters.

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