Everyone Should Serve on a Non-Profit Board

It’s quite educational, and will help understand how things can happen in NRA. John Richardson doesn’t seem to believe the story that Wayne was re-elected unanimously. I agree it’s probably true only as a technicality, if it’s not just pure PR spin. That might be true only after it became apparent to the opposition they did not have the votes. It might have just been a procedural matter they are spinning as unanimity. But of course NRA is going to say that, because they don’t want to signal to the media that NRA is divided and weak, because that will become the narrative.

I’m wondering if the subpoenas issued by the New York Attorney General in her investigation are subject to a FOIA-like request. It would be interesting to know what they are demanding. I’ve suspected this might be a fishing expedition, as much as it is an attempt to find a reason to shut them down. I suspect they’d know they’d have an uphill fight in the courts with a shut down. But a symbolic fine after a fishing expedition where NRA’s dirty laundry can be leaked to Bloomberg’s people and the media? Keeping NRA distracted during the 2020 election cycle? That’s worth a lot to the Dems.

Some New NRA Officers

Here’s what we know from today’s Board meeting:

  • Carolyn Medows is NRA President
  • Charles Cotton, 1st Vice
  • Willes Lee, 2nd Vice.
  • Wayne is re-elected as EVP.
  • John Frazer is re-elected Secretary and General Counsel.
  • Craig Spray remains treasurer.
  • Chris Cox remains head of ILA.
  • Joe DeBergalis is head of General Operations.

I don’t know for sure if Ack-Mac is out, but the Board is still in Executive Session.

Just an aside, I don’t know what the terms of the contracts are, obviously, but while I think NRATV has a number of personalities that ought to be shit canned, and the rest refocused on gun rights, I wouldn’t throw out everything. I might be biased, but I’ve always liked Cam Edward’s show. While I’m no big fan of the Angry Dana strategy, I think it helps to have a woman spokesperson for NRA, and even Angry Dana could be an asset if she could be coached to be less angry and focused on NRA’s mission. So I would say if contracts permit, bring some of those assets in-house and turn them into what they should have been. But keep real metrics. Push what works and throw out what doesn’t work.

More on Bump Stocks

Since sometimes ping backs actually still work, maybe it’s time to get back to blogging’s roots and use it to promote conversation across blogs like we used to. Herschel Smith links to my piece about the Empty Bank.

Sebastian is still arguing, seemingly, that as long as we all retreat in unison, everything will be okay (or at least as good as it can ever be given that we are likely on the losing side anyway).  We just need to avoid division.  If I’ve misinterpreted Sebastian in this admittedly cursory treatment of his latest post, please feel free to correct me.  But on the previous [related] post by Sebastian which I’ve linked (and will do so again), commenter Stephen Wright lays out the following charge.

It’s not really about whether we retreat in unison that’s the issue. The issue is whether the ground is defensible and worth the blood that will have to be shed with a slim chance of even keeping it.

This is, of course, an analogy, but since war is just the continuation of politics by other means, it’s an apt one. Even Sun Tzu recognized there is such a thing as indefensible ground. Let us not forget what bill had been introduced and which I’m told had the votes to pass if something wasn’t done to take the wind out of its sails. This bill would have:

  • Banned anything that increases the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm. Think about what can do that? Almost any part change you can imagine will have a theoretical effect on the rate of fire. This would have put all semi-autos at legal jeopardy.
  • Banned a huge number of existing transferrable machine-guns by making drop in auto sears flat out illegal.
  • Put crank firearms, which currently includes large number of historical pieces in museums in legal limbo.

The chief argument I’m hearing is that what ATF did was worse. But it’s not. Bump stocks were getting banned one way or another. The question is whether it’s better to have a narrow ruling that stretches ATF’s authority to its or near its breaking point, which can be done with oversight of a somewhat friendly administration, and which is sure to face court challenges later on that could end up prevailing.

But I supposed we could have stood on principle and let Congress give ATF and future hostile Administrations a whole new law with lots of room to create broad new powers to regulate semi-automatic firearms. I’d rather force ATF to go out on a limb with a narrow reinterpretation, buy some time, and hopefully cooler heads prevail.

I’m sorry, but if you think all ground is good to fight on, everywhere, all the time, I will tend to think that’s foolish.

Who Are The Good Guys in All This?

The NRA Board is currently handling everything in Executive Session (which means that anyone who isn’t a Board member is out of the room), and there’s little information coming out. People are asking me, with North’s resignation, and Wayne’s defiance in the face of accusations from some Board members, who we should want to come out on top. I don’t honestly know yet. I can say conclusively that I’m in favor of NRA ceasing its relationship with Ackerman-McQueen, and I’m hearing that will happen. Hopefully that will really happen, and Angus McQueen isn’t, as we speak, forming a new corporation (we’ll call it the Venus Group, keeping with the planetary theme, or maybe the Uranus Group would be more appropriate) to continue to relationship under subterfuge.

People keep sending me this entirely too long open letter from a former NRA employee. I always take complaints of former employees with a grain of salt, but there are accusations of behavior in here that no employer should subject their employees to. While I’ve never been one to complain about how much Wayne and Chris make, I don’t think it’s healthy for an organization to have huge disparities between the top salaries and the underlings. Also, when the organization is feeling financial pain, there needs to be the perception that the pain is being shared by those at the top.

I would strongly encourage everyone to read this open letter from Tiffany Johnson. I would put my name on that too. I agree with its sentiment completely. In my mind the most important thing is for NRA to remove the parasite, start getting its house in order, and for the Audit Committee to do its job. I am far less enthusiastic about settling old scores, or refighting old fights. Especially with what’s coming.

Yes, the investigation by the State of New York into NRA’s non-profit status is an existential threat to the NRA. Whatever happens with Wayne, the Board, and Ack-Mac needs to happen quickly, and then we need to start moving forward and putting the past behind us. Things never should have been allowed to get this bad. But I know from serving on elected decision making bodies that change is a difficult thing, and there’s a strong tendency to let lying dogs lie, especially when you know fixing a problem will put the organization through hell and you’re just one of many votes. But NRA’s Board has to overcome that, and start doing its job. A Board position shouldn’t be a reward for loyalty. In fact, if it’s a healthy Board, it’s almost a punishment.

The Empty Bank

I share the frustrations of the hardline crowd that the GOP is feckless and not willing or able to accomplish anything for us. But what got us here isn’t that we didn’t shout “no” loud enough. We didn’t end up here because we’re not pure enough. That’s always what religious zealots turn to when disaster strikes. It’s a natural human reaction. But it usually leads to doing the wrong thing.

Our opponents are very wealthy and effectively have unlimited monetary resources at their disposal. A commenter pointed out, “Personally I think that anti-gun groups are going for small wedge issues like bump stocks and ghost guns, precisely to drive a wedge into the gun rights movement.”

That’s exactly what they are doing, and they are doing it very well. The trick to quashing gun culture is to extinguish new trends before they have a chance to take hold. This is basically what they did with Machine Guns back in the 30s. If you want to understand why I’m not big on fighting tooth and nail for bump stocks, it’s because it’s an extension of a fight we lost almost a century ago. If we’re honest with ourselves, bump stocks were a way to say, “Ha, ha, your machine gun restrictions are now meaningless.” Well, the powers that be decided they wouldn’t be, and started to take action that would put whole new classes of firearms that were not previously under regulatory threat under regulatory threat.

Ghost guns are another thing entirely. The law has usually (foreign parts counts, etc aside) not touched on people working on their own guns and making their own guns. This has long been something dedicated hobbyists have done. But while 3D printing and computer-controlled milling are not all that new, the technology being within reach of casual hobbyists is new. They need to kill that before it takes hold, and before the more casual gun owners start seeing it as territory that needs to be defended at all cost. Your average person’s rights calculation is, “I don’t do that, don’t know anyone else who does it, so it must not be important.”

If they successfully ended up squashing every new trend, they’d succeed in making the gun culture moribund, which eventually would kill it. That’s exactly what they were doing with machine guns, and I’m sorry my great-grandparents didn’t fight it back then.

We’re here now because Mike Bloomberg dumped more money into the gun control movement than it’s ever seen, and he has been rallying other super-rich to his cause. His people are using that money very intelligently, and understand their own (and our) strengths and weaknesses better than any of our previous opponents.

Here’s an unpleasant truth: when monied elites decide they want something, they usually get their way.

The problem with NRA right now is they are largely stuck on what “worked” before that pressure came to bear. I used worked in quotes because a lot of NRA’s game the past decade or so are probably more like someone wearing garlic around their neck, and convinced it works because they’ve never seen a vampire.

I would also argue that NRA has, for a long time, been withdrawing from a bank that was filled up by a strong grassroots game before Ack-Mac really got their hooks in and convinced the powers that be that overpaying them for video content no one would watch was as good a strategy as any. That bank is now empty, and they need to go in a new direction. I’m sure Ack-Mac will be happy to overcharge NRA for more Angry Dana videos in order to goose membership. But if the membership is disengaged, uninterested, and disorganized it won’t matter. You’d be better off with 3 million passionate, engaged, and organized members than with 5.5 million who are happy to watch Angry Dana, yell at clouds, and otherwise do nothing.

Strong grassroots are the only way NRA is going to defeat Bloomberg. It’s something money won’t buy him. Passionate grass roots will self-organize, but they have to understand how to do it. NRA will not succeeded in outspending Bloomberg. They will not succeed trying to outcompete him in top-down strategies. NRA need to play to our strengths, and our strength is in honest-to-god motivated, passionate grass roots. Even the slickest of PR firms can’t deliver that.

NRA Needs a Reform Movement That’s Realistic

While the figures involved in the hardliner (Knoxers in the past) versus pragmatist (Wayne’s faction) debate have changed, the essential debate is still with us.

NRA’s parasitic relationship with its PR firm isn’t anything new. The Knoxers railed against it too back in the day. I’ve never been comfortable with it either, but I’ve always had the choice of living with it as a member, or joining the hardliners. I am of the opinion that NRA taking a no-compromise, hardline stance will ultimately result in its irrelevance. Believing we can always win by saying ‘no’ louder is not a winning strategy when you’re working as a determined minority in a republican political system.

These days the issue is bump stocks and red flag laws. NRA largely surrendered on the bump stock issue to buy time to stop the bills that would have put semi-automatic firearms in legal jeopardy. They endorsed red flag laws provided they had sufficient due process (which none of them do). I believe both these moves are unpleasant necessities that reflect the reality of the political situation post-Vegas and post-Parkland. If you want to fight and die on bump stock hill, sorry, but we’re going to lose that fight. We also risk losing a large chunk of the current transferrable machine gun stock. You’re all aware of the debates, so I won’t rehash them.

The NRA is in desperate need of reform, but to date the drive for reform has only come from hardliners, who would cause a lot of other disasters for gun rights by failing to see what battles aren’t winnable and aren’t worth fighting, which aren’t winnable and are worth fighting, and which are winnable. We’ll never all agree on that. But most hardliners seem to think that all battles are worth fighting all the time, everywhere, and with maximum intensity. No one fights wars that way and wins. You have to take a lot of limitations into account if you’re waging war or waging political struggle. Hardliners don’t accept that there is a limit to our political influence. They fight as if we had 200 million other Americans behind us. Generals who fight that way lose armies. Political movements that are similarly unrealistic end up similarly destroyed. We need a reform movement for NRA that understands limits and is politically realistic. If such a movement were to appear, I would support it.

Everytown Files Against NRA’s Non-Profit Status

John Richardson has all the details. All I can say is NRA better have its act cleaned up by the time the next hostile administration is in the White House. As John mentions, “I could only imagine the damage this complaint might have done if it had been filed during the Obama Administration.”

I suspect that’s not lost on the faction of NRA that’s picking this fight. NRA isn’t the first corporation to enter into a parasitic relationship with a consulting firm. That’s not to excuse it: it needs to change, and should have changed yesterday. It should not take Bloomberg and a hostile state governor engaging in lawfare against the NRA for them to clean up their act.

When we sue Cuomo and other state officials personally, we don’t want it coming out that they might have a point about NRA having shady practices. You want the civil rights case to be open-and-shut, and not have both sides looking like they are trying to get away with something.

Is This Serious?

An engineering student from the UK wants to introduce a bullet that has a hemostatic agent in it to keep people from bleeding out. I’m sure criminals will sign right up to use these bullets. I’m sure you’ll have a long line of cops signing up to either use them! I can promise you’ll get a long line of cops lining up to get themselves exempted from any law that mandates them for the serfs.

This greatly misunderstands self-defense. If it’s a less-than-lethal threat, we have less-than-lethal tools at our disposal that we ought to, and are usually legally obligated to use in our defense. When it comes to using deadly force, it’s to defend against someone that is a threat to life and limb. Blood loss from critical places is the key means that causes the threat to not be a threat. It’s a life or death situation, and you’ve decided better your attackers life than yours. It’s not a arm wrestling contest.

We’re providing another degree of lethality or force in comparison to current nonlethals that exist. They don’t penetrate the body and most times are not effective in neutralizing, especially in life-threatening situations. So, we’re trying to bridge the gap by still providing a way to incapacitate like a normal round, but removing that loss of life.

No, you aren’t. Bullets are deadly force. Bullets with hemostatic agents are still deadly force. No one has any business shooting someone with a firearm if they aren’t threatening life and limb. This is not even remotely comparable to non-lethal chemical or electronic weapons. Why don’t you talk to some self-defense experts before you waste your time with this shit. Stay in your lane!

The do-gooders want to save the world. But who will save the world from the do-gooders?

The Plot Thickens

John Richardson has more. Yesterday a story was floated that Angus McQueen’s son in law was the outside retained counsel NRA was using in the suit. It turns out that isn’t true. From John:

Ackman McQueen contends this lawsuit is the work of the NRA’s outside counsel William Brewer III who is the in-law of their co-CEOs Revan and Angus McQueen. However, the lawsuit is brought by the Virginia law firm of  Briglia Hundley not by Mr. Brewer’s firmTodd Rathner, NRA Board Member, speculates that the attack on Mr. Brewer is the work of the pro-AckMc faction of the Board in an effort to undermine Wayne LaPierre.

So Wayne has turned against Ack-Mac? This is bigger news than I thought, if true. You can find the actual lawsuit here. I’d note this footnote from page 8:

Refusal to provide certain requested data “in writing” (such as unique visitors, viewership numbers, clickthrough rates, or related performance metrics) that enable the NRA to analyze the turn on its in NRATV.2

2 In addition, certain NRA stakeholders were also concerned that NRATV’s messaging — on topics far afield of the Second Amendment — deviated from the NRA’s core mission and values.

Ya think? Based on some numbers I had compiled from YouTube to support a post I never had time to finish, the reason they aren’t turning over these numbers is because they are almost certainly atrocious and would show what a waste of money most of NRATV is.

It also looks like much of this contention is over the contract Ack-Mac has with Ollie North, which they aren’t apparently disposed to share with NRA despite New York law requiring that NRA review the contract.

Is something untoward going on here that Ack-Mac doesn’t want coming out? You could bowl me over with a feather if it were true. I’d be shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment.

The Titanic Battle Begins

By now most of you might have seen the news that NRA is suing it’s PR firm, Ackerman-McQueen. I should note that I haven’t been in regular contact with NRA staff or board members for several years now, so I have no special insight on insider information about what’s going on (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be talking about it in public like this).

That said, I’d be very surprised, given the public reactions, if this didn’t represent an internal struggle within NRA. Especially given Ack-Mac’s statements that it’s a frivolous suit, without merit, etc, but that they also look forward to continuing to work with NRA. But continue to work with what faction?

This is a struggle that needs to happen. Bitter and I are not as anti-Ack-Mac as some folks. We think there’s merit to some of their work, and they do some things do well. But we also believe their relationship with NRA is unhealthy, and there probably is not be any fixing it. Sometimes you’re just better off pulling the tooth, rather than trying to save it. This is probably one of those cases.